By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — If Erin Margolin could do it all over again, she’d probably rather ask forgiveness than permission.
Following the City of Leawood’s heated controversy surrounding the code citation and mandated removal of a Little Free Library — a diminutive curbside cabinet dedicated to sharing books in a local community — a new Kansas City metro area municipality has stepped into the fray: Fairway.
Margolin met with Fairway officials Monday evening for what she assumed would be a mere formality. She brought pictures and measurements for the Little Free Library she wanted to put up in her front yard. So far, all lights appeared green.
But the city of Fairway hit the brakes and tossed Margolin and her library into a holding pattern.
“I was surprised when I went to the meeting Monday night and they didn’t just tell me, ‘OK sure, you can go ahead and install it,’” Margolin told Kansas Watchdog.
“Surely, this thing isn’t neon green, it doesn’t have flashing lights, it’s tastefully made and well- constructed, and my homeowners’ association had already approved it,” She added. “I thought this was going to be the last official piece.”
In going by the book, Margolin was told she’d have to sit and wait for the cogs of government to work through the issue.
But Bill Sandy, Fairway codes administrator, said the city has no intention of blocking Margolin’s Little Free Library. Rather, he said, the small book repository will almost certainly be approved.
“There’s nobody that’s against this at all, we just want to have some generic rules,” Sandy stated.
The guidelines are intended to keep things within the bounds of common sense. Sandy said future Little Free Libraries in Fairway will be restricted to reasonable height and size requirements, and will be restricted from placement within the public right-of-way. Aside from that, he doesn’t see any major issues.
It’s likely the wording will be presented before city leaders by the end of July.
“What we want to do is define them in our ordinance because all over the northeast Johnson County area here, they’re popping up everywhere,” he said.
And there’s one more reason behind the move: Fairway doesn’t want to make the same mistake as Leawood, which forced the removal of nine-year-old Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library last month under threat of fines.
Sandy stated that he’s not familiar with Leawood’s codes and regulations, but said “just from the way it has been presented, it makes them come across as being a little harsh, in my opinion.”
Prairie Village city administrator Quinn Bennnion told Kansas Watchdog his city has pursued a third option. While the municipality maintains a code regulating detached structures, Bennion said the scope and size of Little Free Libraries is so small that the city doesn’t consider them structures.
But while Margolin is glad the city is moving on the issue, she doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in her local government.
“My biggest concern is what if I go back at the end of July and they still haven’t worked this out?” Margolin said. “To be honest, I’m still debating that, I’m still thinking, ‘Forget it, I’m still going to put it up’ and I’m still willing to fight the fight, because there are still plenty of kids and adults who don’t have access to books.”
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