CVRD implements stage 4 water restrictions for emergency fix

CVRD implements stage 4 water restrictions for emergency fix

CVRD implements stage 4 water restrictions for emergency fix

By George Le Masurier

Directors of the Comox Valley Regional District Water Committee implemented Stage 4 water restrictions as of April 12. The restrictions will remain in place during an emergency repair of the CVRD’s main water transmission pipe from April 12 to 22.

In order to maintain sufficient water flows for domestic and firefighting water needs, Stage 4 restrictions prohibit all use of water for any purpose other than drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.

The CVRD will begin a public outreach and education campaign this week.

The CVRD bulletin says compliance with these restrictions is important. “Non-compliance will make demands on the pipe untenable and the system may not be able to supply the water needed for indoor and firefighting use. If water use extends beyond the system’s capacity, a “do not use” order would need to be issued for the duration of the repairs”

To report water restriction infractions, please contact:

City of Courtenay
Tel: 250-334-4441
CVRD or Town of Comox
Tel: 250-334-6006

For more information about Stage 4 please visit: www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/restrictions

 

STAGE 4 WATER RESTRICTIONS

During stage 4 water restrictions, all use of water for any purpose other than drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene is strictly prohibited.

Prohibited uses include:
-Watering lawns, gardens, plants and trees in any manner or by any means, including watering by hand
-Filling or topping off or operating residential or commercial pools, hot tubs, ponds or fountains
-Operating local government outdoor water parks and pools
-Washing vehicles, boats or outdoor surfaces
-Irrigating golf courses and other public and/or school district property
-Where reasonably possible, swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains and ponds should be drained for health and safety purposes and such water used for irrigation.
-No new lawn permit shall be issued during Stage 4, and no new lawn permit, whenever issued, shall be valid during Stage 4.

Exceptions to Stage 4 Restrictions:
-Spot cleaning of vehicles and boats with a sponge and bucket for health and safety reasons (windows, lights, license plates, etc.) is permitted.
-Local government watermain and hydrant maintenance is permitted, but only for unscheduled safety or public health reasons.
-Irrigating local government all-weather playing fields is permitted.
-Water use is permitted for farm and agricultural operations, but only for livestock drinking purposes.
-Cleaning outdoor surfaces is only authorized when required by law to comply with health or safety regulations, or to comply with an order of a regulatory authority having jurisdiction, such as WorkSafeBC or a public health inspector.
-Water use is permitted for firefighting.

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Town creates confusion, rift over Mack Laing process

Town creates confusion, rift over Mack Laing process

Hamilton Mack Laing  — BC Archive photo

Town creates confusion, rift over Mack Laing process

By George Le Masurier

Rather than create a period of community reconciliation over the 37-year mishandling of the Mack Laing Trust, the Town of Comox has used its self-imposed 90-day abeyance of legal action to ignore opposing visions for the famed naturalist’s park and heritage home.

In doing so, the town has also created a rift within the Town Council.

It now appears that, despite the expectations of the public and some council members, the Town of Comox never intended to discuss options for saving the famous naturalist’s home, called Shakesides, during the abeyance.

Since the Feb. 6 Town Council meeting when the abeyance was passed on a 6-1 vote, the town has not entertained any ideas other than its original plan to demolish the house and erect a viewing platform.

The town has not held any good faith discussions with the Mack Laing Heritage Society to search for mutually agreeable ideas that could avert a lengthy and costly trial at the B.C. Supreme Court. Nor has it called for an external, independent audit to determine an accurate accounting of the trust’s current value.

This approach appears to be driven primarily by Mayor Russ Arnott, who cast the only vote against creating the 90-day abeyance.

In public communications, the office of Arnott and town Chief Administrative Officer Richard Kanigan has suggested that because council voted on March 6 to continue “with the modification of the trust in its current format or a modified proposal,” that, therefore, saving Shakesides is no longer an option.

Arnott reinforced that interpretation at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting and public engagement workshop on visions for Mack Laing Park. Arnott was asked by a Comox resident why the workshop was limited to considering only a single vision — the viewing platform.

“Council voted for modifying the trust. We’re moving forward, not going backwards,” Arnott said.

But not all council members agree with Arnott’s interpretation.

“Speaking for myself, that is not what I voted in support of,” Councillor Alex Bissinger said in an email response to Decafnation.

“My intent with that motion was from the understanding that anything that defers from 1. restoring the house and converting it to a nature museum 2. having an onsite caretaker 3. having the property in that exact location and 4. storing (Mack Laing) artifacts in said museum, would require modifications to the trust, therefore needing to proceed with the court action,” she said.

Bissinger brought the motion forward to council.

