Jane Weixl was on of the nearly 100 people who demonstrated outside Vernon’s City Hall in support of protecting a heron habitat from development disruption. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

LETTER: Heronry ‘confusion’ cleared in provincial guidelines

Vernon Heronry Protection Society’s Jane Weixl airs concerns with city council discussion

To the editor:

I am writing to respond to Dean Roosevelt’s letter to the editor that was published on June 18th, entitled “Covenant Confusion.”

Over 200 people have written to the City of Vernon to comment on Scotland Constructors request to waive the requirement of environmental conditions on the property located beside the Vernon heronry. Many citizens want to see the herons protected when construction occurs. What is required is laid out very clearly in the Province of British Columbia’s guidelines entitled, Develop With Care.

The confusion arises when a covenant is drafted (and I stress that the City’s covenant is not complete or finalized at this time) that contains points that do not align with the provincial regulations or when some of the provincial guidelines are omitted. The city’s covenant is a compilation of material gathered at the first public hearing, from the Qualified Environmental Professional that Scotland Constructors hired, and from a letter from the province regarding the application.

At the June 8 Council meeting, Coun. Scott Anderson said the “letters from the public as a rule are based on faulty information. They state we are developing the rookery, destroying the habitat of the herons – that is simply not the case and was never the case.” I feel that Coun. Anderson’s statements need to be looked at more carefully.

Simply dismissing letters to mayor and council as “faulty information” because some letters have contained misinformation does not make them all “faulty information.”

Some councillors have also been spreading misinformation but I do not think that throwing the baby out with the bath water benefits anyone. Many, many extremely knowledgeable people have written to council regarding the herons and the heronry.

Dr. Robert Butler wrote to them. He has done decades of research on herons and has written a number of books.

Many qualified environmental professionals, including several biologists, have written to them. These professionals should be listened to. That is what public input is all about.

Council is directed to listen to public and expert opinion, with an open mind so they can make the best possible decision for all parties involved. The best possible decision should include the best possible outcome for the herons as well as the developer. Council is elected to represent all the citizens of Vernon so their opinions matter.

Nowhere is it written that councillors should dismiss input from the public if they are emotional when writing or speaking to councillors.

No one can predict the future so no one can know whether the proposed development beside the heronry will destroy the habitat of the herons or not. If the developer is allowed to proceed, without doing everything possible to ensure that the herons will not be disturbed during their sensitive nesting and fledging period, then the work may very well destroy the heron’s habitat. If the developer makes loud noises that the herons are not used to, they may leave their nests permanently, even if chicks are present. They may never return.

I also took exception to Coun. Anderson saying that the developer was a young couple, not a Daddy Warbucks type. This is not relevant. The provincial development regulations should apply to every developer equally in council’s eyes. Nice, young couples are not exempt from provincial guidelines.

I was also concerned when I heard Coun. Dalvir Nahal say, “in fairness this should go to public hearing but I question if there’s going to be any new information that we haven’t already received from the public”.

Ms. Bridal, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, had to caution Coun. Nahal at the June 8 meeting to say they were stepping way outside the legalities of a public hearing.

By saying you are already assuming what the outcome of a public hearing would be, before you open the public hearing, you are not going in open minded.

The City Administrators protect council by requiring them to follow proper procedure and “keep it clean.”

It is Administration’s job to do so and I am thankful that they do such a good job.

Jane Weixl

Vernon, B.C.

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