The Sutherland central library could be moved to the Kirrawee brick pit development, South Village, under an option being considered by Sutherland Shire Council.
Under a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA), the South Village developers are required to dedicate an area of open space to the community and provide 1500sqm of space for community facilities.
Now the developer has offered to build a 2500sqm library within the proposed open space of the development. This would be at the expense of the proposed pond on the site.
A council report recommended the council retain the library at its present location and investigate using the 1500sqm community space at the South Village development as an extension of Sutherland Library.
But on Monday night, councillors agreed to a proposal by Councillor Kent Johns for the council to look at the implications of transferring the central library to the park in the South Village development and see whether this would represent best value outcome for the community.
Sutherland Shire mayor Carmelo Pesce said it was clear by industry benchmarks that the existing 25-year- old Sutherland library was inadequate and an opportunity to provide a superior facility for the community was worth serious consideration.
“A brand new central shire library of sufficient scale with new technology and information services sounds attractive, but there is a quite a bit of feasibility work to be done before any decision are made,” he said.
The proposal is for a marginally smaller library than the existing Sutherland Library which is struggling to meet current demand.
In 2015-16 the Sutherland Library Service received almost one million visitors with 37 per cent of all visitors attending Sutherland central library in Belmont Street.
In 2015-16 the Sutherland Library Service received almost one million visitors with 37 per cent of all visitors attending Sutherland central library in Belmont Street. But the library requires at $2.5 million fit-out it is often crowded during peak times and is restricted by its layout and design to provide the range of services expected of a modern library.
The council has the choice of keeping the existing 2600 sqm Sutherland library or have a new 2500sqm library with 60 basement car spaces at Kirrawee.
But, this would be a purpose-built library on one floor with a flexible layout and accessible technology built into the fabric of the building, the council’s report said.
Cr Johns said the proposal had the hallmark of the other great public assets of the shire, equal to a new entertainment centre or the upgrade of Cronulla Mall in the 1980s.
He said the shire has a cultural heart with Hazelhurst at Gymea and the business centre at Gymea.
“There is no infrastructure in Kirrawee to address the needs of the community,”
He said the proposal would fit in with draft Plan of Management to create better pedestrian links between Gymea, Kirrawee and Sutherland.
Cr Steve Simpson said Kirrawee will be a major traffic problem in the shire.
“The Kirrawee brick pit area is envisaged as being a major traffic nightmare. Have we done a traffic study or parking study to investigate the implications of a million visitors?” he said.
General manager Scott Phillips said a traffic study would be part of any investigation.
Cr Ray Pliibersek spoke against the proposal.
“More than 700 people have bought there in expectations of a big park there and are not expecting one that is 20 to 30 per cent smaller.
“We should keep the faith and keep the park as promised. I would prefer a new library but not the in the park. It is going to exacerbate the traffic problem.”
Cr Diedree Steinwall also spoke against the proposal.
“I think the public would be concerned about moving the library from the Sutherland civic centre without community consultation.
“The library is part of the civic heart of Sutherland. It is well used. We haven’t evaluated the importance of this public open space to the community. It is priceless.
The brick pit park embellishment provides a habitat for flying foxes with retention of an 800sqm water body and an 800sqm wetland.
The council already decided to apply to the Office of Environment and Heritage to reduce these by half and increase the usable open space on the site to 3400 sqm.
Cr Daniel Nicholls said he was not in favour of building a pond that would attract flying foxes.
“I believe the cost of the pond will be about $100,000 a year. Building this facility will negate the $100,000 cost and will deliver a facility that the council needs at a fraction of the cost,” he said.
Cr Tom Croucher said the proposed library is not taking up green space but where a large body of water was to be located and will be very expensive to maintain.
Cr Pesce emphasised that the council was investigating the implications of transferring the library.
“We need to know all our options so we can deliver the right thing for the community,” he said.
“This is not replacing green space, it’s replacing a pond, one that could attract 15,000 bats flying in every night to drink at that pond.”
He said the annual cost of maintaining the pond could be closer to $250,000.
“We are not making a decision today. We get all the information and then we make a decision. If not, we we will be stuck with a 1500sqm building we have to fill.”
Cr Johns said that opportunities like this only come up once in a lifetime, the opportunity is not going to come back.
“The decision we make tonight is whether the citizens of Sutherland, Kirrawee and Gymea will have access to a state-of-the-art facility that will be a community hub or have a pond,” he said.
“The list of infrastructure we need to build exceeds $100 million into the future, yet you could get this state of the art facility for free. You will will receive a $20 million facility for a community that desperately needs it.”
Any decision would depend on approval by the Office of Environment and Heritage.