A proposed industrial development in the Bradner area is either a boon to the local economy or a blight on the idyllic rural lifestyle, according to those who spoke at a public consultation meeting on Monday night.
The public was invited to provide input to Abbotsford city council on a plan to remove 22 properties, totalling about 225 acres, from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALRD) to build the "West Abbotsford Business Park."
The properties are bordered by Highway 1 to the south, Lefeuvre Road to the east, 56 Avenue/Harris Road to the north, and Gloucester Industrial Estates to the west.
Preceding the public comments, developer Ron Emerson of the Emerson Real Estate Group said the project would result in 5,000 permanent full-time jobs and provide $11 million in property taxes to the city each year.
He said an "acute shortage" of industrial land in the Lower Mainland and the site's proximity to a railway, freeway and border make it an appealing development opportunity.
However, some local residents opposed more development in an area that already sees busy truck and railway track linked to the Gloucester project.
"This is not just another source of cash for our city; this is our home … We want to continue to be known as the daffodil capital of Canada, not the warehouse capital," said Bradner resident Lynda Richard.
Others were critical of the notion that the area's poor soil quality makes it unsuitable for farming and, therefore, it would not be a loss to exclude it from the ALR.
Lynn Perrin said she farmed land in the area for 17 years, producing vegetables and raising beef, poultry and pork.
"I fed at least 20 families from my five-acre farm," she said.
Another speaker said that greenhouses and mushroom farms are ideal for the area, because they can be built on top of gravel.
But others attested to the difficulties in farming the land. One man, who was in support of the industrial development, said he had been a farmer for 35 years and has never had any success in that area.
"The only thing coming out of there are marijuana grow-ops."
A woman said she and her family had tried to raise goats in the area but the animals' feet "rotted off."
Proponents of the project, including several University of the Fraser Valley students, cited the boost in jobs and in the city's "economic security."
Bryan Sanders, who owns one of the 22 properties proposed in the ALR exclusion, said he favours the development because of its long-term impacts for all of Abbotsford.
"Don't be afraid to think ahead, and don't be afraid to think big," he told council.
Monday's session was the third meeting in the public consultation process. City staff will now complete a technical review of the application and prepare a report for council.
An official public hearing will be held at a later date.