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Thursday, May 14, 2015
TheStar.com: Brampton family fights city's demand to tear down little library
Brampton family fights city's demand to tear down little library
City backtracks after a bylaw inspector deems the popular handmade library an "obstruction" and threatens legal action if they don’t remove it.
RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR
Kimberley Popoff, left, talks with neighbour Ashely Goodfellow-Craig about the decision to let the mini library stand. The Popoff family won a reprieve Tuesday from the City of Brampton when the municipality reversed a bylaw officer's order to take it down.
Carter and Rachel Popoff have always been voracious readers. As kids, the now teen siblings from Brampton loved snuggling up on the couch with their parents and a good book. They would spend summers raising thousands of dollars for their school library through lemonade stands and would never refuse a trip to Chapters to expand their home collection.
So last year, when their mother took the hundreds of tales they amassed through their childhood and turned them into a little free library on the quiet, sidewalk-free Byng St. side of their corner-lot house on Mill St. South, the pair adored watching families stroll up to the nook to take or return books.
But on Monday, they received an order from a city bylaw officer demanding they “immediately” remove the library from the public property on which it stands. The order cited a bylaw deeming the library “an obstruction” and warning that failure to remove it would result in legal action.
Following questions from the Star and other media, the city backtracked Tuesday afternoon, apologizing for “the concern and any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Spokesperson Megan Ball told the Star in an email, “Staff will be working with the homeowner to come to a reasonable solution related to the location of the community library box.”
The whole ordeal, said Rachel and Carter’s mother, Kimberley, shocked the family.
“We didn’t think the city would care because we are fostering community spirit and reading,” she told the Star. “It is a quiet street with barely anyone driving there… Families would stop at it all the time, and neighbours would walk by and smile. Some people would even take photos with it.”
Kimberley, a project manager at a technology company, said the Popoffs were originally given five days to tear down the library that her husband Michael crafted from a spare stained-glass window and some wood. It can’t be described as an eyesore; the colour scheme and Tudor style even match their home.
Readers are treated to a stock of books for children and adults, rotated on a bi-weekly basis, with usually 30 available at a time. The 200 or so spares fill the family’s garden shed.
Moving the Popoff iteration to her backyard, as some have suggested, could be problematic, she said, because of the family dog and the foot traffic it would draw.
The Popoffs said they decided not to pull it down right away, in hopes that a city councillor who visited Tuesday morning would convince staff to let the library stay. When they heard back from the city Tuesday afternoon, they were told they could keep the library but to expect some further paperwork.
Ball said the issue hadn’t come to the city’s attention through complaints. Instead, it was a city staff member who noticed the encroachment and acted on it.
As a result, she said, “senior staff have contacted the owner and apologized for failing to contact the home owner prior to the issuance of the order.”
A post Kimberley circulated on Facebook about the library’s impending removal amassed dozens of messages from locals calling the city’s action “a shame,” “hard to believe” and “so disappointing.”