Former gravel pit could become 12 small farms

An Abbotsford businessman wants to turn a former gravel pit into 12 small farms, but he will have to do so without the endorsement of city hall.

The Agricultural Land Commission will decide the fate of the properties without help from Abbotsford Council.

After a long debate, council voted to send a boundary realignment request to the ALC without recommendations.

A former gravel pit on Lefeuvre Road could be transformed into 12 parcels of farmland

A former gravel pit on Lefeuvre Road could be transformed into 12 parcels of farmland

An Abbotsford businessman wants to turn a former gravel pit into 12 small farms, but he will have to do so without the endorsement of city hall.

The Agricultural Land Commission will decide the fate of the properties without help from Abbotsford Council.

After a long debate, council voted to send a boundary realignment request to the ALC without recommendations.

The dozen connected lots are located on Huntingdon Road (two parcels) and Lefeuvre Road (10 parcels) and vary in size from 0.40 hectares to 8.02 hectares.

A former gravel pit that was never restored to functioning farmland, the properties have sat unused for years. They were purchased, between 2005 and 2006, by local farmer and businessman Jasbir Banwait. He wants to change the oddly shaped parcels into 12 more evenly sized lots, ranging from 4.05 to 4.3 hectares each.

The plan also calls for 1,225,000 square metres of soil to be brought in to re-grade the site.

However, some councillors were concerned the planned changes could create 12 estate properties, rather than functioning farms.

Coun. Simon Gibson said the “manner in which it has been configured” could lead people to think estate properties would be developed.

Coun. Dave Loewen agreed, and both suggested denying the motion outright.

But Mayor George Peary was on the other side of the argument, telling councillors that something had to be done.

“I am embarrassed by the moonscape out there on Lefeuvre Road,” said Peary.

Both sides compromised and agreed to send it forward with no recommendations.

“I think this is a fair way to deal with it,” said Gibson.

After the meeting, Peary was still unhappy with the decision.

“I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more support around the table. Maybe the Agricultural Land Commission will be less appalled by the idea,” said Peary.

He said the city’s Agricultural Advisory Committee supported the boundary realignment, and the 12 smaller properties fit into the city’s plans.

“Part of our agriculture strategy is to get young people into farming,” said Peary.

Ten-acre farms are easier to purchase than 30 acres, he added.