Securing $2 million in senior government funding for a $3-million community project that has been eight years in the making would normally be a cause for celebration. In the case of Halfmoon Bay, the infrastructure grant announcement in early July for Coopers Green Hall triggered a chain reaction that has led to disappointment, anger and disbelief among many residents.
That’s because the Sunshine Coast Regional District has opted to revisit the project by consulting the community on the scope of the project and even its location.
After years of gathering feedback, developing a plan for the new hall in partnership with community volunteers, refining that vision, and successfully applying for infrastructure funding, the SCRD appears willing to go back to square one.
As Halfmoon Bay Community Association president Terry Knight told the group’s members last week: “Your association’s board believe that this work has been more than thoroughly accomplished over the last several years through the development of a comprehensive Coopers Green Park Management Plan and a community-based Task Force led by the SCRD staff... The result is a design that takes in all aspects of the community requirements, including the waterfront siting at Coopers Green Park.”
In a letter this week to the rural SCRD board members, residents Lynne and Peter Bogardus noted consultation to date has included a public questionnaire and open house in the summer of 2015, another open house that fall, another open house and public feedback form in March 2018, and the 2017-18 community task force.
“These initiatives produced over 450 responses from the community with the majority in favour of building a new Coopers Green Hall in its current location,” the couple wrote. “As a result, engineering studies were done, architectural drawings commissioned and community fundraising pursued, exceeding its goal of $300,000.”
They conclude that “it is a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money to duplicate work that has already been done.”
Taxpayers’ money, of course, is the reason directors want to step back and review the project. Staff say up to $800,000 in borrowing would be needed to cover the balance of the cost and it would be paid back through taxation. No one wants that.
But look closer at the numbers.
A July staff report calculates the unfunded gap at $650,000. Since that figure was based on a community association contribution of only $222,000, the gap should now be about $100,000 less. Add to that continued fundraising, which the association has committed to, plus donations of material and labour, which could be substantial, as well as other funding sources, and the SCRD’s share could be significantly reduced.
And that should be the focus right now – working with the community volunteers who have given so much to this project and bringing it home with minimal cost to the local taxpayer.
The SCRD was a key partner in this process and now appears to be acting in bad faith. That’s why some people are angry in Sleepy Hollow. We can’t really blame them.