Ladysmith Players looking to buy Christie Road property

The Ladysmith Players Society is putting an offer in to purchase the property that houses the Ladysmith Little Theatre.

Ladysmith Players Society members voted unanimously on Sept. 9 to put in an offer to School District 68 to purchase the Christie Road property that houses the Ladysmith Little Theatre.

Ladysmith Players Society members voted unanimously on Sept. 9 to put in an offer to School District 68 to purchase the Christie Road property that houses the Ladysmith Little Theatre.

The Ladysmith Players Society is hoping to become a property owner in the near future.

The 38 Ladysmith Players Society (LPS) members present at the society’s Sept. 9 meeting voted unanimously to put an offer in to School District 68 (SD68) to buy the building at 4985 Christie Rd. that currently houses Ladysmith Little Theatre.

The building is the old Diamond Elementary School, and it sits on a one-acre lot in Cowichan Valley Regional District Electoral Area H.

“The offer will be $150,000, which is the minimum they said they’d accept,” explained Bruce Mason, president of the LPS. “We’re asking for them to give us five years to come up with the full amount. Should our offer be accepted, it will require us raising the money.”

The LPS currently pays rent to SD68, about $650 a month, and the society would continue to pay that money, but it would go toward the purchase price.

Purchasing the property would give the LPS a sense of stability.

“It would mean there would always be a theatre,” said Mason. “The first five years or so we were there, we had a five-year lease, and then about four years ago, the school board told us they were going to have to sell it, but they didn’t know when. They put us in a month-to-month occupancy permit instead of a lease, so we’ve known for at least four years that this was a possibility.

“Because Ladysmith doesn’t have anywhere else that could be a theatre without spending huge amounts of money starting from scratch or altering a building, we don’t have anywhere to go but here. If they don’t accept our offer, we may not have a theatre in Ladysmith because we have nowhere else to go. It’s a very important thing, and we’re really hopeful.”

The LPS has a full season of plays planned for 2012-13, and the executive voted last week to insulate the theatre’s ceiling, so the society is not holding back as it waits to see whether its offer is accepted or not.

SD68 has been advertising that it is considering the disposal of Diamond Elementary, and the district is accepting submissions from people who have any concerns with the disposal of the property or offers from people who wish to purchase the property until Sept. 28, according to Phil Turin, secretary-treasurer of SD68.

“We have a policy and procedures for disposing of assets like school district property,” he explained. “We will wait and see what we get by the 28th, then we will go to the [school board] in a closed meeting — because this is about property — and then go from there.”

The property is zoned industrial and is intended for institutions, churches, single-family residential and civic uses, including transportation stations, post offices, public utilities, personal care home/senior citizen home and independent school.

Built in 1912, Diamond Elementary was originally a one-room school. An additional room was added in the 1950s. When the LPS signed a five-year renewable lease in December 2003, the building had been vacant since approximately 1985.

Mason says the school board has been very helpful and co-operative throughout the years.

“The school board hasn’t been difficult at all, and they’ve been good landlords,” he said.