Abbotsford council voted Monday to move the request forward, as recommended by staff, despite objections from some Bradner residents.
The proposal asks for the removal of 22 properties, totalling about 225 acres, from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in order to build the “West Abbotsford Business Park.”
The properties are bordered by Hwy. 1 to the south, Lefeuvre Road to the east, 56 Avenue/Harris Road to the north, and Gloucester Industrial Estates to the west.
The project could result in 5,000 permanent full-time jobs and provide the city with about $11 million in property taxes each year, as well as $14 million in development cost charges.
The city will also receive a contribution of $20,000 per acre for the Agricultural Enhancement Endowment Fund for land excluded from the ALR.
Developer Ron Emerson of the Emerson Real Estate Group, which is making the proposal, said there are many benefits to creating the new industrial area.
He said the project will support both the Abbotsford Airport and Tradex as well as the University of the Fraser Valley as more people are attracted to the area.
“We fully expect that this project will be serviced and full to capacity within about five years.”
Couns. Patricia Ross and Henry Braun voted against the proposal.
“I’m looking at not just what we will gain, but what we will lose forever and that would be a significant amount of agricultural land, community spirit and quality of life that is extremely rare,” said Ross.
Braun’s objections revolved around possible hidden costs to the city, including transit issues, police, fire and other services as well as infrastructure costs.
Braun said one of the long-term proposals is to create a full interchange to improve access from Hwy. 1.
“Someone other than the applicant will be responsible for the full interchange cost,” said Braun.
Emerson said if and when that had to be built they would look at provincial and federal government funding.
Braun also raised concerns about water use in the industrial area and how it will impact the city’s overall water consumption.
Residents of Bradner were divided on the issue.
More than 30 people spoke on the proposal, both for and against.
Brian Sanders, who owns one of the properties to be removed from the ALR, voiced his support.
“It just makes so much sense on so many levels,” he said. “If Abbotsford does not take advantage of this situation, I’m sure some other jurisdiction will.”
Pat Brady, who presented council with 30 letters opposed to the proposal, said, “Will removal of this land preserve, protect and/or enhance agriculture? What is proposed today is less country and another 225 acres of city.”
The ALC has the final say in whether the properties will be removed from the ALR.
Banman noted that even if approval is given by the ALC, the entire issue has to come back before council for rezoning, discussion and a public hearing.