“I am still of the opinion and mindset that saving Shakesides is an option, and from the workshop held last week an interesting option came to light, which was to handle it all as a community project. I have emailed the CAO and Council such that this option be discussed in our RCM (regular council meeting) Wednesday,” she said.

Councillor Stephanie has a similar perspective.

“Due to the specifics of the trust, I believe it is going to have to be modified in some way as I don’t believe archives and certain things are feasible and safe to keep on site without risk of damage. However, this vote, in my mind, did not mean Shakesides being restored was not an option,” she said in an email response.

“There seems to be some confusion, however, and as a team, (we) will need to clarify, both with each other and the public,” McGowan said.

Councillor Nicole Minions declined to comment, but did say, “We will be discussing Mack Laing and the Public Session during our upcoming Regular Council meeting this Wednesday, April 3rd, which will open communication of our Council business in the public.”

Arnott did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

 

What is the value of Laing’s trust?

The exact current value of the financial trust Mack Laing left to the Town of Comox has never been conclusively determined by an external audit.

The town claims Laing left $48,000, an amount disputed by by the Mack Laing Heritage Society. They say the amount was about $60,000.

After the town confessed to spending trust money inappropriately since the world-renowned naturalist died in 1982, they added funds that brought the total to $261,474. But according to an independent audit commissioned by Comox resident Gordon Olsen several years ago, the trust should be valued closer to $500,000.

The discrepancies stem from how the money was invested, the revenue received from renting the house for more than 30 years, missing funds from the sale of Laing artwork and donations to a never established Art Trust, unrecognized inappropriate expenditures and other miscellaneous items.

Only an external audit by an external accounting firm, such as Deloitte or KPMG, could bring closure to that issue.

 

Is the building worth saving?

Those who support tearing down Shakesides and replacing it with a viewing stand believe the building is not worth restoring. The Mack Laing society disagrees.

At last week’s public workshop, Comox Resident John Tayless noted there was an assumption being made at the meeting that Shakesides could not be saved.

“But other engineers say it can and that the building is recoverable,” he said.

Asked how the town determined the building wasn’t restorable, Comox Parks Manager Al Fraser said a “cursory report” was done, but he admitted it was “not comprehensive.” Fraser preferred to call the report a “soft pass.”

“Let’s say there’s still considerable work to be done in that regard,” Fraser told the audience.

And later when MLHS President Kris Nielsen asked if the town had commissioned any professional assessments of the heritage value of Shakesides, Fraser said, “no.”

The Mack Laing society has organized more than two dozen community volunteers from the construction industry and created a business plan for restoring Shakesides as a community project.

 

Comox Heritage Register

Councillor Stephanie McGowan gave notice of a motion expected at this week’s council meeting to establish a Comox Heritage Register. Comox is the only municipality in the Mid- and North Island that doesn’t already have a heritage register.

Registering buildings with heritage value opens up a broad range of potential funding for maintenance and capital improvements. Heritage sites like the Filberg Lodge and The Little Red Church could benefit.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society has already paid a provincial heritage consultant to complete a Statement of Significance for Shakesides and Heritage BC has promised substantial grant funding for its restoration.

The chairman of Heritage B.C., a provincial agency committed to “conservation and tourism, economic and environmental sustainability, community pride and an appreciation of our common history,” believes the heritage value of Shakesides demands that Laing’s former home should be “conserved for … future generations” and that the Town of Comox should “use the building in ways that will conserve its heritage value.”

Heritage B.C. has also offered its assistance, at no charge, to the Town of Comox, for the duration of the process to repurpose Shakesides, and has all but guaranteed a provincial grant through the Heritage Legacy Fund Heritage Conservation program.

 

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MLHS issues letter of thanks to Comox Council

MLHS issues letter of thanks to Comox Council

Mack Laing Heritage Society archive photo

MLHS issues letter of thanks to Comox Council

By George Le Masurier

The Mack Laing Heritage Society this morning issued an open letter to the Town of Comox mayor and council. Here is their letter:

We, the Mack Laing Heritage Society of the Comox Valley (MLHS), wish to take this opportunity to thank Comox Council. Their decision to postpone any decision related to the Mack Laing Shakesides house Trust property, for three months, is to be commended.

We are encouraged that Comox appears willing to discuss their duties and obligations, as trustees of the Mack Laing Trust. We fully support an open, public, and transparent discussion between the MLHS, Council, and others.

Expert and accurate estimates of time, materials and cost should be sought regarding the conversion of Shakesides into a nature museum/house, as outlined in Mack Laing’s Will and Trust. The MLHS has found many interested local companies and individuals willing to support and assist in all aspects of this project. There are undoubtedly many more who would come forward, if a true community project is approved by Council. Cost to the taxpayer could therefore be minimal.

