Vernon Heronry Protection Society senior director Rita Bos was one of a handful who spoke in opposition of a rezoning application to potentially build a multi-unit housing development near the site of Vernon’s Great Blue Heron rookery in the north end Monday at a public hearing in Vernon council chambers. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

Vernon council unanimously approves rezoning application near heronry

Despite considerable oppostion, a qualified environmental pro’s report helps council decide on plan

Carrie Nadeau grew up in Vernon enjoying the Great Blue Heron rookery on the north end of 20th Street.

A qualified environmental professional with 15 years experience, working with Associated Environmental Consultants, Nadeau calmly faced a standing room only crowd of opponents to a proposed rezoning application near the beloved rookery at a public hearing Monday in Vernon council chambers. She explained her position as to why an application to rezone property in the 5000 block of 2oth Street to allow a multi-unit housing development wouldn’t be bad for the birds.

“The setbacks proposed here are in line with provincial regulations. At this point, as far as I know, there is no proposal for the exact development,” said Nadeau. “There is an opportunity later for when the development is actually proposed to provide construction measures that ensure mitigation measures are followed. That includes being flexible.

“Blue herons are a native blue-listed species. They don’t follow dates and timelines and guidelines, obviously, and part of my mitigation letter is to ensure herons are not nesting at time of extended noise periods. The goal is to have all of construction completed when the herons are not there. With a proper construction environmental management plan, we can really mitigate for any impacts on the herons. I appreciate everyone’s concern about this.”

READ MORE: Vernon rezoning application near heronry draws interest

Applicants Scotland Constructors Ltd. hopes to rezone the property to build a multi-level housing unit, and their application received support for two readings in June, requiring Monday’s public hearing.

Melissa Wetteland and Brennan Scott are the owners of Scotland Constructors, and they listened to about a half-dozen speakers in opposition before approaching the microphone.

“We appreciate everyone’s concerns and comments. We feel we’ve done our due diligence by commissioning an environmental impact analysis,” said Wetteland. “Our property is outside the heronry buffer area and the mitigation letter (written by Nadeau) takes into consideration a herons’ nesting period and we fully plan to follow the recommendations made.

“The rookery is located 100 metres northwest of our property. With the 60 metre setback in urban areas – and we think this is urban area – we’d be well within that. We want to re-emphasize, that the heron colony seems to have adapted to the surrounding of environment, and seem to be existing very well with adjacent commercial, industrial and residential uses.”

The public hearing included speakers such as Rita Bos, senior director of the Vernon Heronry Protection Society.

“People have come from around the world to see the rookery and really consider us very blessed to have the heronry in our neighbourhood,” said Bos. “We strongly urge you (council) to prevent any development whatsoever beside this very sensitive area…Nature’s clock keeps ticking as species after species is lost.”

Mission Hill resident Jane Weixl said humans are the herons’ greatest threat, and that the currently rookery is located in an ideal spot.

“This rookery is perfectly located where it sits now because the birds are able to access Swan Lake for feeding on fishes and frogs,” said Weixl. “This colony is thriving due to its proximity to Swan Lake.”

At the back of council chambers, in a big binder, was 149 letters sent to council on the application, with 148 of them in opposition, though Coun. Kari Gares said a lot of letters were written based on misinformation.

“From the many e-mails we received, along with the social media posts we’ve seen, it has become clear that many believe that it was the rookery itself that we were developing,” said Gares. “This type of misinformation is another such reason I voted in favour of the development; but this doesn’t mean their concerns have no merit. I truly believe we can manage the risks to protect nature while providing affordable housing to Vernon’s market that is already suffering from a lack of housing.”

Gares said the city has a responsibility to hold in preserving and protecting the herons and their habitat.

“The Bos family has been steadfast in their convictions to protect the herons over these many decades by ensuring future development of this site would be prevented through the establishment of a restrictive covenant,” said Gares. “But after careful deliberation, ample research, a site view and environmental report from the QEP (Qualified Environmental Professional), I believe we can mitigate the dangers of noise and environmental pollution on their nesting grounds while encouraging affordable future multi-family development – something that Vernon is in desperate need of.”

Council voted unanimously in favour of passing third reading of the application.

“I voted in favour of it because the project conforms to provincial guidelines,” said Coun. Brian Quiring, who motioned for passing third reading. “There was a qualified environmental professional involved, they drafted a report and were of the opinion it’s a good project.”

Fourth reading and adoption of the application would happen at a future meeting of council.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Bus stop to take a trip down Lakeshore Drive in Salmon Arm

City crews working, creating odd tune at intersection of Lakeshore and Shuswap

Driver flees Chase RCMP, greeted by waiting officers in driveway near Salmon Arm

Police say man behind wheel without insurance and prohibited from driving in B.C.

Residents give peace a chance in Salmon Arm’s Marine Park

On International Day of Peace, public gathers at site dedicated to peace and understanding

Justice rules police did not coerce statement from Sagmoen

Defence had been seeking to have Curtis Sagmoen’s video interview with police deemed inadmissible

VIDEO: “How dare you?” Greta Thunberg addresses UN climate summit

‘We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money.’

Pettersson has 4 points as Canucks dump Ottawa 6-4

Vancouver wins NHL pre-season tilt in Abbotsford

Highway 97 closed after multi-vehicle collision near Kelowna

DriveBC estimates the highway won’t be reopened until tomorrow

British man returns to Yukon to tipple his own toe in long-running tradition

So-called sourtoe cocktail is a shot of whisky with a mummified human toe in it

Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

56 per cent of respondents admitted to reading or sharing inaccurate news

Province announces $3.5 million in funding for community solutions to overdose crisis

Grants up to $50,000 will be available for municipalities working with a regional health authority

Oilers McDavid, Draisaitl relish time in Okanagan

The Edmonton Oilers practiced at Prospera Place in Kelowan twice during team bonding trip

Conservatives’ plan to ease mortgage stress-test rules may raise debt and prices

Andrew Scheer vows to loosen rules around stress test and remove it altogether for mortgage renewals

B.C. mom urges patience after rude comments while out with toddlers

People asked to be better and to help each other

Most Read