Where We Are and How We Got Here

Library District Tax payers and supporters,

The Library Board wanted to provide a detailed update on where things currently stand, how we got to this point, and how we plan to move forward with the new building for the Library.

The Helen Plum Library is continuing our effort to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with the Park District that addresses all concerns.

As Lombard taxpayers ourselves, we are keenly aware of the urgency and frustration of taxpayers. Our hope is that the Library and Park Boards can come to this from a place of partnership and agreement, and we can enhance the experience of both.

The Library Board has been advised that every year that the building project is delayed increases the cost of the project by 4%. With a $23.5 million dollar project, every day the project is delayed increases the cost by $2,300.

Hence, our reason for getting the project started as soon as possible.

In Colonel Plum’s 1927 will, he gave his home and land to the people of Lombard “for the purposes of a public park and a free public library … to be treated as a unit.” The citizens of Lombard benefit from Colonel Plum’s generosity and wisdom every day. Maintaining this unique relationship is critical for our community to continue to thrive in the years ahead.

The Lombard Park District honored Colonel Plum’s wishes in its 2013 Master Plan by including initiatives to “improve library interaction/adjacency, creating more cohesion between the two sites.”

Helen Plum Library has also kept the Park/Library relationship at the forefront of their planning. Responding to the need for a new library to meet the needs of a 21st century population, in November 2016, the citizens of Lombard approved a tax increase to provide this facility for the village. Honoring the spirit of Colonel Plum’s wishes for Lombard, the preservation and protection of Lilacia Park has been a high priority in plans for the new library.

The Park District and the Library share the same objectives—to provide the very best resources for the people of Lombard while honoring the intent of Colonel Plum’s gift, and respecting this wishes of the people of Lombard expressed through the results of the 2016 referendum.

The path to reach those objectives has been complicated.

Please help us reach this solution by expressing your thoughts to the Park District Board and to us.

Below is a brief summary of key dates in the Library’s history, and a more detailed summary of actions taken by the Library Board and the Park District Board over the last several years:

A referendum to build a new 12,000-square-foot, two-story-tall library building is passed.

New Library opens; Plum residence is torn down.


A referendum passes to pay for an addition to the library building. (This was the last time a library tax increase was approved by the residents of Lombard.)

Library lease of office space to Park District for 20 years.


Addition is completed bringing the building to its current size – 34,300 square feet.


Air rights agreement.


Citizen’s committee creates long term Library plan calling for more space while remaining in Lombard’s downtown.


Referendum seeking funding for a new 79,000 square foot building and increase in the operating budget fails


Driveway access land exchange agreement.


A professional assessment of the building’s condition determines that it would cost at least $8 million to replace the original HVAC system, make major structural repairs, and do basic renovations. Because of the extensive renovations and demolition of the plaza deck, the Library would need to be temporarily relocated, adding up to $1 million more to the budget.

No additional space or conveniences are added, and much of the work is recommended to be scheduled over the following two years.

At the time, the Library only had $1 million dollars in its Special and Capital Reserve funds. With input from Engberg Anderson Architects and Frederick Quinn Construction, the Library Board evaluates alternatives and decides it would be a more cost-effective solution to replace the building rather than make repairs on the existing building. View the Comparison Chart of options here.

March 29, 2016

The Library presented an initial concept plan for a new Library building to the Lombard Park District’s Board of Park Commissioners at their Board meeting. Park Board members asked about protection of the Coach House and how flood control would be handled. No additional questions or concerns were discussed at that meeting.

Executive Director Barb Kruser followed up that meeting with a request to discuss drafting an Intergovernmental Agreement that would cover aspects such as property boundaries, protection of the Coach House and air rights restrictions.

April 2016

The Park Board responded with a letter stating that any contracts, IGAs or joint position statements with the Library prior to passage of the referendum would be potential violations of the Illinois Election Code. The Park Board also declined to meet with the Library Board to discuss any of these issues.

Because the results of the 2015 building assessment, the Library Board votes to put a referendum on the November 2016 ballot.

November 8, 2016

Helen Plum Library passes a referendum for a new building and an increased operating budget. See the election results here.

November 28, 2016

Following passage of the referendum, the Park District Executive Director informs the Library’s Executive Director that the Park District would not waive any air or property rights, and suggested the Southland Park land exchange.  A group consisting of two members from both Library and Park District Boards, Executive Directors of both entities and the Library’s architect and construction manager meet to review revised Library building concepts in an effort to negotiate a plan that would satisfy the Park District’s requests.

