Industrial Lands – ALC exclusion application: Comments by Sandy Blue

As our community grows and changes Council is faced with challenges and opportunities related to the needs of our growing city. In simple terms we are talking about jobs and food. I think most will agree that we need both.

A ‘complete community’ is one that includes a wide range of employment opportunities for our citizens. Our diverse economy includes many sectors – agriculture paramount among them – but there are many others and they need a place to set up and to grow as well.

With that in mind, we need to think to the future and to where the jobs will be. We know quality of life is improved, and pollution from vehicles reduced with shorter commutes – so we need to think to think ahead and make provisions that will ensure we have land for jobs right here in Abbotsford.  The Industrial Lands study and the report before us today detail the extensive work has been done to provide us the background we need to make our decisions.

By moving Industrial uses off Agricultural land; and by actively farming fallow land it is possible to achieve both outcomes – increasing our industrial tax base AND substantially increasing viability and yield from farms.

While I am passionate about agriculture, I’m also realistic about the challenges we face. The evidence is clear that we need more Industrial land. Increasing Industrial uses does two things – it creates high value jobs; and it brings in the taxes that will make it possible to provide the services our growing city needs – including improvements in roads and traffic.

The residents of Bradner spoke about their love for ‘their community’.  When I think about the difficult decision before us, I want to say that I firmly believe it is possible for us to maintain the distinctive character and rural lifestyle these neighbours spoke of AND coexist with the industrial uses outlined in the Industrial Lands report.  And having carefully reviewed the extensive information available to us – I believe sending the exclusion application forward is the responsible thing to do as it will also provide the clarity and certainty needed to stop further land speculation.

What Abbotsford looks like in the future will be determined in large part on the decision of council tonight. And if we decide to forward an exclusion application to the ALC – the future will of course depend on their subsequent decision.

Whether any of the lands in Study Areas A or B are removed for Industry – it is clear there are some issues and opportunities that should be explored for potential solutions – including intensifying industry on vacant or underutilized industrial land; and intensifying agriculture on fallow or underutilized agricultural land.  We need to focus attention to both Industrial and Agricultural land.

Through our work on the Official Community Plan last year and the close to 20 Master Plans and Neighbourhood Plans currently underway I am so pleased to see the unprecedented level of engagement from a diverse range of perspectives across our city – as we all work together to build the Abbotsford of tomorrow…the Abbotsford we will all to be proud to call home.

At the July 17 Public Hearing on the Industrial Lands this auditorium was packed with citizens, some of whom stayed until almost midnight to hear the discussion. Council listened intently to each and every one as dozens of speakers came to the microphone to share their thoughts with us. Not everyone spoke against the exclusion – including people who live in both areas. In fact we heard from many residents who spoke in favour of the exclusion.

I heard several themes emerge that night, and together with all of the background reports, studies, forecasts and analysis I have thoughtfully contemplated this important decision.

I’m convinced that this is the ideal time, and we have an unprecedented opportunity to SHIFT the conversation to help achieve the outcomes envisioned in the OCP – to address BOTH the need for industrial land for jobs and to enhance agriculture.

In conclusion, I support sending an exclusion application forward to the ALC for their consideration. Also as outlined in my comments earlier today on the  AgRefresh update I would encourage staff to explore ways we can proactively  support and encourage agriculture in Abbotsford.

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