Seven-year-old Niko Sansevere of Wainscott can practically reach out both arms and touch the sides of the small alcove the East Hampton Public Library uses for its young adult book collection.
The whole children's wing is cramped. About the same time Niko was born, the library proposed expanding it.
The boy likes the idea. "I think if they extended it a little tiny bit more out . . . but they shouldn't go to the street," he said.
But, like many things in the grown-up world, it's a little more complicated than that.
After seven years and 35 appearances before the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, several modifications and a nearly successful bid to get special state legislation to avoid the ZBA entirely, the library's application to build a two-level, 6,802-square-foot addition behind the existing building has been rejected by the ZBA.
But it's not the end of the fight.
The library says it's prepared to go to court to challenge the decision, but won't do that unless it has the support of the communities it serves: East Hampton, Wainscott and Springs.
The board has scheduled a referendum for August 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will ask residents of the library district if it should go ahead with the project which, the referendum points out, will not cost them a cent, add 16 parking spaces and still preserve 84 percent of the library's existing open space.
Unlike most libraries that would have to sell bonds or raise taxes, the cost of the expansion will be covered by individual donations of library supporters.
Still, that was not enough to sway the Village Zoning Board of Appeals, which took 13 pages to list the reasons for its rejection Friday.
"The board finds that an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood and detriment to nearby properties would result from the proposed expansion," the ZBA concluded. It also said:
The expansion would bring more people to the library, which is across from Guild Hall in one of the most congested areas in the village.
It would have an adverse traffic impact at the intersection of Montauk Highway and State Route 114 and cut down on-street parking.
It would cause a "serious erosion" of Osborne Green, a parklike area behind the library that the ZBA said provides "an important visual and historic corridor."
The library board has charged that the denial is an effort by "a few politically influential people" to keep people who do not live in the village out of the village. "It's about exclusion," they said in a prepared statement.
"These people say it is fine for residents of Northwest, Wainscott and Springs to come to the village for mail, church and to spend money . . . but they should not come to the village for free library services."