From: Regina Dalton
Subject: OCP

Change can be good. Yet Abbotsford would do well to also celebrate — and support — that which is already working. I am an unapologetic booster of downtown Abbotsford, and in my case I am referring to the “old” or “historic” downtown. It does not actually require the modifier — where else is there anything that remotely resembles a “downtown” in Abby?

And this is part of the problem, there appears to be a push in our current review of Abbotsford’s Official Community Plan (as there was, incidentally, all those years back when we had the previous review) to define some other area of Abbotsford as “the town centre”.

My personal bias is that the tax dollars already “invested” in and around our city hall (and those $$ yet to be spent) are the motivation here. After all I expect a justification may be needed for all that money spent in an area that remains essentially sterile.

I suggest we take a look at what is currently offered in Abby’s actual downtown. In one single block you can choose between Thai food, Vietnamese treats, Indian buffet, a busy independent coffee shop, and good old Canadian fare. Turn south and you’ve got fish & chips, as well as a Korean restaurant; turn north and you find specialty cupcakes (and two other very viable cafes). And sushi is the focus of more than one downtown restaurant.

Does even Vancouver give this choice in so small an area? Only in very select communities.

Then there are the festivals. Many years back those organizing Berry Beat did a count, and it came to over 20,000 attendees (of course folk such as myself who wandered in and out three or more times would have been counted three or more times — but you get the idea). I expect that number has at the very least held its own. (One year I met someone I knew from Vancouver, who came out specifically for Berry Beat.)

The annual car show makes us look all grown up, attracting more cars and visitors every year. And the tree lighting — providing free hot chocolate and cookies — pleases both kids and parents. The entertainment at all functions is invariably excellent.

Jam in Jubilee — most particularly now that it is organized by young folk in their 20s and 30s — stands up to festivals I have attended anywhere. And there are many more examples (wine-&-cheese tastings, art walks, etc.), events organized by the ADBA, that showcase Abby to its best advantage.  

The really interesting advantage for taxpayers is that all this entertainment is done on a shoe-string budget, which compares favourably to the millions per year that go into the white elephant on King Road.

All that considered, recognition of downtown, and its continued support by our city hall makes sense, both fiscally and as far as community spirit is concerned. 

Now I’d like to present a caution when it comes to simply spending money without any realistic expectation of return.

I was sorry to hear that Abby’s 2014 budget included $200,000 to go towards an analysis of the U-District. If development is viable, it will happen — if not it will not.   Abby taxpayers have already poured many millions into that area — via not only the newly-dubbed Abbotsford Centre, but the attendant costs, including the McCallum interchange and the widening of King Road. And, of course, the unintended consequences of widening King road — to accommodate traffic — has guaranteed pedestrians are even further marginalized.

Cut us a break on this, and please hold back on any further tax money going to that particular corner of Abby.
And that brings us to the civic centre, or district, or whatever it is going to be called. I realize that the province has already promised $$, and that the city has invested several million in purchasing land, and that the School Board has made sufficient $$ in selling community schools (more driving required to get students to schools further afield, of course) to add to the pot.

But I am concerned that even more municipal tax dollars will be required. And for what, exactly ?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the library, and the landscaping is very attractive. But no one walks in this area. In fact, parking is at a premium, and I am loathe to have more of my tax dollars subsidize private businesses that our city might want to “encourage” to attract “pedestrians”.
So, ultimately, will young folk be attracted to downtown, U-District, or the civic area? Even though I’d like to vote for the first, I don’t truly know if even that is realistic.

Many (not all) young Abbotsfordians (let’s say 16 and up) are very interested in Vancouver, and who can blame them? If you want to keep them in Abby, my opinion is that affordable rental property is the only way to go. I doubt city planners have missed the polling on this — renting is what most young folk aspire to, and that’s not due solely to finances — it’s actually a life-style choice.

One gathering place I neglected in my overview of downtown is O’Neill’s — a regular hang-out for many University of the Fraser Valley students. Why, one might ask, do students leave our wonderful university and come downtown to a restaurant that was popular from the beginning — location aside — and has been able to more than double its physical size?

Well, I guess you’d have to ask them.