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Forth an agency of ProVisions NetWorks Inc.

Corporate Trustee of the ProVisions Foundation

Whirled ❖ Design
phi@provisionsfoundation.org

❖ Invention
604-886-3731

Innovations ❖ Innovation

July 14, 2009

Board of Directors
Sunshine Coast Regional District
1975 Field Road, Sechelt, B.C. V0N 3A1
cc: Sam Adams, Parks Planning Coordinator
Mark McMullen, Manager, Planning & Development

Dear Directors et alia,

i am responding to a request for feedback about Granthams Community Hall, made by Sam
Adams in his presentation at the Hall on June 17.
The meeting was well-attended… lots of “dance-moms”… although it seems that not a lot of local
folks knew about the meeting. i found out by chance. Hopefully there will be another opportunity
for the whole community to participate in this consideration... including renters like myself who
have a vested interest in this community.
This letter is an impassioned plea for reason, compassion and informed decision-making. The
future of Granthams “Community” Hall is at stake here and i wish to express my deep concern,
frustration, and despair regarding the current “situation” at the Hall.
i was somewhat surprised the June 17 presentation made no mention of the Granthams Hall
Resurrection Project that occurred between 1994 and 1997... sponsored by the Granthams
Landing Property Owners Association (GLPOA). This project saw 60+ local residents contribute
upwards of 1000 hours of volunteer efforts, a liberal amount of cash and a “whole lotta love”
to transform a musty, dilapidated, rodent-infested, sunken-floored and little-used building into
the ambient and inviting facility it is today. This self-organizing team was inspired by a vision of
bringing the Hall back to life once again so that it could be used by the “community”.
Since i spearheaded and coordinated this Project, i feel i must speak up on behalf of these
generous, hardworking folks and all others in this region who are unaware of the “situation” at the
Hall. The “situation” is that the community no longer has free access to the Hall as it once did.
The Hall is now more or less “owned” by one entity…a 150-student dance school that has booked
up most of the prime rental times (Sunday-Thursday afternoons and evenings)... the exception
being Thursday night art classes.
In my opinion, there is something totally wrong with this picture!
Were Eric Cardinall alive today, i am certain he would share some or most of my sentiments.
Eric was Area F Director during the period of the Resurrection Project... an initiative which he
championed. In a congratulatory letter announcing the SCRD’s financial support, he said:
“The residents of Granthams are to be congratulated for their effort to restore the
community hall.”
“May your small community continue to benefit from its traditional gathering place. Other
communities regret losing theirs.”
“Continued success with your strong community spirit.”
Before i share my sentiments with you i would like to provide some background details…a slice of
Grantham’s history which is unlikely to be documented elsewhere. In doing so... i will attempt to paint a
picture of how the present “situation” at the Hall came about (from my p.o.v.... and memory).
In April 1994, i was appointed by the GLPOA Board of Directors to design and coordinate a “community
project” to bring the Hall back to life. i published a series of newsletters and surveys which were
circulated throughout the community... and the response was awesome! In 1995, aided by a cash
contribution by the SCRD, i managed to secure a BC21 grant to help restore the Hall.
The grant required the sponsoring organization to have a “dissolution clause” in their constitution…
which the GLPOA did not have. Soon after informing the Board of this, things took a turn. i learned that
the spectre of “director liability” had emerged when one director cited a case where a board member
of an NGO had to sell his home in order to pay for a successful law suit by an injured volunteer. The
‘concerned’ directors were reluctant to proceed with the Project and it was put on hold for almost a year!
Graciously, the concerned directors eventually resigned… enabling the “issues” to be resolved. i applied
for and was granted a 6-month extension of the original project completion deadline, pushing it up to
the summer of ’96. After the Project officially ended considerable work was done on the Hall for the next
couple of years to complete the facelift. Rental of the Hall re-commenced in spring of 1997.
in January 1998 i offered to be the caretaker/manager of the Hall (with my wife Di) in exchange for one
day/month free use of the Hall. This was accepted by the GLPOA Board. It was a wonderful win-win
arrangement. We were able to continue the kind of affordable and much-appreciated social and cultural
events similar to the “fund-raisers” we conducted during the Project.
