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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

$30,000 over 30 weeks for local causes

Send us your good stories and you could win money for your favourite cause

Additional Penticton washrooms open in time for weekend

Washrooms at Riverside, Skaha Lake Park, Okanagan Lake Park, more, now open

First day back; attending elementary school amid COVID-19

“… Social connections are certainly important for kids,” said Carmi principal Dave Ritchie.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip appeals for living-donor kidney transplant

Okanagan Nation Alliance Grand Chief has chronic kidney disease

Column: Penticton Regional Hospital returning to ‘new normal’

If we’ve learned anything over the last few months, it’s how important good health is in our lives.

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

Vernon protesters take Black Lives Matter movement to park

A handful of demonstrators raised fists, signs in solidarity Friday

Police watchdog investigating Lake Country incident

A man was taken to hospital after the June 3 incident

Community backlash over Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

Some members of Kelowna’s black community stated they don’t support Friday’s rally

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Bear strolls into Okangan homeowner’s living room

Conservation officers are searching for the bear, which entered a home in the Foothills area

Most Read