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Creating a Vision for the “Village Commons”

Together with our community partners and supported by a consulting team, we are engaging in a public consultation process this fall for what we’ve been calling (for now) the “Village Commons” – the commercial land adjacent to Manson’s Hall, behind Cortes Radio Station, and across from the old bank. We are looking for creative input on how this site can serve as a commons area—that is, an accessible place where people can gather, stewarded for and by locals. It is important to us that whatever happens on this site respects the land, and reflects the needs of the community of Cortes.

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[From left to right] Image 1: a map showing where the commons land is located in Manson’s Landing; Image 2: folks gathered for a land clean-up work bee, getting everything ready & safe for people to use; Image 3: a beautiful set of benches and table built by local carpenter, Travis Pawlak of Creative Deconstruction, for public use.
[From left to right] Image 1: Laurier Mathieu and his True Foundations contractors laying in a new culvert and clearing out dangerous trees and debris; Image 2: drone shot of the commons land [bottom right] with Manson’s Hall parking lot, building and the Co-op in the distance [top left]
Project Background & Goals

There is a rich history of public consultation for this site reaching back to the 2004 “Growing Beautifully” conversation, and the 2018 Local Economic Action Plan. There are emerging themes and priorities that run through both of those reports, and again repeated themselves in our initial consultation for this visioning process, including:

  • Working with natural systems- being in good relationship with the land
  • Developing pedestrian trails and walkways
  • Providing potential opportunities for local entrepreneurs
  • Creating self sufficiency & building capacity for locals

Following consultation, the resulting site design will articulate a common vision, goals, and recommendations built on the understanding that this project is rooted in respect for the land and the commons and that, as such, the vision of the community is reflected in the use of the site. A supporting business plan will follow the site design in 2022. 

What’s Going On

We are rolling out a smorgasbord of engagement offerings starting this month, October 2021. These activities are designed in the spirit of fun and connection – we are not expecting anyone to interact with every single one of them (unless you want to!) but hopefully one or two will be accessible & enjoyable for you. 

Virtual Community Café / Thursday, October 28th on Zoom from 6:30-8 pm 

This is an opportunity to learn more about the project, and provide input on key themes and priorities to inform a draft site design. For anyone feeling uncomfortable about gathering in person, this might be the best way to participate in the consultation process. Registration required by emailing info@cced.ca

Community Workshop / Sunday, November 14th from 4-7 pm Manson’s Hall

As this is an in-person event, we are asking people to pre-register by emailing info@cced.ca. A maximum of 40 attendees may participate in accordance with current Island Health Public Health Orders. Masks will be required to be worn throughout the workshop. This workshop will include a walk on the land, so please wear comfortable/weather appropriate footwear and gear. 

Sounding Boards will be placed at various locations on the island. Anyone passing by is encouraged to scribble down their ideas for the site in the boxes provided. 

A virtual idea board is now live and ready for any folks who want to share their ideas from the comfort of their homes or phones! Click through using the button below. 

We will also be out and about in the community chatting with folks, hanging out on the land, and posting updates to the Tideline & Cortes Radio.

Site Constraints and Opportunities

The opportunities substantially outweigh the constraints on this site. The following is a brief summary of early findings.

Zoning 
The site is zoned as service commercial. This zoning permits the addition of buildings for studio, retail, restaurant and other commercial uses but also allows for green space and passive use. At this point the  zoning would not need to change to accommodate the uses discussed to date.

Vegetation
The site is regenerating after being cleared in the past. There are conifers that are well established next to Sutil Pt Road and more sparsely distributed through the remainder of the property.  The site has many transitional alders and understory plants.

Although the watershed is sensitive, this site vegetation would not be classified as sensitive or endangered in the Cortes context. This opens up the opportunity for sensitive and sustainable construction of structures and associated infrastructure.

Hydrology / Utilities
Based on the depth of wells in close proximity to the site, it’s anticipated that a well could be drilled to service the site at a depth of approximately 70m.

Since the site gently slopes to the east, site surface runoff is appropriately absorbed into the ground at the grove of conifers with the excess entering the existing ditch along Sutil Pt Rd.

Test holes dug on site have revealed water at a depth of 4’ on the west side of the site but no water at the same depth on the east side. This would suggest that the most appropriate location for a septic field would be the east side of the site.  There’s an existing septic covenant at the coniferous grove. If the location isn’t changed, the interior of the grove may be preferable to ensure that wind firm trees are retained on the edges.

From a geotechnical perspective, structures constructed on the east side of the site may require special footing designs due to the high water table.

Access and Circulation
The site is conveniently located in the heart of Manson’s Landing. This offers synergistic relationships between other commercial and nonprofit ventures within close walking distance.

Further, the majority of the property boundary fronts on complimentary uses (Manson’s Hall, Rainbow Ridge, Skate Park, Museum, and by extension Seniors Society, co-op, Market etc.) Similarly, proximity to Rainbow ridge will offer a resident population with easy access to services provided on site.

Vehicular access is possible from either Sutil Pt Road or possibly from the new road servicing Rainbow Ridge.  Further connections may be considered with the Manson’s Hall if appropriate.

The site is in line with an important trail connection from the school to Siskin Forest and Smelt Bay. Relatively close proximity to both Hague Lake and Manson’s Landing park and docks provides further potential patrons.

Behind This Project

This project is being supported by the CCEDA land working group, made up of folks who serve on our board, as well as other people from the community. Our goal is to bring a diversity of perspectives and ideas forward to guide this project. 

Are you interested in learning more or joining our land working group? Send us a message here.

CCEDA is very thankful to Island Coastal  Economic Trust (ICET) for financial support to make this project possible.

For questions about this project, please contact our Project Manager, Kate Maddigan, by email at  project.mgr.cceda@gmail.com.