A proposed new large industrial project along Mt. Lehman Road will be a “catalyst” for economic development in Abbotsford and the region, a representative for the developers told city council on Monday (Jan. 25).
City council unanimously approved third reading of four bylaw amendments to allow the project to proceed on land at 3407, 3459, 3481 and 3583 Mt. Lehman Rd., with final approval expected soon.
Mayor Henry Braun recused himself from the discussion at Monday’s public council meeting because his brother owns an adjacent property.
The 80-acre proposal for the Xchange Business Park – located north of Highway 1 and Highstreet shopping centre – is by Hungerford Properties and QuadReal Property Group.
The proposal is one of the largest industrial developments in recent years and consumes the last large chunk of developable industrial land in west Abbotsford north of Highway 1. The block of land encompasses one-sixth of all the land approved for exclusion by the Agricultural Land Commission in 2005.
The project involves eight buildings encompassing 1.2 million square feet of space.
The buildings would mostly be slated for industrial use, but the city is also changing its industrial zoning bylaw to allow for up to 40 per cent of floor space to be used for office, retail, rental and product display – as long as goods are manufactured or warehoused on site.
Currently, only 25 per cent of space is allowed for such uses.
The bylaw change will also permit indoor recreation facilities to operate in industrial zones.
Twenty-eight acres of the land will be rezoned to “park, open space” and transferred to the City of Abbotsford for long-term stewardship.
Blake Collins, senior planner for the city, told council that the project features significant transportation adjustments to help ease congestion in the area,” including replacing the roundabout north of Fraser Highway with a traffic light and adding two southbound left-turn lanes and an eastbound through lane at Mt. Lehman and Fraser Highway.
The traffic changes also include adding a traffic light at Sandpiper Drive, a new slip lane south on Mt. Lehman Road to Highway 1 and the extension of a merge lane eastbound on Highway 1.
Michael Hungerford, representing the project owners, told council that the business park is an important development at a time when there has been a growing scarcity of developable industrial land across the region.
“The project will be a catalyst for economic development in Abbotsford, the Fraser Valley, the Lower Mainland and the province with over 3,000 full-time jobs,” he said.
Jeff Rank, a senior vice-president with QuadReal Property Group, said industrial inventory is continuing to grow east from Vancouver and Surrey, as fewer and fewer large sites become available in those areas.
He said Xchange Business Park will not only provide much-needed relief to the market’s scarce supply, but its proximity to Highway 1, the Canada-U.S. border and Abbotsford International Airport are huge benefits.
“These attributes make it very attractive to e-commerce distribution users, as well as a wide variety of regional and international companies,” Rank said.
Jamie Slogan, department head of biological service for Keystone Developments, spoke to the measures that are being taken to address environmental concerns.
He said because of prior development in the area, most of the land has already been “highly disturbed.” But he said the project will keep the wildlife corridors running north and south through the property and maintain almost all of the wetlands in the area.
Slogan said almost 23 acres of riparian areas will be protected, and half of that will be enhanced from what was impacted in the past.
Once final approval is given, the developers expect to start construction this summer, with completion anticipated in summer 2022.