Following a lengthy discussion, Comox council passed a motion to facilitate a public meeting and workshop later this month to engage in a discussion of issues and compromises related to the Mack Laing Trust modification.
Originally, a recommendation was on the Wednesday council agenda to set a meeting on March 27 from 5 to 7 pm. at the Comox Community Centre in order to hear presentations from the Mack Laing Heritage Society and the Friends of Mack Laing Nature Park, as well as engage in a discussion of issues and compromises related to the matter.
Because of a late item added to the agenda from the MLHS, council amended the original recommendation to facilitate a meeting during its March 27 committee of the whole meeting.
The late item involved correspondence from the MLHS which noted the society does not wish to participate in the COW meeting. In the letter sent to council, the MLHS indicated it will only consider meeting with council or a subset of council in a closed meeting because, according to MLHS, only the Town, MLHS and the attorney general are parties to the application to modify the trust.
In his report to council, Richard Kanigan, the Town’s chief administrative officer explained in fact, it is the Town and the attorney general that are party to the application to modify the trust, and that while MLHS has been granted intervenor status, it does not have standing status as party in the court proceedings.
Last month, council decided on a three-month abeyance to continue an information gathering process in regards to the contentious topic of the Mack Laing Trust.
Last year, following the municipal election, Town staff presented a report requesting council’s direction with an application currently before the court to modify the Mack Laing Trust.
A decision was made to defer a decision until the new year.
The application is seeking approval to modify the trust from the current requirement to convert Laing’s former residence Shakesides to a nature house and instead remove the home and construct a viewing platform with the funds held in the trust.
Shakesides, Mack 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 Mack Laing Heritage Society (MLHS) has objected to the Town’s proposal and had applied to the court for standing in the Town’s application to modify the trust so the society could state its objections to the proposal. The MLHS wants the Town to fulfill the original terms of the trust. The MLHS was not successful in its application for standing. However, the court granted the MLHS intervenor status, and the ability to present evidence supporting its position.
Comox Mayor Russ Arnott said he believes the MLHS will not atttend the scheduled. Kanigan reminded council that councillors sit at the table to reflect the interest of the entire community, as opposed to individual groups.
The scheduled meeting on March 27 will take place in its entirety at the community centre and not at council chambers; it will start at 5 p.m. rather than its usual time of 4:15 p.m.