KCLS begins to address permitting for Vashon Library project

The King County Library System (KCLS) is moving forward on plans to renovate and expand the Vashon Library as it enters the permitting phase of the construction process. 

KCLS staff recently presented building designs to the county’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES). 

Kay Johnson, KCLS’s facilities development director, said that in preliminary discussions with DDES, the county requested that the redesign include widening the sidewalk in front of Ober Park from six to eight feet to comply with with the frontage improvement section of the current Vashon Town Plan. 

Johnson, who presented the issue to the Vashon Park District board of commissioners earlier this month, said widening the sidewalk was a concern to her not only because it would raise the cost of the project, but also because it would require the removal of some of the berm along the sidewalk and, along with it, some of the roots of the half-dozen large maple trees that line the highway at Ober Park.

According to arborists she has consulted, Johnson  said, the trees may or may not survive having some of their roots removed.

“It would be risky for the trees,” she said. 

Widening the sidewalk would also require building a retaining wall to hold up the the berm, she said.

“My understanding is people really like the berms,” she said.

LuAnn Branch, chair of the park board, said the board members were also concerned about the situation and were willing to get involved if needed.

“We’re park people,” she said. “We like the big, old trees, and it doesn’t sound like (widening the sidewalk) would work very well.”

Branch added that perhaps the county would consider widening the sidewalk in the other direction.

Johnson attended a special meeting with DDES last week where she requested that the county make an exemption for the library and allow it to leave the sidewalk as it is. She said that although a decision has yet to be made, county officials seemed willing to work with KCLS to find a solution that didn’t involve cutting into the berms.

“They seemed sympathetic to the concerns of the community about the park,” she said.

The sidewalk issue is one of just a few conflicts to arise so far in the permitting process, Johnson said, but she added that it’s too soon to know whether the rest of the process will go smoothly. KCLS still expects permitting to take six to eight months, and construction will likely begin next spring. 

Meanwhile, the library system is still working to select a temporary location for the Vashon Library during construction next year. Johnson said KCLS has received a few location suggestions but has yet to make a decision and is still open to Islanders’ ideas.

The new library, designed by the Seattle firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, will be about 3,600 square feet larger than the existing structure and will include a larger meeting room and children’s area, large west-facing windows and a green roof. 


Suggestions for a temporary library location can be submitted at or by calling the KCLS Service Center at 425-369-3200.






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