More confusion for Shakesides

Category : News

Comox alters design again- Comox Valley Record – Dec. 9, 2021.

Anyone watching the Town of Comox council decisions for Shakesides must be bewildered. Council, which is also the Trustee for the Estate of Mack Laing has produced another design for a viewing platform. This time the sky is the limit for price; a whopping $326,381 and staff have advised Council that the price may go higher. Add to that $150,000 to $200,000 for legal fees, design fees and an environmental study. The viewing platform could easily top $600,000.

Mack left much more than $45,000 in his will, which will be proven in court. Mack Laing’s home, which he called Shakesides, was in great condition when he died. The Town had negotiated the agreement to accept the property and any buildings, in Trust, for the public to use and enjoy. In effect, Mack left his land, his buildings and his cash to all of us. The town council, as Trustee could have refused the money, but they did not. In accepting the cash, they were agreeing to the conditions of the Trust.

Council’s original decision to demolish the house in 2015 was based upon a staff report, which stated that there were not enough funds to create the Mack Laing’s desired Nature Museum despite it being a clear intent of the Trust. The Council proposed to demolish Shakesides without using Trust Fund money to justify their action. At that time, staff claimed only $72,000 remained in the Trust. Figures provided by the Mack Laing Heritage Society prompted the Attorney General in 2017 to insist that Council restore $178,000 to the Trust. Today the fund is nearly $300,000.

Comox claims to have consulted with “impacted stakeholders”. In fact there are thousands of stakeholders, the property was left to the public. Mack Laing was a national figure and his gift excludes no one.

Experts have stated the importance of the man and the importance of Shakesides, for its design, construction and for its association with Mack Laing. Examples of heritage homes are easy to find: Joy Kagawa House in Vancouver and Sybil Andrews Cottage in Campbell River, are just two examples which now serve a useful purpose to their communities. It is unusual for a small heritage building to come with a large cash legacy, such as Mack generously left.

Shakesides is only 1,000 square feet. It sits high above ground on a concrete foundation. Council’s concern for rising sea level for this small building, pale compared to reality. Several high value waterfront homes in Comox. including the iconic Filberg Lodge, sit closer to sea level than does Shakesides. The Dyke Road, a main access to Comox, will be underwater long before Shakesides. Mack designed his foundation to avoid flooding threats.

There exists a large group of dedicated supporters from the Comox Valley who have agreed to contribute to restore this small home to its original splendor. That support includes businesses, construction trades, building professionals and volunteers. This community spirit will mitigate costs to the taxpayer. In addition, Heritage BC has offered access to the HBC Legacy Fund, if the Town will create a Heritage Registry and designate Shakesides. Most BC communities have long since adopted a Heritage Registry.

The position of the Town is that “building a viewing platform” will “ensure long-term minimal disruption of the natural landscape”. The reality is, that restoring Shakesides and not building anything else, will ensure minimal disruption and saves tens of thousands of dollars.

Saving and preserving Shakesides enjoys widespread support: Heritage BC, The Land Conservancy of BC, Project Watershed, Comox Valley Nature, Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Community Partnership, BC Assoc. of Heritage Professionals, Robert Bateman, Des Kennedy, and thousands of members of the public who have signed witness to their support.

The Royal BC Museum has recently produced a television video about Mack Laing, and they featured him in the Spring 2021 edition of What’s Insight magazine. Presently a screen play is being written for a possible television series, or movie, about Mack Laing.

The onus is on the Town of Comox to convince the BC Supreme Court why they are justified in not fulfilling their Trustee responsibility, after almost 40 years of breach of their commitment. The Town of Comox scheduled four days at the Supreme Court for November 15 – and then cancelled. They offered no public comment as to why. Now they are rescheduling for the Spring of 2022. In 2020, the Mack Laing Heritage Society formally requested that the Town expedite setting a Court date, rather than continue the Town’s demolition through neglect policy regarding Shakesides. We are ready and prepared to go to Court and we are confident of the strength of our case.


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