Nearly 100 people turned out to Vernon City Hall in support of protecting the heron habitat from development disruption on June 8, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Fall hearing for Vernon heron rookery

Council changed date last minute to ensure summer holidays wouldn’t interfere with public turnout

Some Vernon residents can take summer holidays in peace knowing their concerns around the Vernon Heronry will be heard this September at a public hearing.

Vernon city councillors voted to move the public hearing from an August date to the fall to ensure those who want to speak to it are in town to do so.

The public hearing is now slated for Sept. 14 in the Recreation Centre’s auditorium.

Council rescinded its third reading of the rezoning of a 20th Street property neighbouring the adjacent Blue Heron rookery at the June 8 meeting and it, including the covenant protecting the birds’ habitat, was to go to another public hearing.

City staff had proposed Monday, Aug. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the rec centre, but Coun. Brian Quiring moved the date be rescheduled to the fall as an August date lands in peak holiday season.

“It’s a popular time for holidays as we usually don’t have meetings in August,” Quiring said, noting in his discussions with developers Scotland Constructors, there was no sense of urgency.

“It would be better for everybody if we did it in September,” he said.

Coun. Akbal Mund agreed.

“We have only one meeting in July and August because the general public is usually not around,” Mund said. “Why are you having these meetings in the middle of the summer when we’re on vacations — it is important to allow the general public time to be here.”

Coun. Kari Gares, whose motion was on the floor to go ahead with the August date, welcomed the friendly amendment as Quiring said it was to allow for more members of the public to have access to the meeting.

City council first voted to implement a covenant protecting the habitat site of the blue-labelled endangered species from construction disturbances following a lengthy public hearing in July 2019.

The covenant, which has yet to be finalized, limits construction during the heron’s spring-summer nesting season and put a 100-metre noise sensitivity buffer into effect, as advised by an environmental consultant. Several other stipulations, such as dust control and high-risk activities, are included in the covenant.

Following an independent land survey and environmental assessment, Scotland Constructors asked council to waive the covenant as the proposed site of development is outside the 100-metre noise buffer zone.

Councillors unanimously voted to hold up its covenant during the regular meeting May 11 to avoid another public hearing, which would likely further delay construction. The issue was brought up for reconsideration at the following meeting.

The North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club encouraged members and residents write to mayor and council to encourage the protection and upholding of the environmental covenant. Council received nearly 200 emails as a result.

Before the regular meeting June 8, nearly 100 supporters demonstrated outside as they could not physically attend the meeting in council chambers due to COVID-19 physical-distancing protocols.

READ MORE: Vernon rookery protections set for public hearing again

READ MORE: Let’s go biking: B.C. author publishes Shuswap-Okanagan exploration book


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