Save the herons

One of more than 100 supporters of the Vernon heron rookery adds her sign to the collection outside the Vernon Recreation Centre before the public forum on Monday evening.

A development some say threatens a neighbouring heron nesting ground will have to come up with a protection and mitigation plan before proceeding.

After two hours of presentations by 26 speakers, most of whom passionately objected to removing covenants on a site close to the heron rookery in Vernon, council voted unanimously to allow rezoning for a multi-family development and to remove the covenants.

But to protect the birds, the developer, Scotland Constructors, must create a protection and mitigation plan by a qualified environmental professional before a building permit would be issued for the 20th Street location.

The site had previously been zoned for single-family dwellings.

More than 100 people attended the meeting at the Vernon Recreation Centre. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they were seated in both the main room and the Dogwood Gym. The city had received more than 250 written presentations prior to the public meeting.

Brennan Scott, owner of Scotland Constructors was pleased with the removal of the covenant.

“I grew up in Harwood (a close by neighbourhood] and I don’t want to disturb the birds,” he said.

In elementary school, Scott even signed a petition to protest the birds. He accepted the need for council’s protection and mitigation plan, but he has no specific start date for his project.

Most of the speakers spoke fondly of watching the birds and regarded their presence in the middle of the city not only a source of beauty but an attraction for visitors. Jane Weixl remarked that the birds were, “already living on a postage stamp that has continued to get smaller.”

Council also agreed with a recommendation from city staff that a recreation corridor would not be built until the herons were not nesting in the cottonwoods for two years.

Rita Box, who owns the property where the birds nest, remains opposed to further development in the area.