New Clayburn house that generated opposition gets council OK

Majority of council says heritage protections will keep Clayburn historic

Building a new home next to a century-old house in Clayburn Village won’t jeopardize the historic nature of the small Abbotsford community, a majority of council declared Monday as they allowed a controversial lot split to take place.

A family’s plan to split a large lot and build a new home next to a Clayburn Road home had sparked opposition inside and outside of the village, with more than 2,000 people signing a petition against the plan.

While the man seeking to build on the site said his plans would add to the area’s character, others in the neighbourhood said that shrinking the lot and building a large house next to the existing home would compromised the historical value of the parcel.

After a two-hour public hearing, council voted to allow the project to proceed, with several members saying the move won’t precipitate large scale changes in the community, a worry expressed by many.

“I’m confident that this is not going to endanger the uniqueness of this area,” Coun. Ross Siemens said. “If we allow this today, I don’t think this will be a dangerous precedent.”

Siemens and others pointed to heritage conservation rules that require approval before any substantial changes are made in the village.

Two other lots in the village are similar to that under consideration at Monday’s meeting. Three smaller lots are also vacant.

Residents had said the city had failed to fully communicate the effects of changes made when a new Official Community Plan (OCP) was adopted in 2016.

Coun. Dave Loewen said he was “a little offended” with the characterization that the city had been deliberately secretive, while Siemens and Mayor Henry Braun said the city had tried its best but was open to calls for how it could improve its processes.

Braun offered an olive branch to dissatisfied Clayburn residents, suggesting the city could take a second look at how the OCP affects the village, as it is already doing for Huntingdon.

“We’re trying to manage all of that in a way that is open and transparent. If there’s something we can do better, I’m all ears.”

But Braun said in the case before council, the lot’s owner had put forward an application that followed the city’s policies and met its guidelines and turning it down would be improper.

Coun. Patricia Ross and Les Barkman voted against the proposal. (Couns. Bruce Banman and Brenda Falk were absent.)

Ross said she believed the proponents had good intentions, but that the proposal would detract from the feel and story that makes Clayburn special.

She said that when Abbotsford and Matsqui amalgamated 25 years ago, many people in the city’s smaller communities were worried about losing their “specialness.”

“I made a commitment back then that I wouldn’t let that happen,” Ross said.

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