Brandon residents voice concerns for endangered orchid's safety
Small White Lady's-slipper. (Source: Anne Worley/ Government of Canada website)
WINNIPEG -- Brandon residents voiced their concerns with a proposed city development plan for a section of land that is home to the endangered Small White Lady’s Slipper Orchid.
The City of Brandon is in the process of approving the Southeast Brandon Secondary Plan—a plan which lays out the framework for how the area will be developed.
Ryan Nickel, the director of Brandon's Planning and Building Development Department, said the secondary plan is a general vision, but does not show a detailed breakdown of what is going to be developed.
The plan has faced loud opposition from area residents who are concerned about a section of land in the proposed development area where the endangered Small White Lady’s Slipper Orchid grows.
The orchid, also known as the Cypripedium Candidum, is among Manitoba's species at risk and is considered 'very rare' in virtually every state and province where it grows, according to Manitoba Conservation.
The small white flower takes at least 12 years to reach maturity.
David Troop was among the residents opposed to the plan during a virtual public hearing with the Brandon Planning Commission Wednesday evening.
He brought up concerns with drainage in the area which has a high water level and a nearby pond.
"You can't just drain the place where the houses are, without draining the surrounding land," Troop said. "The effect of that would extend about 100 metres into the ecological preserve, so if you are doing that then you are destroying the habitat for the orchids which is the whole point that it is there."
Troop said, on the other hand, the city has to drain the area if houses are going up—otherwise there will be water leaking into basements causing foundation issues for the homes.
"I think going ahead and approving this plan—it is going ahead way too early without considering the consequences," he said. "It could just turn into a real disaster area for everyone involved."
Nickel said the city would like to see developers be required to provide studies for drainage, and said this would be done when they are looking to build on the property and not at the visionary stage the plan is currently at.
While it is an overview plan, residents at the meeting were calling for more details—specifically on the buffer zone around the orchid.
Nickel said the city has been working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the property owner to define an area for the White Lady Slipper Orchid preserve.
Nickel said both the provincial and federal governments approved a 50-metre buffer zone, but residents said they wanted to see that approval in writing.
"If someone has said yes to this—which it seems that they have because that is what we've been told—where is this sort of information?" Commissioner Kate Hill asked.
Nickel said he would follow up with the province about releasing that information.
"I have had multiple follow-ups looking for more confirmation of direction. I feel like we're a little bit—not being completely left out of it, but perhaps not getting the support that’s needed through a process," he said.
"I'm sure people are sick of hearing me say this, but it is the jurisdiction of the province."
The commission recommended the council approve the plan with amendments regarding accessibility and green spaces. The plan will now go before City Council for debate, which is expected to happen sometime in July.
"I find it difficult to believe that such a beautiful little flower can be so contentious," said Commissioner Will Majcher.