A Vision for the “Village Commons”

In 2021, together with our community partners and supported by a consulting team, we led a community engagement process to create a vision for what we affectionately call (for now) the “Village Commons,” the area of land adjacent to Manson’s Hall, behind the Cortes Radio Station, and across from the old bank. We collected ideas for how this site can serve as a commons area-that is, an accessible place where people can gather, stewarded for and by locals.

Conceptual Site Design of the Village Commons

Village Commons_Final

Download & view the full site design here

This design is intended to be realized in phases over several years. Many factors will determine how and when each part of the plan is able to be built including need, capacity, funding, and other projects in the neighbourhood. We want to allow time in between the construction of each of the components, so we can continue to reflect on and respond to the changing needs of the community. We also want to encourage regeneration of the land after each construction disturbance.

Timeline Board V2
Zoning and Regulatory Board V3
Map showing where the commons land is located in Manson’s Landing
Folks gathered for a land clean-up work bee, getting everything ready & safe for people to use
Beautiful table and benches built by Travis Pawlak of Creative Deconstruction, for public use.
Laurier Mathieu and his True Foundations contractors laying in a new culvert and clearing out dangerous trees and debris.

Thank you to our partners & to everyone who participated


We have many to thank for their help in this community effort. We are especially thankful to all of you who participated in our various engagement activities and offered your vision for the Village Commons. You helped us pull together years of ideas into a tangible plan that can help to meet so many of our community’s needs.

We would like to thank Dave Snider with Pathways Landscape Group for his very professional attention to this project, from start to finish. And, another thank you to Patricia Huntsman who supported us with designing and leading the engagement activities.

Thank you to Laurier Mathieu and his crew at True Foundations for providing site clean up and improvements. We are so thrilled that it is now safe for people to walk and gather on the land. We’d also like to thank the following service providers: Lawn Order for landscaping support, Max Thaysen for debris pick up and disposal, Travis Pawlak for table and bench construction, and All Clear Septic.

We are grateful to the board of the South Cortes Community Association, and to Sandra Wood of the Cortes Community Housing Society, for their ideas and assistance as we mapped out projects and collaborations that are possible for the Manson’s Landing neighbourhood.

Thanks to the following establishments for hosting a “sounding board” on your buildings: Squirrel Cove Trading Company, Manson’s Hall, Cortes Market, and Whaletown Ferry Terminal.

We are so thankful to all the generous volunteers who assisted with site cleanup and other project events, including Loni Taylor, Donna Dryer, Paul Wolda, Matt Cusciana, Connie Brill, Travis Pawlak, Jedidiah Duyf, Mike Moore, Jim Foster, Gypsy Mama, Amy Robertson, Beatrix Baxter, Colin Funk… And, anyone else we may have forgotten, thank you!

We are very thankful to the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) for the financial support that made the community engagement and business planning portions of this project possible.

Thank you as well to the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) by the Government of British Columbia for their generous financial support toward continued project site clean-up and infrastructure improvements.

Finally, we offer gratitude to our committed local donors for the financial support that made this project possible.

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, which came up again 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

The resulting conceptual site design articulates 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 the vision of the community is reflected in the use of the site. A supporting business plan will follow the site design in 2022.

Community Engagement

During the summer and fall of 2021, we rolled out a series of engagement offerings to gather ideas for what we could make happen on the commons. Our goal was to make this fun and accessible. We got people together in a virtual community cafe, had an in-person workshop at Manson’s Hall, brought folks out for walks on the land, had sounding boards up around the community which people wrote their ideas on, and set up an online Kudoboard, where people could post their ideas using photos or words. We were also out and about in the community chatting with folks, and shared updates via the Tideline & Cortes Radio.

We’re very grateful and excited that so many people in our community participated! We believe that the resulting conceptual site design is a strong reflection of the vision you shared with us during these engagement activities.

Site Constraints & 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.

Zoning and Regulatory Board V3
Context Board V5 (1)
Site Conditions Board V2