A critical shortage of housing drove Abbotsford council’s decision to approve the development of the Cooper Farm Monday night.
”We have so very little land left that we can develop,” Coun. Patricia Ross said. “We hear it every day, it’s not just a housing shortage but a housing crisis.”
Council voted unanimously to approve the plan to develop the 63-acre farm at 2857 McMillan Road into a mix of parks and housing. Several councillors and Mayor Henry Braun spoke before voting, and all said it was the lack of housing not just in Abbotsford but the wider region that drove their decision.
In the plan as proposed, almost 18 acres of land would be dedicated to the city as parkland, which would include an improved Discovery Trail alignment, two dog parks (one each for small and large dogs) and walking trails.
But the rest would be various kinds of housing, and that’s where the main conflict is for those who live in the area.
It’s also a sticking point for the executors of Kathleen Cooper, who owned and operated the farm for decades. She died Sept. 13, 2020 at the age of 91. Cooper sold the property in 2016 after several years of discussions and careful consideration of what she wanted to happen to the land.
There is a two-acre parcel where the homestead sits that is currently zoned country residential but was being considered for 40 townhomes in the long term vision for the land.
The executors would like that portion to stay as country residential, but their decision was not made in time to be reflected in the presentation at Monday night’s public hearing and council meeting. However, that failure to meet the deadline was through no fault of the executors, the developers said at the public hearing, who added they are committed to putting a ‘no-build covenant’ on that portion of the site.
Other than that confusion, both parties said the relationship between the executors and the developers has been positive.
Braun said he believed that to be true and that the issue would be solved without troubles.
He underlined the importance of building homes in Abbotsford.
“There’s a million more people coming to the Fraser Valley in the next 20 years, south of the river,” he said. “We’re going to get a lot of those people wanting to live in this city, and we have a responsibility to provide housing.”
The public hearing went for more than three hours, with about a dozen people stepping to the microphone to speak, sometimes more than once.
There were two petitions handed to staff, and concerns about traffic increasing on surrounding roadways including Old Yale and McMillan Roads, pressure on schools and the impact on the environment.
One resident who lives downstream from the farm who has serious concerns about runoff and is asking the city to build retention walls to ensure his 1.8 acre lot isn’t affected.
“I know it’s from there because it used to go white when Ms. Cooper would dump her milk,” said John Chase.
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