New industrial growth plan should still include conversion of farmland, Abbotsford mayor says

Province denied city’s 2018 request to exclude lands from the Agriculture Land Reserve

Mayor Henry Braun says the next plan for the Fraser Valley’s growth should continue to include the eventual development of 134 hectares of farmland on the western edge of the city.

The rhombus-shaped chunk of land immediately north of Highway 1 and east of Gloucester Estates Industrial Park has long been eyed as the potential home for more industry. It was included in the Fraser Valley Regional District’s 2004 plan for growth, and three years ago, the City of Abbotsford unsuccessfully asked for the removal of it and another “special study area” from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

FROM 2018: No industrial development on Abbotsford farmland, ALC tells city

But the area was conspicuously omitted from the first draft of a new regional growth plan seen by local politicians this month.

The FVRD has started work on a regional growth strategy, a document that attempts to lay out a region-wide plan for growth for the decades to come. The last such strategy was created in 2004. That previous strategy designated the western properties for growth – a fact that Braun noted regularly when discussing the city’s own request to remove the properties from the ALR.

But the first draft of the new one omitted the area.

That, Braun told The News, will need to change.

FVRD staff say it will.

The focus for the lands has narrowed from general industry to food processing and other forms of industry that support the agriculture sector, and in an interview with The News, Braun pointed to a report for the provincial government this year that called for B.C. to become a “global agritech leader” by spurring more innovation in the sector. He says the city has no intention of touching the region’s most-productive farmland on Matsqui and Sumas prairies.

While Braun no longer sits on the FVRD board, at Thursday’s meeting Coun. Ross Siemens voiced a similar view while reiterating council’s desire to include the land in the strategy.

“Seventy-five per cent of our land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, so even as we’re looking at the green economy, ag-industrial, we’re going to need more land, specifically for that type of operation,” Siemens said. “When we’re talking about industrial. We’re not talking about smoke stacks and polluting, we’re talking about how we process food.”

He was told by FVRD planners that the lands would be included in future versions.

“We’re more than happy to incorporate that,” Alison Steward, the FVRD’s manager of strategic planning, said in response to Siemens’ question about whether the “special study areas” could be included in the strategy.

“This version [of the strategy] is really for discussion purposes and to identify things that are missing.”

The inclusion of the lands will worry some, but Abbotsford’s politicians are largely united on the issue.

In a marathon council hearing in 2017 before the application was submitted, dozens of people spoke against the idea, with several warning that it would “destroy” Bradner. But council voted 8-1 at the time to apply to remove the land, with Braun and others citing the city’s lack of land for industry and the properties’ mediocre soil.

In its decision, the ALC rejected many of the city’s arguments for why the lands should be excluded, saying the properties could be farmed and that it wasn’t the commission’s duty to solve the industrial land crunch in Abbotsford.

Braun took heat from opponents of the plan, but the plan didn’t hurt him politically; during the 2018 municipal election, Braun scooped up 61 per cent of votes cast at Bradner’s Municipal Hall.

RELATED: ALR decision aftermath: Bradner residents consider election action; mayor disappointed

Braun expects the matter to return to the council table in the near future.

“Either this council or the next council will be revisiting those study areas,” he said.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness watches the results on election night. The ex-Liberal’s tumultuous campaign and the narrow margin for victory ahead of the mail-in ballot count leaves the future of the riding’s seat in limbo for at least the next week. (Facebook/Laurie Throness)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Future for incumbent Throness uncertain as riding awaits results

Chilliwack-Kent candidate hopeful, resigned waiting on final count

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Trick-or-treat drive-thru takes place at Tradex in Abbotsford

Treats and giveaways handed out at event on Saturday, Oct. 31

The Abbotsford Trail Running Club has transformed the Valley Vertikiller into the Valley Verticuddler for 2020. (Matt Bolam photo)
Abbotsford Trail Running Club transforms Valley Vertikiller into Verticuddler for 2020

Local club has raised close to $3,000 for Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue with event

File Photo
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Agassiz Seniors Community

First declared outbreak in Agassiz-Harrison since pandemic began

The family and friends of Abbotsford resident Kaitlyn Cassels have launched a GoFundMe for her after she suffered serious injuries following a bad fall on Thursday night. (Submitted)
GoFundMe created for Abbotsford woman after horrible fall

19-year-old Kaitlyn Cassels suffers many injuries after falling 27 feet off Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read