For the next couple of years we held an occasional coffeehouse or a community dinner combined with
a coffeehouse or dance. Sometimes it was potluck and sometimes we prepared (with volunteers) a full
course vegetarian dinner (for $5). Local entertainers got to share and practice their talents. Local folks
came “out of the closet”…making and reviving friendships and relationships…taking advantage of the
opportunity to share stories, debate issues and enjoy the ambience. Local folks who brought visitors along
were able to send them away with a delightful “taste” of Sunshine Coast culture. Everyone was a winner!
The Community Spirit that had come so robustly alive during the Project was, however, about to be
severely compromised by a “great debate” that had been brewing in the community for years and which
would become the source of a serious "divide" in the community (esp. property owners).
The Granthams Landing Improvement District (GLID) was established in 1972 as a formal provincial
agency to manage and monitor the water system and be eligible for government assistance. The titles
for the 5 properties that housed the water system and the Hall were held by the GLPOA. Over the
years the maintenance and repair of the water system had been handled by a small dedicated group
of individuals…who now were mostly retired. This group apparently split into 2 “camps” …one that
favoured handing over our aging and increasingly expensive water system (and community assets) to the
SCRD (thus retiring from the burden of this volunteer job) and the other that wanted to hang on to our
community assets and “do-it-ourselves.”
The debate revolved around the roles of the GLPOA and the GLID…which had the same membership
but different mandates. GLID’s primary mandate was management of the water system…”taking care of
business.” GLPOA identified its role as an agent of communication with the community, manager of the
Hall, and a “vehicle for participation”. The real issue, however, was whether or not to turn over the water
system and community assets to the SCRD. For this to occur the 5 community properties would first have
to be transferred from the GLPOA to GLID. This became a heated debate between 1997 and 1999 and
over time GLID came to represent the YES camp and GLPOA became the NO camp.
By 1999, the lines had been drawn. The then-current GLID Chair was aggressively pushing for resolution
and rallying support for the "simplest" solution: get rid of the GLPOA... let GLID handle the transfer of
assets to the SCRD... and get on with our lives! There were significant concerns of GLPOA supporters
that the community was going to lose control of and free access to the Hall and that no "community
organization" would mean there would be no means of community participation or community
development...i.e., no "community". At the time of writing this letter i have been unable to recall or track
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down the details of the sequence of events that led to that which was unthinkable by many... the GLPOA
was folded and GLID took possession of the community assets!
For myself and others the dissolution of the Property Owners Association was the death knell of the
Community Spirit which had so freely blossomed in the previous 6 years. The "means" for engaging
anything other than "takin' care of business" had been effectively eliminated. The future of the Hall and
any kind of "community building" was now in the hands of a small group of volunteers whose primary
mandate was to negotiate the transfer of the community assets to the SCRD... with no mandate for
“community service”... and no defined obligation to “manage” the Hall.
Things changed. i was relieved of my duties as caretaker and the community events we had come to
cherish simply ended. i lost track of goings-on at the Hall but my understanding is that the Hall got used
more and more by less and less renters as the dance school and a yoga teacher became the primary
users. When the yoga teacher left in 2007 the dance school scooped up the free space... eventually
expanding to the 150+ students now in enrolment.
i have no axe to grind and i hold no one to blame for what evolved over time. i can only surmise that it
was simply "convenient" to allow one renter to gradually monopolize the prime rental times at the Hall.
It was a win-win-lose situation. It was win-win for GLID and the dance school that now “resides” at
the Hall. For GLID, aside from a reliable source of income, it meant a minimum of hassle dealing with
strangers, Hall showings, rental agreements, receiving and returning damage deposits, Hall inspections
and caretaking (the school assumed janitorial responsibilities). For the dance school it meant an open
slate to book whatever times were convenient, expand at will, and transform the space into a personal
"studio." What a deal!
The loser in this convenient arrangement is everybody else...the "community." This includes the entire
