Covenant to protect Vernon, B.C., heronry headed back to public hearing

Vernon, B.C. city council opted not to make a decision Monday on whether enhanced protections for a Great Blue Heron nesting site in the city are needed.

Instead, council sent the issue back to public hearing for more input.

The controversy dates back to last year when city council gave support for rezoning a piece of property adjacent to the heronry to allow for the possible development of a low-rise apartment.

However, council said the rezoning could only go ahead if a covenant to protect the nearby heronry during construction was in place.

That covenant, the details of which have yet to be finalized, would apply to the development property near the heronry, not the heron nesting site itself.

However, the issue is now back before city council at the request of the company looking to have the property near the heron nesting site rezoned.

Scotland Constructors wants the city to drop the requirement for a protective covenant on the property near the heronry.

The business made the request after bringing forward fresh information that the development site is outside a 100-metre buffer zone where noise should be restricted to protect the birds.

However, supporters of the heronry don’t want to see the covenant removed and argue the proposed development site is still close enough to impact the birds.

The business is arguing it can meet its environmental obligations without the added regulation of a protective covenant on the land.

Heronry supporters said dozens of people showed up outside city hall Monday to show their support for the birds, even though COVID-19 restrictions prevented almost all of them from sitting in on the council meeting themselves.

“That was at least a way to show council it’s not a dead issue that people don’t care about,” advocate for the heronry Jane Weixl said.

Weixl was pleased council didn’t make an immediate decision on the issue.

“A number of environmental consultants and biologists sent information in so there was a lot of new information coming in for them to digest so I’m glad they didn’t force a vote,” Weixl said.

Weixl pointed out the issue is being reexamined at the request of the business involved and wanted to see council remain open to input from the public as well during the new consultation.

A representative of Scotland Constructors said she did not have any comment on council’s decision to send the issue to public hearing.

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