Library, city hall sites are debated

STANWOOD —Stanwood Public Library made a pitch to the City Council on Thursday night to see if a new library and a new city hall could be built next to each other.

The answer from the city was yes, but one of the prospective sites for the new buildings — Viking Village mall — is not for sale.

Consultants for the library looked at several potential sites before settling on two: one 15-acre site north of the school district’s bus barn on 92nd Avenue NW; and the 5 acres that is home to Viking Village on 88th Avenue NW, said Icle Crow, Stanwood Library’s branch manager.

The latter choice puts the landlord at Viking Village, Bob Cole, in a difficult spot.

He knows and likes most of his tenants, but he also wants to see the library and city hall have a good home.

"It’s a very awkward spot," Cole said. "My life is a whole lot easier if they just say no" to the Viking Village location.

"I want my tenants to be able to survive," Cole said. "They need some place to be."

The mall is not for sale, but Cole, an attorney, said he understands that the law allows cities to take possession of private property by eminent domain and compensate the owner.

"The fact of the matter is, if the city wants it, it could get it," Cole said.

He emphasized that nobody from the city had said or even hinted that eminent domain was being considered.

Based on comments at Thursday’s meeting, he might not have to worry. Four of the five City Council members indicated their initial preference for the site on 92nd Avenue NW.

Each said they wanted to preserve retail space to generate tax revenues for the city.

The library has been studying how to build a new facility for months. It outgrew its current city-owned 5,600-square-foot building several years ago, Crow, the branch manager, said.

"We’re crammed to the gills," she said.

The library district, which is part of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System, serves 35,000 people and includes Camano Island, as well as rural areas between Warm Beach and the Skagit County line.

Library officials plan to build a 20,000-square-foot facility at an estimated cost of about $9 million, Crow said.

Library officials asked the City Council on Thursday for a resolution asking the regional library board to request a September ballot measure in Snohomish and Island counties. Stanwood and Camano area voters would get to decide on a 20-year construction bond to pay for the new building.

Parallel to that process, the City Council is considering building a new city hall to replace its 4,000-square-foot building.

The city and library could save money by building on a joint campus, said Dan Nelson of Design Northwest of Stanwood, one of the library’s consultants. The two projects could share parking and split the bill on extending sewer and water lines and storm-water retention ponds, he said.

The idea of a joint campus originally sprang from the brainstorming sessions of Design Stanwood, a civic rejuvenation project for downtown.

"Part of the idea is you could have a commons area between the two, maybe a plaza or a gathering area," Nelson said.

Comparing the two sites, Crow said Viking Village is a more visible and prominent location, but the other spot a few blocks north has good access and is close to Heritage Park.

For Bob Cole, whose parents, Charles and Donna Cole, were longtime owners of the 40-year-old mall, his feelings are mixed when he thinks of them. On one hand, they strove to create a place for family-oriented, family-owned businesses.

On the other, they were fond of supporting civic projects.

"Both my parents would say, ‘You know what? That would be neat,’" Cole said.

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or

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