Vernon city councillors voted to protect great blue herons Monday night during a public hearing on a proposed development beside the nesting grounds in the north end of the city.
At issue was a proposed low-rise apartment project at 5000 20th St., proposed by developer Scotland Constructors.
Given the amount of interest in the beloved birds, which have returned to nest in cottonwood trees there for the past 33 years, the public hearing was held at the Vernon Recreation Complex.
COVID-19 safety precautions limited attendance to 50 in the rec centre and further 50 in the Dogwood gym, with more gathered outside.
“Most in attendance were there to see how the city would balance the needs of the developer, Scotland Constructors, with what the herons need to survive in Vernon,” said Jane Weixl of the Vernon Heronry Protection Society.
Speakers stepped up to microphone for almost three hours, and 253 people made written submissions to the city, most in favour of protecting the birds, which are listed as an at-risk species in Canada.
In total, 21,482 people signed a petition calling for continued protection of the site.
After hearing the public’s pleas, council voted to put a restrictive covenant on Scotland Constructors’ title, “which would require them to have a protection and mitigation plan in place, written by a qualified environmental professional, and approved by the city, before a building permit is approved,” Weixl said.
There is a timeline in place on development of the property.
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