Sunshine Coast and its service clubs, committees, and various groups who often find it challenging to
find available space to hold those vital monthly or bi-monthly or weekly meetings (almost always on
weekdays). This "arrangement" has severely minimized the possibility of such things as the traditional
Hallowe'en neighbourhood kids party, public meetings, the occasional family day/community potlucks
on Sundays, and numerous other once-a-month, once-a-week, or once-in-a-while activities for which
the Hall was once used (like the informal "potluck childcare co-op"... young mothers who would hang
out and socialize while their kids played in and near the Hall).
So... this is the "situation" at the Hall... this is the subject of this letter... and this is the bone of my
contention.
Upon this background i can now share my sentiments about this "situation"... on behalf of all the
generous folks who sacrificed their time, life-force, and money to make this Hall available to the
"community" and on behalf of all the newcomers to this community who have never had the pleasure of
being in the Hall (or know it exists).
Since i learned of the "takeover" a couple of years ago, my emotions have been mixed and many... but i
could summarize them as three primary emotions... anger, sorrow, and fear.
• i feel angry whenever i occasionally glance in the windows and see a huge mirror in the middle of the
Hall, and large "dance" prints and a photo of someone's guru or idol on the walls, which used to have a
"no tacks, no nails, no staples" policy.
• i feel angry when i remember the simple, natural, warmth and receptive "emptiness" of the Hall... now
"busy" with props and images devoted to a single art form.
• i feel angry when i gaze upon what looks more like someone's private "studio" than a ''Community
Hall."
• i feel angry that this has been "allowed" to happen.
• i feel angry.
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• i feel sad when i consider all the meetings, phone calls, letters, newsletters, conversations, networking,
posters, invitations, potlucks, community dinners, coffee houses, dances, raffles, white elephant sales,
craft fairs, and other inspired activities that pulled this loose-knit community together to save the Hall
from imminent decay and make it available to to the "community"... and that now it ain't!
• i feel sad that not only is there no longer a "community association" that gives local folks the
opportunity to engage in meaningful social and cultural interaction and community-building... there is no
"community hall" where such an organization could freely convene... were it to exist.
• i feel sad when i think of newcomers to the community... the next 7 generations... who may never get
to experience the Hall as the "community centre" it once was.
• i feel sad.
• i feel afraid that my solitary plea for compassion, reason, and justice will be "outvoiced" by a chanting
choir of dance-moms, dance-dads, dance-grandmas, dance-grandpas & the 150+ dancers that “rule” the
Hall... and that it will remain "occupied."
• i feel afraid that Newton’s Law of Inertia will rule the day: “That which is in motion will tend to remain
in motion unless an external force is applied.”
• i feel afraid that the “external force”, which is ultimately the SCRD, will find itself in a kind of “can’t get
there from here” dilemma... unable to stem the tide of inertia.
• i feel afraid that Granthams Community Hall may have been lost to “small business.”
• i feel afraid.
To demonstrate my point about inertia & momentum... let’s do some math!...
The (1 yr. old) info i have has the school renting the Hall for 3 full days and 2 days for 3 hours. At the
$50/day-$10/hr. rates... this works out to $210/wk. and approx. $900/mo. based on 4.3 wks/mo. Since
the Hall is approx. 1100 sq. ft.... this means the school has been more or less operating a full time
“business” in a huge, ambient “studio,” with 2 bathrooms and a kitchen, for approx. 80¢/sq.ft./mo....
with opportunity for expansion... no property taxes... no property insurance... no utility costs... no
maintenance costs... and presumably... no business licence! This would be any entrepreneur’s dream
scenario! Who in their right mind would voluntarily walk away from this “arrangement”!?
i have to question whether permitting this “arrangement” to continue might translate as “subsidizing
small business” or “subsidizing the arts”? Hey... i’m “all” for the arts...but... i’m for “all” the arts! The fact
that the school was afforded the unique opportunity to grow into the successful venture it is today is not a
“reason” or “excuse” to allow it to continue to exclude the vast range of artistic and cultural ventures on
the Coast that could also afford to have a little slice of this same unique opportunity. Where is the justice?
i understand the difficult challenge is to come up with the resources necessary to upgrade the Hall to