February 16, 2017

The Executive Directors meet to discuss a final proposal that would have given the Library an air rights waiver to the west of the building in exchange for the property below the plaza deck and additional property south of the Coach House. The Park Board Executive Director indicates that his Board members are firm on the proposal and the next step was for this to be discussed with the entire Park Board. It is agreed that the Library will present the proposal at the Park District’s February 28 Board meeting.

At the end of this meeting of the two Executive Directors, the discussion returns to the possibility of a land exchange and the Executive Director of the Park District suggests the possibility of a move to the Lombard Common Park. The following day the Directors visit the Common site and discuss concerns about amount of property and parking.

The Library architect and construction manager later visit the location and raise questions about significant challenges posed by traffic and parking increases, adjacent resident concerns and a very expensive storm water retention system that would need to be installed. No formal offer of land exchange is presented to the Library.

The Library Board determines that in addition to the consultant’s concerns, the costs for the studies needed for that site, the need for community input and the extensive delay of the project, indicate that the move to the Lombard Common would not be a solution. Had the Library been given an option like this prior to the referendum, they could have engaged the community on this possibility.

October 2017
Following the Park District’s rejection of the Library’s initial building proposal due to air rights infringement, the Park District Board of Commissioners is presented with a Memo of Understanding in hopes that they would review at their March 27 Board meeting. This MOU proposes construction of a new building that follows the intent of the 1977 IGA, the 1980 IGA and the 2007 IGA. The final plan does not encroach on any Park District property and complies with the IGA air rights understanding.

The Library forwards its new two-pavilion building design to the Park District for their review and comment. These designs have been presented to the public at our Community Conversations. They are on display in the Library, and are available on our website.

These plans do not infringe on the Park District’s property. This design addresses the Park District’s concerns related to the claimed air rights, while still allowing the Library to build a facility on its own land, per the voice of the Lombard community in passing the 2016 referendum.

This design has some compromises over other plans, but also offers benefits. The primary being:

  • Construction could be done over two phases, and the Library would not need to procure a temporary location saving over $1 million.
  • Minimal water retention mitigation requirements.
  • It allowed the project to move forward since we did not need any property exchange with the Park District, which was their only objection up to this point.
  • The new space will provide the Lombard community with a 21st century library that offers additional services, conveniences, safety and accessibility.

November 2017
The Park District presents an alternative building proposal to the Library on November 6.

That November 6, 2017 proposal has never been previously discussed in public due to the Park’s assertion at that time that “they will take this offer off of the table if the contents of this offer are publicly disclosed or debated.” Since the Park Board has now publicly referenced the offer at their Board meeting in December 2018, and to a reporter from the Daily Herald, we assume this restriction is no longer a concern.

Here are the highlights of the Park’s November 6, 2017 offer:

  • The proposal would realign the boundaries of the parcels where the current Library building is located, shifting the building to the south.
  • The Park District would waive the current air rights to the west of the Library property (up to the current access driveway), but would require new air rights over the current building footprint to two stories and over the new west property to just one story.
  • The Park would take ownership of all the Library’s property to the north from the land under the current plaza deck and continuing property to the west.
  • The Library would take ownership of a portion of the Henderson Plaza to move the building closer to Park Ave.
  • The Library would be responsible for demolishing the concrete plaza and the Park would design landscaping that the Library would pay for.
  • The Park would allow the Library to use that property to the north for storm water storage.
  • The Park would provide input and require approval of the design and construction of the northern façade of the new building.
  • The Library would pay for all fees and expenses.

Although the Library had already spent a good deal of time, effort and expense on developing the two-pavilion design, on November 17, 2017, representatives from the Library indicated that we could work with the Park Board on the 16 requests made in their offer, but there were a few concerns that would not work for a new 50,000 sq. ft. library building.

Members of the Library Board were very uncomfortable with the idea of once again encumbering a future Library Board with new air rights restrictions. However, they agreed to present an alternative plan that still closely followed the original proposal. It addressed the need to provide a drive-thru window, certain setbacks needed per the Village, and optimal underground water storage.

In response, the Park District suggested its own alternate building design, creating a zero-setback along Maple Avenue and still requiring that the Library convey additional property rights to the Park District. The Library also considered this proposal and even went as far as to review this with the staff of the Village of Lombard.

The Village staff indicated such a zero-setback along Maple Avenue might not receive ultimate approval. In addition, the design did not allow for effective storm water management. The Library was willing to move forward on this plan, but asked for assurance from the Park that the building could be moved to the north should such be required by the Village.

