Little Free Libraries can stay another year.
The Leawood City Council on Monday night unanimously approved extending through May 2 its moratorium that exempts Little Free Libraries from a city ordinance that prohibits front-yard structures.
The council had previously approved a temporary moratorium exempting the small freestanding libraries, which encourage visitors to “take a book, leave a book.” The moratorium, which would have expired this month, allowed 9-year-old Spencer Collins to put his library back in his front yard last summer.
Spencer received national attention last year after city officials asked his family to remove their library, prompting criticism from his family and supporters of the libraries.
In a memo Monday to Mayor Peggy Dunn and city council members, City Administrator Scott Lambers recommended the extension based on survey results collected by the city.
“Responding Home Owner Associations indicated a strong desire to have input in the decision-making process for permitting the little free libraries to be installed,” he stated in the memo.
The one-year extension will ensure the city’s 93 homeowner associations have the opportunity to consider the issue at their annual meetings. Each association’s position on the libraries will be mapped and used to consider the next steps at a work session.
In other business, the council approved, as part of its consent agenda, the $33,858.00 purchase of 31 body cameras for the police department.
The council also began consideration of a community garden pilot program. The council’s discussion was part of initial talks about redeveloping the area of 96th Street and Lee Boulevard, which includes a new fire station to be built on the southern portion of the site behind the existing fire station. Budgeting and the planning process for the project could begin in 2016.
About 20 plots are being considered for temporary raised beds at a space identified near the fire station. If successful, the goal is for a community garden to be permanently developed in Ironwoods Park. The lack of water is preventing the garden from starting there.
The council expressed concerns about starting the community garden only to move it later.
“If you have a trial for one season or two seasons and then we pull out the rug and move it to Ironwoods Park, you’re going to have a group of citizens that would be greatly disappointed. Why are you taking our thing away when we put all this sweat equity in it? Why don’t we just go to Ironwoods Park to start?” Councilman Chuck Sipple said.
Councilman Andrew Osman echoed sentiments about making clear the nature of the pilot program so there would be no misunderstanding between the city and residents.
“I’m supporting this. I think for our ward it is important,” He said. Osman suggested a sign be placed in front of the garden stating, “Welcome to our pilot program; this will be relocated to Ironwoods Park.”
Information about the community garden pilot program will be available on the city’s website when a decision is reached.