Comox council took one step closer to converting Mack Laing’s former residence Shakesides to a viewing platform as part of its development plans for the property.
In early 2019, the town facilitated a special meeting, which served as a workshop to engage in a discussion of issues and compromises related to the Mack Laing Trust modification.
Part of naturalist Laing’s will was money held by the Town of Comox that was probated on March 2, 1982. Shakesides, Laing’s final residence, was gifted to the town by Laing approximately 10 years before his death.
He left the town $45,000 for upgrades and “annual operating costs” of a museum when he died in 1982.
The town has applied to the court to vary the trust applicable to money given by Laing based on a concept developed on community feedback received in a public advisory committee. The town’s petition has been amended once in response to concerns raised by the Respondent Attorney General of B.C. and the town is seeking to further amend the petition based on consultation with impacted stakeholders.
Comox applied for approval to modify the trust from the current requirement to convert Shakesides to a nature house and instead remove the home and construct a viewing platform with the funds held in the trust.
In August 2019, K’ómoks First Nations (KFN) wrote to the attorney general regarding Shakesides and the surrounding area; KFN indicated a first preference for the area would be returned to KFN and if not a viable option, that the area be returned to a natural state or a project that has the least amount of ground disturbance on the site as possible, due to potential impacts on midden upon which the current building sits.
Because of this, staff recommended walkways originally intended to be constructed to and around the building be removed, along with a foundation on the viewing platform.
At the Dec. 1 council meeting, council unanimously approved a design modification to minimize disturbance to the Great Comox Midden by removing the requirement or a foundation on the viewing platform and not constructing any new trails and paths. Council also approved a contribution towards the budgeted costs about the trust amount, house demolition and landscaping if the court varies the trust.
Council also approved the payment of additional funds towards capital costs for the project to ensure that at least $25,000 from the trust remains available to be transferred to the viewing platform reserve fund contemplated by the town’s proposed variation before the court.
“Having been through all that we have with this file and the passionate opinions on this, I know there is no way to make everybody truly happy,” noted Coun. Stephanie McGowan. “But I do believe that Mack Lang was very respectful of the Indigenous people’s land, and had he realized that the area was as culturally significant as it is, I don’t doubt that he would have come up with a different plan.
“Now that we know better, we can do better.”
Coun. Maureen Swift inquired about the budget costs associated with the project. Jordan Wall, the town’s chief administrative officer said the project is estimated at around $326,381, but the final costs won’t be known until the final designs and it is submitted for tender.