Abbotsford approves bid for removing farmland protection
Council seeks to unfreeze agricultural parcels for future industrial growth
Abbotsford City Council voted in favour of removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve Tuesday, despite opposition from farmers.
Mayor Henry Braun told On the Coast host Richard Zussman he voted in favour of freeing farmland for development because the city needs industrial land for new industry and jobs.
"One of the responsibilities ... is to ensure there's employment lands for the next 60,000 people that will move to Abbotsford," Braun said, citing population projections in the 2016 official community plan.
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The two affected areas of farmland total about 201 hectares. Braun said it is less than one per cent of the ALR-protected lands within the City of Abbotsford's boundaries.
The removal of land from the ALR still requires approval from the province's Agricultural Land Commission.
Local farmers and environmentalists have criticized the plan.
4th-generation farmers affected
John Visser, an Abbotsford resident and director with the Fraser Valley Conservancy, opposed the farmland protection removal.
"The impact immediately would be felt by the farming community itself in Bradner," Visser said. "Some are fourth-generation people living there."
"And I think the larger community would be affected, as we see industrial sprawl creeping up the Fraser Valley for no really good reason other than just affordability of land."
Braun said city officials had no alternate to ALR-protected land in their search for suitable industrial sites.
The advantages of the two parcels chosen by council was proximity to transportation, including the airport and rail service, with some industrial development already in place.
"These are lands that are the least productive of agricultural lands," Braun said.
"All we're doing is forwarding a recommendation to the Agricultural Land Commission and they have a process that they must follow," he said.
With files from On the Coast