The MLHS will shortly issue a public position paper. We have always stated that close adherence to the terms of Mack Laing’s Will and Trust is necessary for the success of a modest nature house or museum. Therefore, we support a community-funded and supported Shakesides facility.

Soon, Shakesides could realistically become what Mack Laing intended on his death in 1982 – a small public education facility in the quiet nature park he loved, and which he donated to the citizens of Comox.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society can be contacted at macklaingsociety@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

LAING LINKS

Mack Laing

MackLaingSociety.ca

Comox Town Council

Russ Arnott, Mayor: rarnott@comox.ca

Alex Bissinger: abissinger@comox.ca

Nicole Minions: nminions@comox.ca

Patrick McKenna: pmckenna@comox.ca

Ken Grant: kgrant@comox.ca

Maureen Swift: mswift@comox.ca

Stephanie McGowan: smcgowan@comox.ca

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Comox must apologize for breaches of Mack Laing Trust

Comox must apologize for breaches of Mack Laing Trust

Archive photo

Comox must apologize for breaches of Mack Laing Trust

By George Le Masurier

Thanks to four brave new councillors, there is an opportunity to draw to a close the Town of Comox’s long history of breaching the trust of Hamilton Mack Laing and misappropriating the funds the famous naturalist left in his Last Will for the community that he loved.

Comox Town Council voted against Mayor Russ Arnott this week and set aside court proceedings to modify Mack Laing’s trust “for up to three months so that council may have discussions with all interested parties.”

Arnott cast the lone vote against the motion, contradicting statements he made during the fall municipal election campaign promising to settle this matter out of court. But new councillors Alex Bissinger, Patrick McKenna, Nicole Minions and Stephanie McGowan all spoke in favor of giving out of court discussions a chance.

Once it was clear the vote for negotiation would win, councillors Ken Grant and Maureen Swift got on board, despite voting for the court action during their previous terms.

That left Arnott alone in wanting to proceed toward an expensive court trial.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society has garnered broad community support for restoring Shakesides as a unifying and heritage-based town project. Some of those supporters believe the town will lose in court, at a minimum being ordered to submit to a forensic audit of the financial matters and forced into mediation.

The vote also put Arnott at odds with the new majority of councillors, who had campaigned for a negotiated settlement out of court.

But the question facing council is how to stop bleeding money on legal expenses — estimated by one observer to have neared or topped $100,000 — with a plan that satisfies the Laing society and is financially sustainable.

Finding that way forward won’t be easy, and yet that’s the task to accomplish in the next 90 days.

But nothing good will happen if council appoints another flawed advisory committee like former mayor Paul Ives did several years ago. That group failed to follow its own terms of reference. The outcome was so incomplete that two members of the committee wrote opposing minority reports.

And that’s why Arnott’s lone vote against at least trying to negotiate a win-win resolution is disappointing. The mayor is obviously entrenched in his position. He has now stated so for the record.

How is that going to help facilitate any open-minded and meaningful conversations over the next three months? At least returning councillors Grant and Swift had the decency to support an opportunity for positive discussions.

Here’s the problem.

Laing left money and his property to the town in a trust that specified the gifts be used to create a publicly accessible natural history museum at his home, called Shakesides.


If the CVLT had existed in 1982, they would have had legal power via a covenant to compel the Town of Comox to keep up its end of the bargain. Mack Laing deserves the same respect as Father Charles Brandt


But now, 37 years after Laing’s death in February of 1982, the town has done nothing to fulfill Laing’s wishes, even though they accepted the terms of the trust when they took his money and property. Over a year ago, the town admitted that it spent Laing’s money inappropriately for years, but only because the Mack Laing Heritage Society had amassed a mountain of evidence detailing the town’s mishandling.

Undaunted, the previous Town Council applied to the BC Supreme Court to tear down Shakesides and spend Laing’s money elsewhere. But the outcome of court actions are always uncertain. And, based on the comments of two Justices so far, the court believes the Laing society has an important case to make.

To prevent further dividing the community, the town needs to make a formal and public apology of its historic wrongdoings. Why? Answer: Because this is a moral issue.

If the town had no intention of abiding the terms of Laing’s trust, it should never have accepted the money and property. But once it did, the town had a moral obligation to follow through. And if the town can behave fast and loose with Laing’s money, what reasonable person would leave the town any gift in the future?

Comox has, so far, proven itself untrustworthy.

The Comox Valley Land Trust, and other similar conservancy organizations, were created to address this exact problem. And the CVLT is currently creating security for the wishes of Father Charles Brandt, who plans to leave his house and property on the Oyster River for a regional district public park.

