Albion Recorder & Calhoun/Jackson Morning Star News

Library parking issue a challenge in Concord

Concord’s library parking issue a challenge | Photo by Ken Wyatt

By Ken Wyatt
Contributing Writer

Concord’s gift of its 1901 opera house to the county library system is causing a new round of
parking issues in the village.

The matter has come up at the last two meetings of the Concord Village Council. As village
officials reported, the Concord branch manager of the Jackson District Library started restricting parking
to its staff and patrons. Village officials, believing the village owns the parking area behind the library,
pushed back, but was told the library system owns the parking lot.

At first, village officials did not believe that was the case. However, their research determined that
the library does own the property. Apparently, in 2006 Village President Halsey Jenks signed a quit-claim
deed for the Concord Opera House property to the district library. As far as they could determine, there
was never a vote by the village council on the transfer.

In neither the December nor January meetings did the council hear directly from the district
library. However, this week the district director, Liz Breed, contacted The Recorder to explain why parking
has become an issue for the branch.

“We’ve begun having some challenges over the past couple of years,” she explained.

For a while, a construction trailer was left in the parking area. That apparently belonged to Kent
Tyler, owner of a two-story apartment adjacent to the opera house. The Tylers have been renovating both
that property and the former grocery store building across Main Street.

Other nearby residents have used the lot as well, for the belief has been that it is a village parking
lot.

As Breed explained it, not all the branch staffers are always at the library, but there have been
times when parking has been a challenge. Her understanding is that the branch has five or six parking
spaces. So that is why the library began restricting access to those who were using those spaces. They
are reserved for the staff and patrons.

The village, after learning it no longer owns that lot, realized that for years it has been maintaining
it. So, the village attorney was asked for his counsel. One suggestion he made was that the village might
seek an easement from the library.

In any case, Breed is hoping to resolve the matter simply by talking it over with village officials.
She plans to contact Village President Jeremy Bush to initiate those talks.

This is not the only time parking has been an issue for the village. There have been issues with
the parking area behind The Salesman and other businesses along the west side of Main Street. Last
year the village added some extra parking space by purchasing a house adjacent to the Concord Post
Office, demolishing it and creating a new parking lot.

Typically, parking only becomes an issue during times of festivities – such as the Concord Classic
weekend in June, or when there is ongoing construction or other activities.

The Concord Opera House was built in 1900 to replace the Wetmore Opera House, which was
destroyed by fire in 1899. Dedicated in January 1901, it served initially as a sort of community center. It
later housed Concord school students after the schoolhouse burned down in 1943. When the school
rebuilt and left in 1953, St. Catherine’s Catholic Church converted the opera house into a church, which
served that purpose for 40 years.

In 1996, the diocese gave the building to the village, which owned it for the next decade.

In early 2006, the building was conveyed to the library district for the handsome price of one
dollar. Since then, the district has added a handicapped ramp and elevator to accommodate the disabled.
The original intent was to renovate the top floor and move the library there, but that was contingent on
passage of a millage, which failed.

Currently, that upper floor is used for occasional special community purposes.

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