Unpleasantness stalks Mt Pleasant

A meeting tonight in Mt Pleasant may get disagreeable as residents of the Port Hills neighbourhood vote on the location of a new community hall

The argument pits the community association executive, which recommends that the new hall be built on the flat, against some residents, who want the building sited up the hill somewhere, perhaps near Mt Pleasant Primary School.

Mt Pleasant's situation is almost unique because unusually for a community association facility in Christchurch, it isn't owned by city council. Instead, it's owned by Mt Pleasant residents. After WWII, hill residents built the hall themselves, with some help from local and national government. At one point, when funds ran short, hill residents manufactured their own bricks, I've been told.

In any event, the 54-year-old, now-demolished Mt Pleasant Memorial Community Centre & Ratepayers Association building at 3 McCormacks Bay was insured for $1.5 million. Spending that nest egg is causing the trouble.

The community association executive has recommended rebuilding (pdf) on the former site, which is metres from the Estuary. Liquefaction damage is one reason Mt Pleasant hall and a nearby kindy building had to come down. Nearly everyone acknowledges there are flood and tsunami risks at this site, and depending on your view of climate change, rising sea levels to think about.

According to a ''plus-minus chart'' (pdf) circulated by association president  Jocelyn Papprill, the existing site is preferred because it's already under lease from council, building on flat is cheaper than building on the hill, there's adequate parking and it's close to bus routes, sport facilities and a playground.

Opponents argue the existing site should be considered red-zoned and there are better sites up the hill for a new building. Many pick Mt P. school as the most suitable. The school lost its hall in the February quake and it makes sense to combine the community association's $1.5m with whatever insurance the school can muster, plus new money from the Education Ministry's Christchurch education reforms. Proponents of this plan see one super facility on the school grounds or land bought nearby.

The association executive argues the school would dominate the hall during school hours, buying land on the  hill would cost too much and parking would be limited, among other limitations.

School principal Chris Nord has called for the site decision to be postponed ''until all the options are explored''. He's identified probably the biggest issue for tonight's meeting - timing.

Some residents feel the site decision has been rushed, even though the executive started consultations in September 2011 and offered numerous opportunities for residents to make their ideas known. Few apparently did, which allowed the executive to progress in a manner it genuinely thought best. We'll find out tonight if residents agree.

Here's hoping the tone stays respectful.

The Press