Friends of Mack Laing gathered behind Shakesides in Mack Laing Park on February 6 to celebrate his 135th Birthday. Visitors enjoyed cake and hot drinks on this gloomy and chilly day, and raised a toast to the man who devoted his life to education about local birds, and was also a gifted artist and storyteller. He built Shakesides in 1949 and deeded it and his property to the Town of Comox in 1973.
The Birthday Party …
Less attractive is the house itself (thanks Town of Comox!) …
When he died in 1982 at the age of 99, he left a trust fund of over $50,000 to the Town to convert his home into a modest nature museum. Instead, the Town rented out the house for over 30 years and failed to maintain it once it was vacant, a clear violation of their duty as trustees.
The Town has decided to waste taxpayer’s money by going to court to overturn the trust and demolish the house to create a viewing platform. The Mack Laing Heritage Society has maintained for four years that Shakesides could easily be converted into a modest nature house and museum. The money that the Town recently added to the Trust fund, $178,000, would make the trust account worth more than $250,000, enough to attract Legacy funding from Heritage BC and possibly other funding from agencies devoted to restoring historically important buildings in Canada. As Mack Laing’s home, this house has considerable historical value.
The Town will appear before an assizes court judge in Courtenay, on a yet-to-be-determined date after March 9, 2018, where it will request permission to overturn the trust and demolish Shakesides – which it was prevented from doing by the Attorney General of BC in August 2015, when it demolished Mack Laing’s original home, Baybrook. The Town also wishes to deny the MLHS standing in this case, so that the six legal affidavits and 116 exhibits the MLHS has produced cannot be presented to the court. The MLHS will file a response and counter petition, requesting standing from the presiding judge. All MLHS exhibits are sourced from Town and MLHS archives and clarify the history of Shakesides and the Town’s management of the house and the trust fund.