In a contentious 5–4 vote on Monday, Abbotsford council rezoned land to allow a 600-seat banquet hall in an industrial area in west Abbotsford, planned to hold large events for the local South Asian community.
Proponents said the hall is vital for Abbotsford’s growing Indo-Canadian population, who now host the customarily large guest lists for weddings or milestone birthdays at venues far outside the city. Opponents say the building, at the corner of Marshall and Clearbrook roads, won’t fit in with its industrial surroundings, and they worry about parking and partiers overflowing from the property.
Councillors Brenda Falk, Moe Gill, Patricia Ross, Dave Loewen and Kelly Chahal voted to rezone the property for the hall, with Couns. Les Barkman, Sandy Blue, Ross Siemens and Mayor Henry Braun voting against. The 1,575-square-metre building, on a triangular lot, will have a light industrial space on the ground floor and the banquet hall above it. There will be 166 parking spaces on site, and a 1.8-metre fence on the border with adjoining properties.
Satish Sharma, a representative of the lot’s owner, was pleased that council voted approval.
“There was a huge support…a huge community came out to support it. We will be taking pride in developing this thing, and building something state-of-the art where people will have lifelong memories.”
The land was previously zoned as agricultural, but it is now industrial with assembly use allowed.
At a public hearing before the decision, many locals came to voice opinions on the project. Numerous South Asian residents spoke to the hall’s community importance.
“We cannot sit back and have half the East Indian community drive to Surrey,” said Gary Tiwana, an Abbotsford realtor.
Dan Provost, president of New World Technologies, an adjacent industrial business, opposed the project because he doesn’t think it fits in the area.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to look and feel to the industrial community…,” Provost said.
Braun said his position wasn’t against such banquet halls anywhere in Abbotsford, but he disagreed with this one because it didn’t fit with the city’s land use plan. The hall’s developers will now need to submit a detailed plan for the project
“This may be the first hard decision we’ll have to make,” said Braun, adding that the city’s long-term vision for land use in Abbotsford may bring more tough choices in the future.