Cortes library could re-open in four to five months

The shuttered Cortes Island library could re-open by late summer

The shuttered Cortes Island library could re-open by late summer.

The Linnaea Farm Society on Cortes is working to move the library into its former schoolroom and last week inched one step closer to its goal.

At a board meeting last week the Strathcona Regional District approved a bylaw that will allow public library as an accepted use in the Agricultural Land Stewardship One zone, which is where the proposed library building happens to be.

As part of the bylaw amendment process, a public hearing, which drew 39 people, was held on March 27 – before the regional district approved the land use change.

Andrew Smyth of the Linnaea Farm Society opened the meeting by explaining that Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has three conditions the Linnaea Farm Society must meet.

Those are: disabled access to the library via a wheelchair ramp, verifying that the floor can hold the weight of the books, and confirmation that the room could legally be used as a library.

Smyth said once those conditions are met (which they now are), then “VIRL would get busy and the library could be set up by late summer.”

Vancouver Island Regional Library has been working to re-locate the Cortes branch since it shut down the library last May due to safety concerns surrounding the building’s mezzanine. The library was operating out of the community hall in Manson’s Landing before an inspector found the floor was not strong enough to bear the weight of the library books and the library was closed out of fear the floor could collapse.

One month later, Vancouver Island Regional Library issued a Request for Proposals for a new library space and the Linnaea Farm Society was the only respondent.

The society intends to house the library in the Twinflower wing (built in 2006) of the former Linnaea School.

It was in that building that the recent public hearing was held.

Several Cortes Islanders took turns speaking in favour or against the proposed location.

Andy Ellingson thought the proposal was contrary to Cortes’ Official Community Plan and said he preferred the library’s former, more central, location.

“The library at Manson’s Hall was convenient,” Ellingson said, according to minutes from the public hearing.

He added that the new location seems “somewhat secluded from the downtown area of Manson’s Landing” and goes against walking over driving, which is encouraged in the Official Community Plan.

Resident Dianne Hentschel wrote a letter stating she also would prefer the library be in Manson’s Landing and would only want the library located at Linnaea as an interim solution.

But resident Ester Strijbos is happy to see the library moving.

“The old library had low ceilings, it was very small and it was used for a pick-up and drop-off site,” Strijbos said.

“Linnaea is a beautiful building.”

Rod Lee, another resident who spoke in favour of the proposal, said the Linnaea location makes the most sense and that it’s a better building than the old one.

Resident Mary Clare Preston said the library will be moving to an area that “has been the hub of education in the community.”

Chief James Delorme also lent his support, saying the Klahoose First Nation “are in absolute favour of the library being at Linnaea Farm” and “keeping literacy central makes sense.”