A petition has been started to delay the development of the Cooper farm on McMillan Road. (Photo by Marlisa Power)

A petition has been started to delay the development of the Cooper farm on McMillan Road. (Photo by Marlisa Power)

Petition aims to delay development of Cooper farm in Abbotsford

Organizer wants city to ‘take a pause’ and listen to residents’ ideas and concerns

An Abbotsford woman has started an online petition calling on city council to reject the plan to turn an historic farm into a 400-unit housing development.

As of Thursday afternoon, Marlisa Power had collected more than 1,000 signatures on the petition related to the Cooper farm at 2857 McMillan Rd.

Power, who also runs a Facebook group about the farm, said she wants to ensure the property and its iconic red barn are saved until residents’ concerns of alternative suggestions for the land are considered.

The proposal by Cooper Meadows Developments Ltd. was given the first two readings by council on July 11 and heads to the public-hearing stage on Monday (July 25).

The project calls for turning the 63-acre farm property into almost 400 units of housing, including single-family homes (some with secondary suites), duplex homes and townhomes.

RELATED: 400-unit housing plan for Cooper farm in Abbotsford goes to public hearing

A future 40-unit townhome site is also proposed at the south end of the property where the red barn is currently located.

Almost 18 acres of land would be dedicated to the city as parklands, which would include an improved Discovery Trail alignment, two dog parks (one each for small and large dogs) and walking trails.

The farm was owned and operated by Kathleen Cooper, who died Sept. 13, 2020 at the age of 91. Cooper sold the property in 2016.

Power said she first met Cooper in about 2010, when Power was trying to save an urban forest behind what is now called the Eagle’s Gate townhouse development on Marshall Road.

Power said she met with a city planner who pointed out some of the development plans the city had for the next several years, and the Cooper farm was included.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I drove over and introduced myself to Kathy and said, ‘I’d like to help,’ ” Power said.

The two stayed in touch over the years, and Power said she learned what Cooper’s wishes were for the property.

“Obviously, she wanted the whole farm saved. The barn was extremely important to her to be saved, and she wanted the hill to be saved,” Power said.

“There are things about the development I am happy about, but a lot of those things are only there because they’re in her will and her wishes.”

Power said Cooper envisioned single-family homes on the property, but not in the current density that is part of the development proposal.

She said Cooper also envisioned the property becoming a teaching farm for new dairy farmers and having a “social enterprise” aspect in which people with developmental disabilities or mental-health issues could work and live on the farm.

RELATED: Kathleen Cooper obituary

Power’s petition asks that, before approving the project, council consider the “heritage, cultural and community value” of the property to Abbotsford and issues such as traffic, the shortage of student spaces at nearby Margaret Stenersen elementary and a lack of recreational facilities.

Among the suggestions mentioned in the petition are to lower the density of housing and to retain the two acres where the original farmhouse sat and where the red barn is located.

Ideas suggested for the two acres include a petting zoo, community gardens, an educational park, or a teaching farm. The farmhouse and land could also be rented to the film industry, the petition states.

Other ideas for the farm mentioned in the petition include building a sports field, erecting a statue of Cooper, and including a playground and water park.

Power said she hopes the city can “take a pause” about the proposal and “make sure we’ve got it 150 per cent right.”

The full petition can be viewed by searching “Help Save Abbotsford Heritage Property Slated for Development” at change.org.

The public hearing on the matter takes place Monday at 6 p.m. at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, 32315 South Fraser Way. People wanting to speak on the matter are asked to form a line and announce their name (and address, if they desire) when it’s their turn.



vhopes@abbynews.com

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