Vernon developer gets second chance to have heronry protections scrapped | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon developer gets second chance to have heronry protections scrapped

A heron in flight.

A developer planning to build on a site adjacent to the well-known Vernon heron rookery will get a second chance to have certain environmental conditions scrapped.

A proposal to waive specific environment criteria put in place to protect the herons will be back on the table for Vernon council to reconsider at its June 8 meeting. The developer, Scotland Constructors, had applied to have an environmental covenant waived, but lost its appeal May 11, when council voted unanimously to keep the rules in place.

However, at Vernon council's May 25 meeting, councillor Dalvir Nahal put forward a motion to revisit the developer's request, putting the issue back onto the table for council to vote on once again.

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming was the only council member opposed to bringing the application back for another vote.

The Vernon heronry is a well-known spot in Vernon, where dozens of great blue herons return each year to nest. The birds, which are registered federally as a species at risk, have been nesting at the site for the last 34 years. Rita Bos, whose property hosts the Rookery, has been fighting development around the site for years and the Vernon Heronry Protection Society formed in an effort to keep a watchful eye on the birds.

In 2019, Scotland Constructors' original rezoning application for the 20 Street site faced fierce opposition. The City of Vernon received roughly 150 submissions opposing the rezoning along with 2,000 people who signed an online petition.

Ultimately, Bos lost the battle and the site adjacent to the rookery was rezoned to allow for a development of up to 41 units on the condition the developer followed a strict environmental covenant. The extra regulations, put in place to protect the herons, stipulated when construction could take place, along with various other regulations.

Scotland Constructors co-owner Melissa Wetteland previously told the company had commissioned a new environmental survey which showed the property was 14.5 metres outside of a 100-metre buffer zone put in place by the City. Wetteland argued the extra distance meant the covenant should not apply.

Vernon council had rejected the developer's appeal, but some councillors questioned how two environmental reports could show conflicting information. The council was also concerned any amendments to the original rezoning would mean another public hearing would have to be held.

Coun. Nahal told the May 25 council meeting she had originally voted against waiving the environment covenant because she didn't want it to trigger another public hearing. But since then the developer indicated they wanted to fight the principle of the matter, which was why she was requesting the matter be reconsidered.

Council is set to vote again on the matter at its June 8 meeting.

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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