For eight long-years the community of Bradner has been fending off industrial development - the majority of us breath a huge sigh of relief with each failed Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR) exclusion application for 331 acres on Bradner's western border, and brace in apprehension for when the next application will be attempted.
The Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) continues to side with our community - in their repeated denials they provided reasons for denying the exclusion applications including that west Bradner has high agricultural capability, is in active agricultural production and has been previously refused to be removed form the ALR. The ALC also stated that it expected the City of Abbotsford to undertake more detailed planning with respect to more acceptable locations for industrial expansion prior to considering the re-designation of ALR lands for industrial uses.
To date, the ALC has turned down all attempts to exclude the 331 acres (134 ha) at the western edge of our community. But... two years ago the developer, Pacific Land Resource Group Inc., purchased the greater majority of the properties within the area.
Despite overwhelming community opposition the City of Abbotsford still proceeded with their second exclusion application + an appeal while collecting paycheques from our tax dollars. The betrayal by Bradner's own city leaders is not surprising, when it comes to money it seems the city will do anything for a greater tax base. After all - farm property tax rates are a eensy-tiny fraction of what they could collect annually on industrially zoned properties. More concerning, Mayor Henry Braun and the majority of his city council traded their support for $20,000/acre to the city's "Agricultural Enhancement Endowment Fund"...
That stinks more than a load of chicken manure. We recently learned that Braun himself said that the "New industrial growth plan should still include conversion of farmland". (In reference to the new FVRD Regional Growth Strategy that is currently being drafted.)
Conversion? Industrial Growth Plan? Someone is making lots of friends in their playground.
Braun also says "the next plan for the Fraser Valley’s growth should continue to include the eventual development of 134 hectares of farmland on the western edge of the city". He means 331 acres (134 ha) in west Bradner.
West Bradner is immediately north of Highway #1 and just east of Gloucester Estates Industrial Park, it has long been salivated as the potential home for more industry.
Jumping to today, we recently learned through The Abbotsford News that west Bradner, according to Braun, was "conspicuously omitted" from the new first draft of the FVRD Regional Growth Strategy. The FVRD has started work on a new document that attempts to lay out a region-wide plan for growth for the next decades. Interesting... I wonder if they've asked the Bradner community what we envision for the future?
The 2004 FVRD 'growth plan' designated west Bradner for growth – a fact that Braun noted regularly when discussing the city’s past two requests (and one appeal) to remove west Bradner from the ALR.
But this recent draft of the FVRD's new 'strategy' omitted west Bradner - and
"That, (Braun told The Abbotsford News), will need to change".
In turn, FVRD staff say "it will".
And you'll never guess who was on the FVRD Board for 6 years and continues to serve as an Alternate Director? You guessed it! Henry Braun. Front and centre.
In line with industrial ideals, Braun has narrowed the goal for west Bradner from 'general industry' to 'food processing and other forms of industry that "support" the agriculture sector... In an interview with The Abbotsford News, Braun referenced a recent report titled The Future of BC's Food System by the BC Food Security Task Force, that - according to Braun called for BC to become a “global agri-tech leader by spurring more innovation in the sector".
What the report actually says is that British Columbia has the potential to be a leader in the area of agricultural technology; however, a lack of available flexibly-zoned land has created a "bottleneck" for scaling this new area of the economy. The food security task force committee recommends that up to .25% of the ALR be made available for agricultural-industrial activities at the discretion of a commissioner of agricultural-industrial lands - a role to be created - to oversee a provincial agricultural-industrial land strategy.
While there is no doubt that as the report states - creating a dedicated area for agricultural-industrial activity will give businesses in food and agri-tech a strategic place to locate and will invite the growth of the industry. No such zoning exists.
The report goes on to say that - right now agri-industrial businesses compete with non-food related industrial businesses to operate on industrial land. And that there is also a pronounced "shortage" of industrial land within the lower mainland. This is compounded by the existing regulations which do not allow for large scale [food] processing (unless 50% of materials are grown on site), or are concrete-floor agriculture (indoor growing). Activities such as technology development or manufacturing are also not compliant with permissible uses on ALR land.
Braun went onto say "the City of Abbotsford has no intention of touching the region’s most-productive farmland on Matsqui and Sumas prairies"... While a thorough Google search pulls up no such data on community divisions within Abbotsford of "most productive farmland". Rather the UFV states that Abbotsford [as a whole] is Canada’s most economically productive farm community, adding $800 million dollars in farm sales each year to the economy. Are we picking favourites now? After all it was Braun who told me in person that a lot of Bradner is just fields with nothing in them... wow I wonder what he thinks livestocks eat? Apparently he doesn't know that hay sells for $10-15/square/bale and $75-90 for round bales? And that most hay farmers only sell their hay by the tonne.
While Braun no longer sits on the FVRD board he remains an Alternate Director, at a recent FVRD meeting City of Abbotsford, Councillor Ross Siemens voiced a similar view while reiterating council’s desire to include the land in the strategy.“75% of our land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), so even as we’re looking at the green economy, ag-industrial, we’re going to need more land, specifically for that type of operation,” Siemens said. “When we’re talking about industrial. We’re not talking about smoke stacks and polluting, we’re talking about how we process food.”
Siemens was then told by FVRD planners that west Bradner would be included in future versions of the new FVRD Regional Growth Strategy. “We’re more than happy to incorporate that,” Alison Steward, the FVRD’s manager of strategic planning, said in response to Siemens’ question about whether the “special study areas” could be included in the strategy. “This version [of the strategy] is really for discussion purposes and to identify things that are missing.”
Tyler Olsen Abbotsford News says "The inclusion of west Bradner in the new [growth] strategy will worry some, but Abbotsford’s politicians are largely united on the issue." I guess he's talking about us Bradnerites.
In a marathon council hearing in July 2017 that went past midnight - just before the west Bradner (Special Study Are A) and (Special Study Area B, South Mt Lehman) exclusion application was submitted to the ALC by the City of Abbotsford, dozens of people spoke against the exclusion application, with several warning that it would “destroy” Bradner.
But city council voted 8-1 to proceed and apply to remove west Bradner (and South Mt Lehman) from the ALR, with Braun and others citing the city’s lack of land for industry and the west Bradner properties’ "mediocre soil".
The ALC rejected many of the city’s arguments for why the lands should be excluded, saying the properties could be farmed and that it wasn’t the commission’s duty to solve the industrial land crunch in Abbotsford.
Braun took heat from opponents of the plan, but the plan didn’t hurt him politically; during the 2018 municipal election, Braun scooped up 61% of votes cast at Bradner Hall. While the overall voter turnout was a mere 35%.
Braun expects the matter to return to the council table in the near future. “Either this council or the next council will be revisiting those study areas,” he said. In reference to the Special Study Areas A and B.
Nearly 170 different species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, 22 of which are endangered or threatened, call west Bradner home.
Nathan Creek is a Coho and Chum salmon spawning creek. The Abbotsford Mission Nature Club has identified many species including the Oregon Forest Snail, Pacific Water Shrew, Northern Red Legged Frog, Western Toad, Barn Owl, Great Blue Heron, Short-eared Owl, Western Screech Owl; Barn Swallow, and Townsend Big Eared Bat.
The watershed area contains tributaries to Nathan Creek and any industrial development will rely 100% on Nathan Creek for storm drainage. If an industrial park is built in the Nathan Creek watershed, its tributaries will be significantly impacted by environmental degradation, and instability from upland drainage, resulting in declines of salmon population, slope failures in riparian areas threatening the designated sensitive stream.
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