Preliminary library plans okayed
Final design must reflect architecture of the Ross Mansion

By Lynn R. Parks

Preliminary plans for a new Seaford District Library near the Ross Mansion got the go-ahead from the Seaford City Council Tuesday night. But representatives of the library were warned that, before final site plans are approved, the council will want to see proof that the building will reflect the architecture of the 19th-century Ross Mansion. When the city sold four acres of land in its sports complex to the library, it stipulated that any construction there be designed with the mansion in mind. Built under those same guidelines, a concession stand at the nearby sports complex is brick and has arched windows, imitating the windows in the mansion. The preliminary plans for the 16,000-square foot library, presented to the city council during a public hearing Tuesday night, show no arched windows. The pre-engineered, L-shaped building will be one story, with the main entrance facing the city's softball fields. "This looks like a warehouse," Councilwoman Grace Peterson said. Andrew Moore, an architect with Studio Jaed, the Wilmington-based architectural and engineering firm that designed the library, told the council that "this building represents the most elaborate design that we could do within the limits of the library's budget." He added, "This is a metal building. It is dressed up slightly to make it look better, but it is still a basic metal building. The budget that the library feels it can raise the funds for doesn't allow for anything fancier than a metal building."

Betty Wilbanks, co-chairwoman of the library's fund-raising steering committee, told the council that the color of the new library will match that of the Ross Mansion. And "plantings will soften it," she added. "The ability to make it look like the Ross Mansion is not something that we could afford," she said. "But we will make it look good with the mansion. We intend to make it as compatible as we can." Representatives of the library were reluctant to say what the construction budget is. Since 2001, when the library board announced plans to construct a new facility, various budgets have been mentioned, from $4 million to $7 million. Steering committee chairwoman Barbara Allen said that the committee wanted to wait until it has firmer numbers to release budget information to the public. She expects those budget numbers to be finalized by the end of July. "We just want to make sure these numbers are accurate before they are out there," Allen said. During the public hearing, library board member Rose Adams told the council that an earlier design for the library imitated the architecture of the Ross Mansion. "But the costs kept escalating and the steering committee felt that the community would not support the cost of the building," she said. "With this current building, the steering committee feels that the community can support it and we can afford it." Adams added that the architectural drawings of the new library that were shown to the council did not accurately reflect what the building will look like. "The drawings don't really show the outside element," including planned terraces and landscaping, she said. In the end, a motion to accept the preliminary site plans, made by Councilman Mike Vincent and seconded, "with great reluctance," by Peterson, passed unanimously. The motion stipulates that the library's final site plans will have to show how the building will reflect the architecture of the nearby Ross Mansion. City manager Dolores Slatcher also suggested that the plans be presented to members of the Seaford Historical Society, which owns the Ross Mansion, for their approval. "Just an arched window or two would pick up the architecture of the Ross Mansion," Peterson said.

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