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Vernon, B.C., city council to reconsider protection for heronry

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WATCH: Vernon city council is set to consider whether or not to loosen restrictions on property next to a Great Blue Heron nesting site. – Jun 3, 2020

There are renewed concerns over the protection of the Vernon, B.C., heronry.

Next week, Vernon city council is set to consider whether or not to loosen restrictions on a neighbouring property meant to protect the Great Blue Heron’s nesting site.

The issue goes back to last year when city council supported rezoning a property neighbouring the heronry to allow a low rise apartment building to be built there.

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

However, council said the rezoning could only go ahead if a covenant to protect the nearby heronry during construction was in place.

Now, the company looking to rezone the property next to the heronry for development wants that requirement for a protective convent removed.

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Scotland Constructors Ltd. made the request to drop the covenant, after bringing forward fresh information that the development site is outside a 100-metre buffer zone where noise should be restricted to protect the birds.

READ MORE: Blue heron released into wild after found covered in ice, snow near Calgary

However, supporters of the heronry don’t want to see the covenant removed and argue the proposed development site is still close enough to impact the birds.

They believe, based on provincial recommendations, that a larger 200-metre buffer is needed during nesting season. The development site is within that radius.

“Having the protective covenant ensures the birds are not scared off their nests by excessive or loud new noises,” said Jane Weixl, who is advocating for the heronry.

“When there are construction noises the birds aren’t accustomed to, the fly up, sometimes they do not come back at all leaving their chicks to die.”

Not everyone agrees a 200-metre buffer is needed in this case to avoid disturbing the herons.

An ecologist with an environmental contracting company who original recommended the 100 metre buffer felt that a larger buffer wasn’t needed in this case, despite the provincial recommendation.

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READ MORE: Investigation launched after great blue heron shot in Vancouver

She felt 100 metres was enough as the herons here were in an urban environment and “had adapted to noise.”

City council will be taking another look at Scotland Constructors’ request to remove the covenant requirement next week.

The company declined an interview but stated in a letter to council it respects the birds.

The business is arguing it can meet its environmental obligations without the added regulation.