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)

Vernon heron rookery up for discussion tonight

Public hearing set for Monday at rec centre auditorium

A protective covenant for the Vernon Heronry is up for discussion in a public hearing tonight and it is expected to be well attended.

COVID-19 restrictions are in place limiting the number of people who can be inside the Recreation Centre facility, but the City of Vernon is accepting written submissions from those who can’t attend in person until 3 p.m. today.

“In accordance with the provincial health officer’s orders, a maximum of 50 people, including members of the public, council and city staff, will be allowed in the Recreation Centre Auditorium,” City of Vernon communications manager Christy Poirier said. “Additionally, the Dogwood Gymnasium will be available for up to 50 people, including members of the public and city staff, to attend and participate in the hearing.”

Those in attendance will be required to sign in, provide basic contact information for contract-tracing purposes, wash their hands and maintain physical distancing protocols (two metres) while inside and outside the facility.

Written statements can be submitted in lieu of in-person attendance. Written submissions will be accepted until 3 p.m. today through the phearings@vernon.ca email. Mayor and council will be sent the written submissions for consideration as well.

Vernon councillors moved the public hearing from an August date to Monday, Sept. 14, to ensure all who wanted to speak are in town to do so as August is peak holiday season.

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.

Scotland Constructors asked council to waive the covenant following an independent land survey and environmental assessment as its proposed multi-family housing development is outside the 100-metre noise buffer zone.

Councillors unanimously voted to uphold 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 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.

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

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 return to a public hearing.

READ MORE: Vernon naturalists’ club seeks support for heronry

READ MORE: Restrictions still apply to Vernon heron rookery


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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