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Coopers Green Hall could go ahead with bigger budget

As the replacement project for the Halfmoon Bay community hall faces rising costs, it was able to pass through SCRD rural directors, but its future remains uncertain. Next, it will appear at the May 26 board meeting.
Preliminary designs of the Coopers Green replacement hall were unveiled at an open house on March 15, 2018.

The community hall of Halfmoon Bay may go ahead with a bigger budget, after Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) rural directors voted 3-2 in favour of proceeding with the replacement project. 

At the May 19 Electoral Area Services meeting, SCRD staff presented the new estimated budget — with a $983,000 to $1.5 million funding gap — and asked directors to choose how to proceed, as the project cannot be put out for tender without a sufficient budget.

The directors were given five options to choose from, although some of the rural directors suggested a sixth option: going to a public referendum. 

Directors asked a variety of questions regarding the cost: whether the grant Investing in Canada infrastructure Program deadline could be extended past March 31, 2025, about stacking grants, and whether any design elements could be removed to lower the price. They also questioned the $981 per square foot estimate, comparing it to lower costs for building high-end homes or a hospital. 

“I think our mouths all dropped when we saw the new cost estimates,” Halfmoon Bay director Lori Pratt said.

Earlier in the meeting, Andy Jones-Cox of the Halfmoon Bay Community Association (HBCA) appeared as a delegation to speak about the project. He said the HBCA is very optimistic, in spite of the estimated cost increase, adding there are ways to bridge the funding gap. 

“We don't think the taxpayers should be asked to bear that,” Jones-Cox said. The volunteers would also take on the operations of the building. 

“We recognize that you have difficult choices to make,” Jones-Cox added. “None of the options is ideal.”

In support of moving ahead with the rebuild, Halfmoon Bay’s Lori Pratt, Leonard Lee of Pender Harbour/Egmont and Mark Hiltz of West Howe Sound cast their vote in favour of continuing with the project as designed, and approving an amended project budget of up to $4,500,000. 

While Hiltz acknowledged the risks and uncertainty, he spoke in favour of the first option as a way to test the market. 

When the federal government throws in $2 million and we’re aligned with the federal government, that seems to say that we’re kind of going in the right direction,” Hiltz said.

Lee said, “I think this is a unique opportunity we just simply can’t pass up,” as he cited the project’s public access to the waterfront, importance to shíshálh Nation and potential to attract business.

In opposition

Directors Donna McMahon (Elphinstone) and Andreas Tize (Roberts Creek) voted against the motion. Historically, McMahon and Tize have voted against moving forward with the Coopers Green Hall project, citing concerns about sea-level rise, the new design’s size at nearly three times that of any other existing community hall in the region, and the cost of the project, as well as the lack of a community hall management plan.”

McMahon said she had “some reluctance and compassion for the Halfmoon Bay Community Association” as she supports option five, which would see the existing hall used until the end of its lifetime. She said she would also be supportive of a public referendum, but it might have a hard time winning support from the other electoral areas.

"The fundamental problem I see here is that this is a project whose time has come and gone. It’s a vision of a past era, but the post-World War II prosperity party is over in North America,” McMahon said. “We’re now in an era of climate emergencies, rising economic inequality and global supply chain meltdowns.” 

Tize said he thinks “Halfmoon Bay deserves a community hall,” but could not support the estimated cost of the project or pushing the decision onto the next SCRD board. 

The representative for Halfmoon Bay, Pratt, said she doesn’t like the cost of the estimate either, but staff needs to be given direction to move forward. She said she knows how much the community wants a gathering space.

“I think there is a way of refining that [cost], but until we’ve moved forward with an option and give staff direction, we’re not gonna be able to test the market and that’s what we really need to do next,” she said.

The recommendation to move forward with the project will still need to be adopted at the board level. The next SCRD board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 26. If the recommendation is pulled for consideration or discussion, SCRD staff told Coast Reporter, all of the directors — including the municipal directors — will be able to vote on the project’s fate, and it will be a weighted vote. 

After the meeting, HBCA president Linda McMahon said she was feeling hopeful.

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