A proposal to turn an Abbotsford dairy farm into more than 400 units of housing is moving ahead to the next stage.
Council on Monday night (July 11) gave the first two readings to the required zoning bylaw amendments for the project. The matter now heads to a public hearing on July 25.
Cooper Meadows Developments Ltd. – whose parent company is Polygon Homes – is proposing to turn the 63-acre Cooper farm at 2857 McMillan Rd. into six single-family homes, 76 single-family homes with secondary suites, 26 row homes, 90 duplex homes, 190 three- and four-bedroom townhomes and an amenity building.
A future 40-unit townhome site is also proposed at the south end of the property where the landmark red barn is currently located.
As part of the development, it is proposed that 17.7 acres of land be dedicated to the City of Abbotsford as parklands. The lands would include an improved Discovery Trail alignment, two dog parks (one for small dogs and the other for large), and walking trails.
Another 1.4 acres would be set aside as a conservation area attached to the townhome site.
A letter to council from the developers also indicates that the project would preserve existing trees and include hundreds of new trees planted in yards, park areas and on boulevards.
Another 53,000 square metres of land are being dedicated for road, sidewalk and servicing improvements, including the widening of McMillan Road.
The farm was previously owned and operated by Kathleen Cooper, who died Sept. 13, 2020 at the age of 91.
The former teacher and principal lived her entire life on the family dairy farm and gave it her full attention upon her retirement in 1993.
The letter to council states that Cooper Meadows Developments has been working with Cooper’s estate to “interpret her wishes for the property and to ensure the areas to be preserved and developed align to these wishes.”
“Also per her wishes the story of the farm and its role in the community will be preserved in the naming of the streets and parks, and at a hilltop memorial,” the letter states.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Henry Braun recalled the time he met with Cooper several years ago.
“She gave me a long tour of the whole property and told me (how) she would like to see this property developed, and she wanted to know what I thought, and I said, ‘Well, you make sure you articulate that in the legal documentation for the next owner,’ and this does line up pretty much,” he said.
Braun said, in particular, the proposal honours Cooper’s desire to save a portion of the uphill land as green space.
Coun. Ross Siemens said Cooper was close to many of her neighbours and was “quite specific” about what she wanted done with her property.
He said the developers “worked with the neighbourhood” and, although some nearby residents have concerns, what he witnessed has been “quite positive.”
Coun. Patricia Ross said that, before Cooper died, she was aware the property would be developed and she had a vision of what she wanted to happen there.
“It’s my understanding that this reflects that vision in most parts,” she said.
Coun. Dave Loewen asked how schools in the area could be impacted by an increased population from the development.
Blake Collins, the city’s director of development planning, said Margaret Stenersen elementary is in the catchment area and is currently at capacity.
He said the school district is aware of this issue, and of other upcoming development projects, and “that is a priority for capital improvements to address those concerns.”
Collins said the other schools in the area – Clayburn middle and Bateman secondary – do not have the same issues.
“They (the school district) are not concerned with the short- and middle-term projections as the school population is generally declining in east Abbotsford,” he said.
Those wanting to provide input on the Cooper farm proposal can send a written submission by noon on the Monday before the public hearing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
They can also speak at the public hearing on July 25, starting at 6 p.m., by recording their name and address on the sign-in sheets by the podium.