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Biophysical inventory motion defeated

A debate erupted during this week’s City of Abbotsford council meeting over the potential of new housing developments and how they would affect the pristine rural quality at the top of Sumas Mountain.

Coun. Patricia Ross put forward a motion stating the city should take steps to conduct a biophysical inventory on the mountain before land developers start pushing for development.

Her motion was supported by Simon Gibson and Lynne Harris, but quashed by John Smith, Bruce Beck, Christine Caldwell, Moe Gill and Dave Loewen, who argued that it’s too early to make a decision about doing an environmental inventory.

The provincial government recently approved the city’s request to take over “Area H” –- an amount of private land equal to more than 1,500 hectares on top of Sumas Mountain. This area was formerly under the jurisdiction of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).

The Official Community Plan (OCP) for Area H stipulates the smallest lot size at five acres.

The OCP is subject to a five-year transition period, according to a report by Bill Flitton, acting director of administrative services for the City of Abbotsford.

The spectre of land speculators building subdivisions sprawling up the mountain was a topic of debate with city councillors.

Gibson started the discussion.

He questioned the report by Flitton who wrote that Area H residents will receive a package containing only a city report, a press release on the boundary extension and contact numbers for the city.

Gibson said he would prefer a more cordial welcome letter be sent to the mountain residents.

Sumas Mountain adds a special character to the city, Gibson said, noting that he is not in favour of paving over the mountain and allowing development sprawl to destroy this wildlife area.

Ross said people should not assume that urban development will or should occur on Sumas Mountain.

Dave Loewen said the city needs to dialogue with an advisory committee to be formed with Area H residents to keep everyone happy.

Harris, meanwhile, supported Ross’s motion to do an environmental inventory.

Grant Atcheson, Director of Development Services, said there is no urgency to do an inventory at this time, because the OCP for Area H calls for low-density development for the next five years.

Ross said people in Abbotsford view Sumas Mountain as “a real jewel,” and one of the main reasons people are attracted to this city is because of the undisturbed, undeveloped green space on the mountain.

Gibson reiterated that the mountain is unique and should be left untouched as a green legacy for the future.

Beck and Smith, meanwhile, argued against the move to do the biophysical inventory, stating it is too early for such a decision to be made and the majority of council agreed, defeating Ross’s motion.

Council passed a follow-up motion, however, asking staff to identify how much a biophysical inventory would cost and inform the city politicians in a future report.

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