The Park responded that the Library should design a plan within the parameters of their proposal, do all the site and survey work, incur those expenses, and then submit the Plan Commission application to determine if they would accept a zero setback plan. This would delay the project for up to 6 months. The Park would not assure the Library that if the Village rejected the plans we could move further north.

As the Library Board already had the two-pavilion plan in the final initial design stages, it did not want to risk spending more money and more time on new plans with no back up option. Although the Library Board had asked to meet with the Park Board in January 2018 to discuss this plan, we would not meet with Park Board representatives again until December 2018.

March 2018
The Lombard Village Manager encourages the Library to try again to meet with the Park District to reach an agreement regarding the Library’s building project to avoid a contentious public hearing process. A non-binding mediation was suggested.

The Village staff volunteers to be available to participate as a resource for information in the mediation. The Library was willing to participate in and pay the costs of a mediation and asked the Park District to consider this request at their March 27th, 2018 Board Meeting. The Park District refused to participate in mediation.

Meanwhile, during 2018, many steps had to be completed in preparing for a submission of final plans to the village for approval. Soil tests for building, surveys, and other preparatory steps that were postponed until a decision on how to move forward was decided upon needed to be completed. Once these test results confirmed that the site would work for the new building, final building design choices were made, and detailed schematic plans were started and information was shared with the public.

December 2018
The Park District’s recent action declaring their refusal to meet with the Library to discuss anything other than the November, 2017 counter proposal and/or a land swap was not only disappointing, but is a direct violation of the terms of the 2007 IGA. We understand that the Park District may not agree with or support the Library’s current proposal. They certainly have the right to voice their opinion and present their objections at the appropriate Village Plan Commission/Board hearings.

They cannot, however, use their objections to the overall project to avoid their obligations to approve the driveway relocation pursuant to the 2007 IGA terms. The 2007 IGA provided that the Library shall, at its own cost and expense, design and construct an access driveway on the Park District’s property which shall be no less than ten feet wide at any point including site preparation.

The 2007 IGA also provided that the design and construction of the access driveway shall be by mutual agreement between the Library and the Park District and further that the Library and Park District will adopt all ordinances and resolutions and execute all documents reasonably necessary to effectuate the terms of the agreement.

January 2019
To date, the Park has offered no reasonable explanation for their objections to the plans for the access drive relocation other than continued resistance to the overall Library project. We consider the Park District’s most recent motion regarding this topic to be a material breach of the 2007 IGA, and hereby demand that any reasons for withholding approval of the access driveway relocation be enumerated.

At the Park Board’s invitation, the Library Board would arrange for Subject Matter Experts to attend a Park Board meeting to answer any outstanding questions or concerns the Park Board Trustees have. Choosing to cease any further communication is not the path to resolving this issue for the Lombard residents we both serve.

We have heard very clearly from many Lombard residents that, for the benefit of the community, we build a new library at the current location. Keeping the Library adjacent to Lilacia Park benefits the Park, the Library, the Lombard downtown area, honors Col. Plum’s original vision of his donation to Lombard, and is the most financially responsible option.

Here are our simple asks of the Lombard Park District Board:

  • To consent to the access drive relocation that was already legally agreed to by both Boards in the 2007 IGA (this Intergovernmental Agreement is available on our website) and relocate utilities that provide access and services to the coach house in the park to the west side of the Library property.
  • To agree to a construction easement that allows for construction mechanisms and materials to extend only into the air rights owned by the Park above the Library.

The Library Board has honored the existing agreement between both parties, including not infringing on Park property, by designing a building that meets all restrictions defined in the agreement. The Park Board is being asked to do the same, and help Lombard move forward with the new library building they have voted to fund.

Our hope is that the Park District Board reconsiders its decision and provides approval of the driveway location and construction easement so we can submit plans to the Lombard Plan Commission. If Helen Plum Library District residents feel that the Park District should reconsider their motion to discontinue any and all discussions with the Helen Plum Library regarding construction of a new building at the current location unless we reconsidered their offer, please voice your opinion. Please give them a call or attend a Board meeting. Maybe your input will be considered.

Time is of the essence. The current Helen Plum Library building is in a window where there is a risk of catastrophic failure of the plaza deck membrane and the HVAC system. The costs for building materials, labor and interest rate for the bonds continues to rise, so getting feedback to the Park in a timely manner is urgent.

— The Helen Plum Library Board

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