Naturalists fear the proverbial horse may be out of the barn when it comes to preserving a sensitive ecosystem.
The City of Vernon is pushing ahead with a rezoning process for the Commonage area.
“We’re happy with what they’ve done but we’re wondering why the process has taken so long?” said Rod Drennan, with the North Okanagan Natural Areas Preservation Committee.
“There have already been development applications received by the city so (if they are approved) the proposal will apply to very little land.”
Drennan’s group first raised the need for preservation of the Commonage in 2011.
Under existing zoning, which dates back to when the area was still part of the regional district, minimum lot sizes can be smaller than land use designations in the city’s official community plan.
This could allow for greater development potential.
NONAP has stated there is a need to abandon regional district zoning and bring the 769-hectare area in compliance with city zoning.
Changes could occur to properties designated as rural/agriculture and Agricultural Land Reserve in the official community plan and zoned non-urban or rural small holdings.
“These properties would be rezoned to rural large holdings, which has a minimum lot size of 12 hectares, or 30 acres, consistent with the policies in the OCP,” said Rob Miles, manager of long-range planning, in a report.
One property, which consists of 25 per cent of the 769 hectares, has been granted a development variance permit to reduce the lot size under the existing zoning as part of a possible future subdivision.
Another property is 72 per cent of the land base and a subdivision application has received a preliminary layout review based on the zoning currently in place.
Should conditions or permits expire, any new zoning would apply.
As for concerns that it’s taken the city too long to focus on the Commonage, Miles says workload has been the issue.
“Other priority projects were undertaken, including the official community plan review, the master transportation plan, the parks master plan and the airport master plan,” he said.
Impacted property owners will be notified of the process in July, while there would be a public open house and property owner consultation in August and September.
Adoption of any zoning changes could be considered by council later this year.
“I’m not against future development, but it must fit in with the area,” said Mayor Akbal Mund.
“I will give credit to our planning staff for trying to address the concerns.”