If the CVLT had existed in 1982, they would have had legal power via a covenant to compel the Town of Comox to keep up its end of the bargain. Mack Laing deserves the same respect as Father Charles.

Can you imagine if the Comox Valley Regional District someday tries to alter the terms of the Father Charles covenant? The public outcry would be overwhelming. There should be no less of a voice in protest against the Town of Comox, if it follows Mayor Arnott’s example and pushes this case through the courts.

Everyone in the Comox Valley who values heritage, and honorable actions by locally-elected governments, should support a negotiated settlement.

That doesn’t mean the solution is simple. But it is possible if everyone comes to the table with an open mind and good intentions.

Mayor Arnott was asked for comment for this opinion article at 3:45 pm PST, but had not responded by 8:35 PST when it was posted. 

 

 

 

 

WHO WAS HAMILTON MACK LAING?

Hamilton Mack Laing was an important Canadian naturalist, photographer and writer. He moved to Comox in 1922, cleared his land and built his home from a “Stanhope” Aladdin Ready-Cut kit. In 1927, he married Ethel Hart of Portland and they established a successful and commercial orchard which included walnut, pecan, filbert, hazelnut, apple and plum trees. They also grew mushrooms and vegetables. After his wife, Ethel, died in 1944, he sold his original home, Baybrook, and built a new home, Shakesides, on the adjoining lot. He bequeathed the waterfront property to the Town of Comox and it became Mack Laing Nature Park

— excerpted from content on the Mack Laing Heritage Society‘s website

 

Click here for more on Hamilton Mack Laing and the issues with the Town or Comox

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DFO allows herring fishery, despite wide protest

DFO allows herring fishery, despite wide protest

Bob Cain photo

DFO allows herring fishery, despite wide protest

By George Le Masurier

In  a move that will certainly the federal government’s own efforts to protect Southern resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced this week that the March herring fishery would go ahead as planned.

Several groups, including Conservancy Hornby Island, and 42,000 people who signed a petition to stop this year’s herring fishery believe DFO’s action will have negative long-term impacts on chinook salmon stocks. Herring make up 80 percent of chinook salmon’s diet, and chinook comprise roughly 80 percent of Killer Whales’ food source.

Conservancy Hornby Island issued the following statement yesterday, Feb. 4:

Conservancy Hornby Island and the 42,000 and counting people who signed the petition to close down the herring roe fishery in the Strait of Georgia off the west coast of Canada are disappointed with the recent announcement made by DFO regarding the commercial fishery that will happen this March and April.

Conservancy Hornby Island president Grant Scott said, “We were hoping that DFO would listen to the people and seriously restrict this fishery that just doesn’t make sense. The quota set for 2019 is basically the same as last year. The fleet is allowed to take 27,500 tons of herring between the roe, bait and food fisheries.

This represents approximately 200,000,000 herring or the weight equivalent to the largest BC ferry full of cars, trucks and people. While 10 percent of the roe fishery will be consumed directly by people, most of this crucial part of the marine food web will be ground up into fish meal for the fish farm and pet food industries.”

Scott went on to say, “Herring is the cornerstone species for many of the mammals, fish and seabirds who live in or migrate through the Strait of Georgia. Strait of Georgia Orcas and spring salmon are listed by one arm of the federal government as “endangered” while another allows a massive herring fishery when 62% of chinook salmon diet is herring and 80% of Orca diet is chinook salmon. To kill this many
herring in the commercial fishery rather than leaving them to support these other species doesn’t make sense to us.”

DFO says SOG herring are “at or near historic highs” yet there is archaeological evidence and First Nations’ traditional knowledge that historically there was much more herring all around the Strait of Georgia. DFO calculates what it calls “historic high” based on one part of the herring run between Parksville and Comox.

At one time there were huge runs in Vancouver harbour, around the southern gulf islands and all along the Sunshine coast. They are all gone. 4 of the 5 herring spawn areas on the BC coast including Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Central Coast and the west coast of Vancouver Island are shut down because of over fishing Given DFO’s poor track record in sustainably managing herring on our coast it is hard for us to believe the SOG herring around Hornby and Denman won’t eventually go the same way.

Recently we have received a lot of support from the sports fishing and whale watching industries who say that combined they earned approximately $500,000,000 and employed thousands of people full time in 2016, compared to the herring fishery that generated $56,000,00 and fewer than 100 full-time equivalent jobs according to the BC Ministry of Agriculture statistics division that. They say herring are critical for the salmon and whales that are the basis of their businesses and an essential element of “Super Natural BC”, an image we like to sell to the world.

In summary, we think it makes much more sense to leave these fish in the ocean not only for environmental reasons but because it makes good economic sense.

For more information contact: Grant Scott, CHI president, 250-218-2323

 

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