Fredericton votes to protect berry u-pick
Deputy mayor says city is missing out on $1M in annual property tax revenue
Fredericton council voted on Monday night to forgo millions in potential future tax revenue to save a 26-hectare parcel of land that has been a popular berry picking spot for decades.
City council voted 8-4 in favour of zoning the Sunset Berry U-Pick and the adjacent forest and wetland area as open space and agricultural instead of residential.
The public gallery was filled with supporters of the urban farm on Monday night.
Gretta Wells, who had spent time earlier on Monday picking raspberries on the north side property, said the vote ended almost a year of uncertainty.
People in the area were told last November the property had been zoned for residential development.
But she said she’s thankful the city council voted to protect the land on Monday.
"I thought, 'Wow pinch me.' It’s fantastic. I am just really, really thrilled," she said.
City residents have used the 26-hectare property for three decades as an urban farm or enjoyed the walking trails in the area.
The city owns the property and through a lease agreement, the city has allowed David Walker to run his u-pick on a year-to-year basis.
Alan Haines, another supporter of the property, said it was important for city politicians to protect the space.
"This piece of ground can never be duplicated — never," Haines said.
"It is the one last, little piece of farm ground that you can say is in the city and is owned by city residents."
The zoning decision, however, was not unanimous.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Chase was one of four councillors who voted to keep the area zoned for residential development.
As cities, such as Fredericton, expand, there is more need for residential space, he argued.
Chase said the city estimated it could have generated roughly $1 million a year in property taxes if that land had been developed.
"We need tax base to pay for the quality of services that people expect," he said.
"We need tax revenue to continue to manage at a low tax rate. Growing our tax base responsibly is not bad either fiscally or from a planning perspective."