IMG_6155(Looking down towards the city retention pond.)

The following email was sent to Abbotsford, BC mayor Henry Braun:

31806 –31850 Marshall Road: Request to change zoning from future Industrial to a Banquet Hall and Commercial businesses

Back in 2005, land bordered by roughly Clearbrook, Marshall, Townline and King was removed from the ALR at the request of the City.  Abbotsford council said we needed more land for Industry.

Last Wednesday, May 13/15,  Mr. Sharma, who bought up 3 houses on Marshall some 7 years ago, and has been lobbying Council to rezone for a lot of those years, (according to him), had his proposal for an amendment to the OCP displayed at the Abbotsford Traditional Secondary School.  Mr. Sharma, is now asking council to AMEND the Official Community Plan to allow him to put a 700 plus banquet hall on one floor with the other floor to be used for assorted Commercial businesses.

Given the expense the applicant has put into complex blueprints, it would seem Mr. Sharma has some expectation of success in his bid.

So the STORY was that we needed stable, decent paying INDUSTRY, so please dear AL Commission, release this big chunk of land, because Abbotsford needs more good-paying jobs.

Then the City spent 8 to 10 million on a retention pond behind Homestead Nursery, – for those coming Industrial plants.

But now a man who bought up some houses in speculation wants the City to grant him an exemption, so that according to him, he can give employment to some 20 to 40 people. I pointed out to Mr. Sharma that those would in all likelihood be primarily part-time,…… minimum wage jobs,…….nothing at all like the promise of decent, family-sustaining jobs.

This amendment besides being nothing like the reason given for taking agricultural land out of the ALR, would set a precedent for future exemption requests.  Abbotsford has a lot of commercial ‘businesses’ along the Clearbrook Road corridor that are very doubtful, and neither the City, nor the police seem able or willing to monitor what business is happening at some these places.

City staff and consultants and the public expend time and money planning what Abbotsford should look like, to make it sensible, efficient and liveable, with a view to the long-range improvement of the city.  The resulting Official Community Plan should not be altered willy-nilly to accommodate the financial gain of land speculators.

People are free to buy land in hopes of rezoning to more lucrative value, but city councils are under no obligation to accommodate speculators.  Rather the duty of city council is to guide development with a view to enhance the entire region, for the present and into the future.

Mr. Sharma should apply to set up his banquet hall on land zoned for parties, banquets and weddings, not seek an alteration of the OCP on these acres.  Currently his properties are zoned ‘Residential’ and he is free to continue that use, but any change from Residential, as it is under the current OCP must be to Industrial.

We have a lot of land suitable for food-services, with many ‘CLOSED’ signs waiting for new business to take over.   Leave these acres for the promised Industry, that was the reason for ALR exclusion, and let commercial operations set up in areas so designated.

According to city staff, the next step is a public hearing.  So expect a large number of ‘Yes’ people to come out in support of the proponent, and watch the pressure to follows the pattern of council giving in to projects that are not for the betterment of Abbotsford, but rather the profit of a few.  The OCP becomes meaningless in this ritual.

I’m hoping others will get more conversant with this proposal, and this process, and engage with Mayor and Council on how our city should develop. The economy took a serious downturn but meanwhile land removed from farming, ostensibly to provide future, stable industrial jobs, should not now be frittered away, piecemeal for the profit of land speculators.

– Gerda Peachey

PAbbotsford ALR exclusion