The future of Blue Point's St. Ursula Center could be decided Thursday when voters cast ballots on a $16.85 million plan to turn the convent into a library.
The Bayport-Blue Point Public Library agreed in September to pay $3.65 million to buy the 8.27-acre property on Middle Road from the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk. The sisters say the dwindling order of aging nuns must move to new homes.
If the plan is approved, the library would double in size by moving from its current 13,325-square foot home on Blue Point Avenue to the renovated 28,573-square foot convent. Library officials have said an 18-year bond to finance the property purchase and renovation would increase taxes on the average home by about $228 annually.
Some residents at a meeting Thursday said they couldn't afford the tax hike and questioned whether a new library is needed.
"I'm not sure we need a property as large as the convent," former Bayport-Blue Point school board member Philip Linker, 71, of Bayport, said. "At some point it's going to tax me out of my house. ... This seems to me to be somewhat of an extravagance."
Supporters of the project countered that the tax hike is a small price to pay for expanding the library for future generations.
Mark Miller, a Bayport restaurateur, said he had initially opposed the proposal until he considered the library in neighboring Sayville, which has more than 40,000 square feet of space.
"We pay a lot of taxes," Miller said. "But my kids' kids are worth it."
Jack Harrison, 10, of Blue Point, said he enjoys walking across the street from Blue Point Elementary School, where he attends 5th grade, to visit the current library, but he is looking forward to studying in the new building.
"The St. Ursula Center is a lot bigger and I can probably do a lot more stuff," Jack said at the meeting. "And I think a lot of other people can do a lot more stuff."
Opponents said the current library serves as a community hub that supports local businesses, and they worried about the building's fate.
"I think this is the center of this town," said Jim Byrne, 53, a Blue Point art professor. "How can we feel as a community that our interests are protected with the sale of this property?"
Library officials said they expect to sell the current library for about $2 million if the bond is approved. That revenue could help defray the cost to taxpayers, they said. They also said Suffolk County officials have expressed interest in buying part of the convent property and preserving it as open space.
Library director Mike Firestone said the library would apply for state grants to help pay for construction.
Sister Joanne Callahan, province head of the Ursuline Sisters, said other potential buyers are interested in purchasing the convent if the bond is defeated. She said one developer would build an assisted-living facility on the site.
Voting is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the library, 203 Blue Point Ave., Blue Point.
The St. Ursula Center is holding an estate sale Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the convent, 186 Middle Rd., Blue Point. The sale will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. For information, call 631-363-2422. Among the items for sale:
- Bedroom furniture
- Chapel furnishings