A bulldozer grades a portion of the parking lot area at the Bowling Green library branch.
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BOWLING GREEN - Judy Conibear is the first to say she loves the local library, loves living close enough to walk there.
But the North Grove Street homeowner was outraged by the Wood County District Public Library's very quiet decision to purchase property along North Church Street behind the library for a parking lot.
One house was demolished Monday morning, followed soon after by the excavation of the huge sand ridge it once sat upon and the removal of dozens of large trees that shaded her and her neighbor's yards.
"I'm just feeling so upset that the public doesn't know what's going on, and our library, which we all had such respect for, had so utter little disregard for ecology," Mrs. Conibear said.
"They're taking out dirt that's endangering trees. They've pushed tons of it behind the Muir house by the trees. They just don't care," she said.
Records of the Wood County Auditor show the Muir house, a stately brick house that faces City Hall, and three adjacent parcels were purchased last week for $250,000 by Port Lawrence Title and Trust Co. acting as trustee for the library.
Robert Maurer, a local real estate developer who owns the property just south of the Muir house, applied for a demolition permit from the city July 19 and had the house on the lot razed Monday morning. On Tuesday, his crews began cutting down the trees on his lot and the one next door that's owned by the library.
Pat Browne, who lives directly behind the property, said she got a call about an hour after the house came down from Elaine Paulette, library director, who wanted to talk with her and her husband about what was going on.
"I was devastated, absolutely devastated," Mrs. Browne said. "We've been here 38 years and never in a nightmare did I think anything like this would happen."
Mrs. Browne and her husband, Ray, and Mrs. Conibear met with Ms. Paulette and the president of the library board, who told them they hoped to use the now-vacant lot and the vacant lot next to the Muir house for parking for the library. The library would need a zoning change to make it a parking lot, a fact the neighbors already were aware of from their own research.
"I retained an attorney," Mrs. Browne said. "And he said the only thing we can do is when they apply for the zoning change, we can fight it."
Neither Ms. Paulette nor Mr. Maurer returned phone calls yesterday seeking comment.
Scott McEwen, president of the library's board, also could not be reached for comment.
Mrs. Conibear said now that the property has been stripped of trees and reduced to street level, people could think the land might as well be a parking lot. She hopes not.
"If [City] Council goes along and gives them this change, they will have rewarded them for this kind of behavior," Mrs. Conibear said.
No rezoning requests were filed with the city as of yesterday.
Mr. Browne said he couldn't imagine how the library could afford to purchase the real estate and build a parking lot.
The library relies almost exclusively on state tax dollars to operate.
In 2001, voters approved a 25-year, 0.32-mill bond issue intended to raise $5 million toward an extensive renovation and expansion of the library that was completed in 2003. As part of the project, library parking was to have been increased from 18 to 58 spaces.
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