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UPDATE: ‘Abbotsford’s Silicon Valley’ working with city on Sumas Mountain plans

Abbotsford Tech District previously submitted letter that slammed the city
Plans for the Abbotsford Tech District on Sumas Mountain include a centre for innovation and food security, housing, and commercial and professional services.

The developers behind a proposal to create what they describe as “Abbotsford’s Silicon Valley” previously wrote a scathing letter in opposition to the city’s plans for the McKee Peak area of Sumas Mountain.

But Gavin Dew, the chief strategy office for the Abbotsford Tech District (ATD), says they have since developed a better working relationship with the city.

In the previous letter, Auguston Town Development Inc., which is behind the proposed 100-acre ATD on Sumas Mountain, calls the McKee Peak Neighbourhood Plan “an assault on private property rights.”

“It is based on a broken and flawed process that has wasted time and taxpayer dollars to produce a commercially nonsensical plan that will never be built,” the letter states.

It is signed by Ian Renton, general manager of Auguston Town Development.

It is one of almost 100 letters the city has received – and posted on its website – ahead of a public hearing Monday night (March 6) in relation to the neighbourhood plan. The correspondence is from residents, businesses and organizations both for and against the plan.

The ATD letter was submitted to the city last July, Dew said, when the previously planned (and cancelled) public hearing was scheduled.

“The dynamics have evolved quite a bit since then; we are taking a different approach with a different administration,” Dew said Monday afternoon.

“Over the last several months we have been working collaboratively with city staff on bringing forward an OCP (Official Community Plan) amendment for the Abbotsford Tech District lands. That would provide a focused standalone process for ATD, which would allow stakeholders, staff, and council to help make the most of a generational opportunity.”

Dew said the ATD, rather than “continuing to oppose this plan out of frustration,” has chosen to accept it “so long as the incremental technical concerns our planning consultants have flagged are addressed.”

He said the ATD at the public hearing will also be talking about their support for “creative approaches to preserve, enhance and maintain trails for generations to come.”

The fourth and final phase of the McKee Peak Neighbourhood Plan was presented to council on Jan. 30.

RELATED: Plan sees McKee Peak area as ‘outdoor adventure hub’ in Abbotsford

At that time, Mayor Ross Siemens described it as “a concept plan that will be discussing land use and density.”

The plan will be used by council in making decisions about future development in the McKee neighbourhood. The area of 2,080 acres (842 hectares) is known for its open space and trails, and is currently largely undeveloped.

The plan says “McKee Village” will be the “heart of the new neighbourhood,” with a mix of multi-family and commercial uses that include shops, restaurants, cafes and other services.

The plan also calls for creating a publicly accessible green network, which includes parks, open spaces, views and trails, while “maintaining environmental integrity.”

The ADT has been in the planning stages for several years after their first proposal – We Town – was rejected by city council in late 2019.

RELATED: We Town concept shelved by Abbotsford council

The ADT is about eight per cent the size of We Town, and the developers say it could include a centre for innovation and food security; spaces for start-ups, entrepreneurs and post-secondary institutions; complementary commercial and professional services; thousands of new homes; and farm-to-table restaurants and coffee shops.

The letter from Renton states that Auguston Development owns 44 per cent of the land included in the McKee Peak Neighbourhood Plan.

Several of the other letters received by council were in support of the Tech District, including from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, University of the Fraser Valley, and the BC Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, letters from residents opposed to the neighbourhood plan primarily express concerns about potential damage to wildlife and the ecosystem.

“This is an unusually environmentally sensitive area, home to the rare mountain beaver. I hope that the plan can be modified to include more robust protection for this and other species,” one letter stated.

Letters in favour of the plan say it will bring much-needed housing to the area, while enhancing outdoor recreation and creating 17 acres of private land into public parks.

The public hearing on Monday starts at 6 p.m. at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. It will be live-streamed on the city website and can also be attended in person.

The neighbourhood plan is expected to come back before council on March 27 to be considered for final approval.

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Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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