Possibility of new county library on Grimball Road worries James Island residents

Giovanni Richardson, president of the Battery Island Drive Homeowners Association, said she worries that putting a new James Island library on South Grimball Road will cause traffic problems for the area.

A library is a good thing, but not in your backyard. That is the view of Liz Singleton and other residents of the Grimball Road area who wish Charleston County Council would put the new James Island library somewhere else.

A plot of land next to James Island Elementary on South Grimball Road is among the possible sites for the $11 million, 20,000-square-foot book repository.

In response to neighborhood concerns, County Council will hold a public hearing at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers in North Charleston to receive public input on the issue.

Council approved the public hearing at the request of Councilman Joe Qualey of James Island. Qualey said many residents did not know that South Grimball Road was a possible site for the library. He first learned about the proposal to put the library there when he read about it in The Post and Courier.

“People had no idea. We need to put this out to the constituency. We need to get their feedback,” Qualey said.

“Rushing a decision that involves this amount of tax dollars and something so important to the community I think would be totally irresponsible,” he said.

Qualey said the existing island library on Camp Road could be renovated for $2 million.

Nearby Battery Island Drive Homeowners Association is also concerned about the South Grimball Road location for the library, said Giovanni Richardson, the group’s president.

Richardson said her primary complaint was the county’s lack of communication with residents about what was being considered. The proposed library location is not central to the island, she said.

Putting the library on South Grimball Road would make it hard to reach because library-goers would be stuck in Folly Road beach traffic from April to October, residents said.

“Most people won’t even be able to get to the library because beach traffic backs up to Wal-Mart,” Singleton said.

Singleton said she worried about the library project and the traffic it would bring because it could disturb a historic black cemetery adjacent to the proposed site.

“There’s a lot of history here. We are in the Gullah Geechee Corridor,” she said.

Another possible place for the island library is an empty building that is part of the Bi-Lo shopping center on Folly Road. Unlike the Grimball Road site, the Bi-Lo property would need to be purchased. The Grimball Road location is on school district property and would not cost the county, officials said.

So far, the county and library system have decided on three locations for new libraries. They are the Carolina Park subdivision in Mount Pleasant, the town of Hollywood on property near the existing library there and on Pinehaven Drive where the Sheriff’s Office was located in North Charleston.

In November, voters approved spending $108 million to build five new libraries and renovate 13 others, including major technology and building upgrades.

Since then, the focus has been on finding land for the new buildings and developing bid-type documents to go out in the spring to hire architects. When those tasks are completed, the library system plans to hold a series of public meetings to find out what key services are most important to residents in the different areas of the county.

The new libraries and upgrades are expected to take six years to complete. The improvements will mean $11.20 annually on the tax bill for households with a $100,000 owner-occupied home. Operating costs will be phased in and be approximately $6.80 annually on the tax bill in 2019-2020.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.