meet SCRD standards. i question any expectations that the local property owners are going to support a
tax increase to help underwrite this expense if there is no guarantee that there will be significant increase
in benefit to the community. i would also hesitate to presume that local folks are going to dig into their
pockets, in these tough economic times, to support any fund-raising initiatives if they were aware that
their money was going to support “private enterprise.”
The “situation” at Granthams Hall is unique... although i believe it is an “exaggerated” example of an
issue that is systemic in nature here on the Coast. To make my point i will ask the question: “Why did
the West Howe Sound OCP Advisory Committee recently get “bumped” from their bookings at Eric
Cardinall Hall in order to “allow” a yoga teacher to “take over” their space? Is there a policy that enabled
this to occur? Is this a “bottom line” issue... and, if so, is it a “triple” bottom line? What are the defining
principles here... max use/max $... or... max users/max benefit? Is there a policy that addresses for-profit
vs. not-for-profit use of our Halls? Is there a policy that prevents for-profit users from “hording” available
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space at the expense of others... especially not-for-profits who have vitally important “work” to do that
these halls enable? Could clearly defined answers to these questions be of vital importance to the health
and well-being of our local communities, their organizations, and the very democratic process itself? Can
you see the parallel between this “situation” and the “situation” at Granthams Hall?
i realize that the SCRD has inherited a kind of “problem” that will require real wisdom and creativity
to resolve. i am not suggesting you pull the plug on the dance school... not a logical or compassionate
alternative in my view. i don’t have any answers short of suggesting some kind of “restorative justice”
process be enacted... where the SCRD plays the “mediator” role between the dance school and the
“community.” This would put the school in the role of voluntarily taking responsibility for its “crime” and
taking measures to repair the damages done to the “victim”... in this case the “community.” And, in my
view, the only “repair” and the only “justice” would be for the school to have a healthy reality check,
grasp the nature of the “crime” committed, and begin making “amends” by making concrete plans to find
(an) alternate location(s) to “carry on business”... gradually freeing up space at the Hall for others to use.
This could perhaps happen over a 2 or 3 year timeline... with a deadline to reduce Hall usage to come
into line with a Hall rental policy designed specifically for Granthams Hall which ensures the Hall is an
equitably “shared” facility and which accounts for the Hall being uniquely juxtaposed to a residential
neighbourhood.
i would like to rest my case with some thoughts about “third places”... a term coined and popularized
by sociologist and author Ray Oldenburg in his influential book “The Great Good Place” (1989,1991).
A “third place” is a social space apart from home & work (#1 & #2) where people are able to convene
and commune... “safe” places where stories, ideas, issues, inspirations, problems, solutions and anything
imaginable could be shared, considered, discussed, and debated by ordinary people. His point was that
these third places are essential for the social, psychological, and political well-being of our society... the
need to come face-to-face to consider what “really matters”... to be seen and heard and feel like you have
a “place” in society. He also struck the alarm bell by pointing out that these “great good places” have
been in steady decline since the 2nd World War. We’re losing them due to many forces and influences...
including urban sprawl, increasingly complex “liability” issues, and revised single-use zoning bylaws
which prevent the traditional “hang-outs” from existing in the neighbourhoods that used to rely on them
for their “social & cultural well-being”. If residents of a local region have no place to meet and connect...
no “third place”... they remain confined to their homes and workplaces and what otherwise would be
“community” ends up as “co-immunity”... a sign of our time.
Granthams Hall used to be a “third place”... a “great good place”... a “Community Hall.”
Now... it’s a Dance Hall!
i rest my case.
i have posted this letter and the 5 newsletters i published during the Resurrection Project on my account
at scribd.com (the “YouTube” of web publishing) where they will remain in perpetuity for anyone to freely
consider. The links to the newsletters are:
www.scribd.com/doc/16823132/GranthamsUpBeat1
www.scribd.com/doc/17265807/GranthamsUpBeat25
This letter and its link can be accessed once on site by choosing “More from this Publisher”.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Shine on...

Phi Corbett