Comox council decision about Baybrook must wait

Supporters of Mack Laing's 'Baybrook' house will have to wait a few weeks to see the result of a staff report.

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER Alice Munro lived in Baybrook House

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER Alice Munro lived in Baybrook House

Supporters of Mack Laing’s ‘Baybrook’ house will have to wait a few weeks to see the result of a staff report to determine what options put forward to save the house might be viable.

Wednesday afternoon, Loys Maingon of the Mack Laing Conservation Committee, presented Comox council a report presenting two options to keep the home standing.

In June, the Comox Valley Naturalists Society and Project Watershed asked Comox council for a delay on the demolition of Mack Laing’s ‘Baybrook’ house, which is situated at 70 Orchard Park Dr., a 2.6-hectare piece of waterfront property.

Mack Laing resided in his first Comox house, built in 1922, until 1949. It was there where he wrote scientific articles, more than 1,000 journal articles and 14 books.

Council asked for an assessment to determine if the structures (including the main house) which, were in sufficiently poor condition, were worth saving.

The report determined the cost of renovating and saving the building would exceed the cost of reconstruction, and the plan was to remove the structure and return the property to a natural, park-like state.

The groups — known as the Mack Laing House Conservation Committee — enlisted a team of biologists, planners, engineers and historians to examine two homes: ‘Baybrook’ and ‘Shakesides.’

Maingon explained the report determined Shakesides is situated on a floodplain and is not salvageable, but “Baybrook is the only viable home.”

He asked council for a stay on the demolition of ‘Baybrook’ and added Heritage BC expressed interest in contributing to the project and could qualify for funding if the request comes from the municipal heritage committee.

Maingon presented two options from the conversation committee: a national parks-style post-and-beam viewing cover with signage with an infilled basement (cost estimated between $75,000 to $100,000) or a full restoration developing conservation tourism and education (cost estimated between $150,000 to $200,000).

He suggested option two is a year-round indoor facility, which opens possibilities to develop conservation tourism while creating a link to the Strathcona Wilderness Institute Facility.

It also includes security, controls local education expenses, offers direct revenue and is a regional revenue multiplier, Maingon added.

Coun. Ken Grant asked who the owner of the facility would be and who would be responsible of maintenance.

“It goes to the society; the Town owns the building but it would be the Mack Laing Society,” replied Maingon.

Coun. Patti Fletcher suggested the group talk with neighbouring Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park Association to see what — if any — partnerships or agreements can be made.

Mayor Paul Ives reminded Maingon when the Town acquired the homes they did so in conjunction with the Nature Trust of BC, and the property “must be aligned with their goals in mind.”

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Maingon and fellow committee member Paul Horgen noted Sunday that 2013 Nobel Prize literature winner Alice Munro spent two winters in the home.

Now, they argue, the site would not only attract the ecologically minded, but also literary- and historic-minded tourists.

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