LETTER: Field of dreams strategy not working

Recently Abbotsford council supported the rezoning of 225 acres of farmland for industrial use...

Does Abbotsford have an industrial land development strategy?

Recently Abbotsford council supported the rezoning of 225 acres of farmland for industrial use. This is in addition to the nearly 600 acres of vacant industrial land currently available in the city. Is this decision based on an industrial land development strategy that identifies the competitive advantages Abbotsford offers different industrial sectors or is this just a field of dreams approach – the more land we make available the more likely industry will come?

The field of dreams approach has not worked well in the past.  In the mid-1970s, land on the west side of Sumas Way was rezoned from farming to industrial. Industry did not come. Today most is in big box retail.

In the late 1990s, Abbotsford  hoped a growing airport would attract aviation-based industries – no aviation industrial businesses came. In 2005 the City in The Country plan called for ‘employment lands’ for a growing population. 440 acres of farmland was conditionally rezoned from farming to industrial use. The industrial sector still did not come. The only industrial sector to show steady growth in the last decade is the agriculture industrial sector.

Currently, there is a higher percent of available industrial land not being used for industrial purposes than there is farmland not being used for farming. It would be helpful to have an industrial land development strategy before eroding the production base of the one industrial sector – agriculture – that is strategically based here.

Mark Robbins, Abbotsford