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UPDATE: Council gives developer green light to build next to Vernon heron sanctuary

Residents of Vernon voiced their concerns regarding a possible construction site near a heronry on Monday night. Vernon ¬City Council unanimously approved the rezoning under certain restrictions.

UPDATE: Vernon city council has given a developer the green light to build next door to a heron sanctuary in the North Okanagan town.

Conditions on the project have been imposed, which look to have somewhat satisfied opponents.

WATCH BELOW: Vernon mayor Victor Cumming speaks on development near heron rookery

Vernon mayor Victor Cumming speaks on development near heron rookery
Vernon mayor Victor Cumming speaks on development near heron rookery

Vernon council is allowing the developer to build up to 41-units in a 4.5 storey building.

The setback has been increased from 60 to 100 metres, according to mayor Victor Cumming.

“There’s not much of a buffer between previous development and the rookery,” Cumming said.

Cumming said council was clear on when the project can be built, although plans for the building have not been submitted.

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“[They’re] not to be doing heavy construction during the nesting period,” Cumming said.

“When they come for building permits that’s when you’ll see conditions set,” he said.

Opponents like Quinn Vienneau, who started an on-line petition against building next to the rookery, said she’s concern about the upper limits of the development’s size.

“If they push the limits on the zoning and they do 41 units nearing five storeys, that’s a huge concern to me. So is half that number,” Vienneau said. “In an ideal world I would prefer that no development took place because they are such sensitive birds.”

Vernon Heronry Protection Society senior director Rita Bos said she is encouraged by the conditions, but still has concerns as well.

“I don’t know whether they quite understand, in general, how delicate – how fragile – that whole field situation is,” Bos said following Monday night’s vote.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The City of Vernon is hosting a public hearing on Monday night to get public input on a proposed construction project near a Blue Heron nesting site.

The rezoning application was submitted by Scotland Constructors Ltd., which plans to build low-rise apartments in an area near 20th Avenue in Vernon.

A Facebook group called Friends of Animals Vernon has teamed up with Rita Bos, senior director of the Vernon Heronry Protection Society, who is continuing the work of her late husband Jan to protect the area where the birds nest.

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“A registered restrictive covenant was agreed upon by the Regional District of the North Okanagan signed by RDNO and Jan Bos, July 1992,” Bos said in a statement to Scotland Constructors.

That agreement protects the land adjacent to the proposed building site.

A sign at the edge of the protected property currently reads: “This is a protected bird sanctuary. Absolutely no trespassing.”

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Quinn Vienneau started an online petition.

“These birds are BLUE listed, which means they are an indigenous species considered to be vulnerable in their locale,” she said.

A file photo of two herons in Vernon. Great blue herons are considered a vulnerable species.
A file photo of two herons in Vernon. Great blue herons are considered a vulnerable species. Global News

According to the B.C. government, an animal or plant on the blue list is any species or ecosystem that is of special concern.

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Vienneau’s petition also says that to effectively protect the birds, they need an undisturbed buffer zone around them to shelter them from noise pollution and human activity.

That buffer zone is 600 metres, according to Bos.

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“We are providing actual, fact-based information so that the City of Vernon and applicant can make rational, responsible decisions in regards to protecting the Great Blue Heron Sanctuary,” she said.

The public meeting about the rezoning bylaw will be held at 5:30 p.m. in city council chambers.

The City of Vernon is accepting public concerns via email until 3 p.m.