Fate of Vernon heronry back on the table | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Fate of Vernon heronry back on the table

A protestor outside Vernon City Hall June 8.
June 08, 2020 - 4:41 PM

The future of the Vernon heron rookery is back on the table after council voted to go back to square one and hold another public hearing, almost one year after it approved a development on a piece of land adjacent to the city's prized rookery.

Following a debate mired in confusion, the file will now go back to a public hearing for Vernon councillors to again decide on the fate of the adjacent piece of land.

The file dates back to 2019 when Vernon council approved the rezoning of a piece of land on 20 Street, adjacent to the decades-old heronry. A condition was placed on the rezoning, requiring the developer to register a covenant on the land which mandated certain environmental requirements to take place during construction to ensure the protection of the Blue Heron rookery.

In May, the developer, Scotland Constructors, applied to have the covenant scrapped. While council originally dismissed the application, the file was brought back again by Coun. Dalvir Nahal.

The confusion appears to pertain to the distance from the proposed site to the rookery and what restrictions were put forward by the City. Scotland Constructors had put forward an environmental survey that showed the proposed site was further away from the rookery than the City had originally stated.

What became apparent during the meeting was that councillors did not know what precise restrictions they approved last year.

When asked to clarify, City development director Kim Flick told council the covenant would address high-risk activities during construction. The covenant would also dictate when construction could take place, limit noise and dust levels, as well as other environmental concerns. However, what that covenant specifically stipulated hasn’t been finalized yet.

Coun. Nahal questioned how councillors could vote on a covenant if they didn’t know what the details were?

While councillors tried to discuss the merits of the covenant, the conversation was shut down as City staff informed them they couldn’t discuss the file as it would prejudice the upcoming public hearing. The lack of factual information on the table added to the confusion and prompted councillor Scott Anderson to put forward a motion asking staff to put out a press release containing the information.

According to Ministry of Environment guidelines, developers should leave a 200 metres "no disturbance zone" buffer during nesting season.

Coun. Akbal Mund pointed out under COVID-19 restrictions, a public hearing may need several sessions as gatherings of more than 50 people are restricted. Councillors said they have been inundated with emails regarding the heronry and misinformation on the file was rife. A protest in support of the heronry took place outside of the meeting.

Ultimately the rezoning application will now go back to a public hearing, for council to vote on once again.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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