Council will consider plans to build an Agri-Mall at Abbotsford’s eastern edge, despite city staff’s recommendation that the development application be denied.
The Agri-Mall development plan would amalgamate many large agricultural equipment providers into one location in east Abbotsford, at Atkinson and Eldridge Roads, near the edge of Sumas Canal.
City staff raised concerns that using the land for agri-industrial purposes is not within the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP), which designates the area as suburban residential. As the city has yet to grow into the area residentially, staff say the city is years away from understanding the long-term residential needs of the area and building the Agri-Mall could alter future development capacities in the area.
The Agri-Mall proposal, from Cold Water Ranch Ltd., states there is intent from dealers in the Sumas Way area to relocate to the new site – including PrairieCoast John Deere, Avenue Machinery, Caliber Equipment and Handlers Equipment.
The proposal notes that the issue is time sensitive and if the city does not soon give the project consideration the group will seriously explore industrial lands available in Chilliwack – adding that the dealers are being “aggressively pursued” by the City of Chilliwack to relocate to an industrial area there.
Coun. Patricia Ross said she wasn’t prepared to shut down the proposal based on staff’s concerns. She said it is “not an idle threat” for businesses to move elsewhere.
Currently, many agricultural equipment dealers are located on Sumas Way, near the American border. But the proposal notes this is not ideal, as there is high traffic and the consumer retail sector is growing in that area.
The initiative is not within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and does not need Agricultural Land Commission approval.
The development proposal states there is demand for additional industrial land in Abbotsford, adding that the proposed site in east Abbotsford is preferable to sites on Fraser Highway, which have been considered for agri-industrial use but fall within the ALR.
Coun. John Smith said council ought to consider the plan, noting that Abbotsford’s OCP is now eight years old and the city is currently working on plans to update the document.
Coun. Henry Braun suggested waiting for the new OCP to see how staff designate land use in the area, but Mayor Bruce Banman said that council makes decisions outside of the OCP all the time and he is not prepared to wait a year to make the decision on the Agri-Mall. Banman added that the proposal will even mean that a current used equipment owner will relocate off of ALR land to the proposed Agri-Mall.
Council approved letting the proposal move forward. Property owners in the surrounding area will be notified and the issue will go to a public meeting.