By Paul MacLeod. The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) has been opposed to the location of the proposed ACS housing project since day one.
No, we are not afraid of the homeless, nor do we hate them or believe that anyone has the right to harass or abuse them. They are part of our community and together, we all need to give them a helping hand.
The ADBA is not made up of developers or multiple property owners exclusively, the majority of our membership is small businesses that employ 1 to 5 people. The ACS has a budget of 20 million dollars a year and the BC Housing budget for 2012 was 796.6 million dollars. Who is bullying who?
The bylaws that we are so eagerly trying to protect are the reason that the Historic Downtown has changed from a decaying city center to a vibrant area that is now a great place to shop and work. Many landlords, at great cost to themselves, could not rent their buildings to businesses that were disqualified by the bylaws. Prospective developers could not get approval to build projects that did not meet the bylaw commitments of the C7.
The City of Abbotsford is made up of 375 square kilometers and the C7 zone is only 4 square kilometers. Surely we can find a location for this housing project that does not have bylaws that exclude housing projects. The small entrepreneurs of the ADBA don’t receive or have they ever received grants from the civic or provincial governments, yet they pay the highest property taxes in the City of Abbotsford. Let’s not forget that it’s the tax payers that fund the social services that help our needy. Let’s not cripple the businesses and tax payers that make our community service work.
If this project goes through, it will set a precedent that will allow anything to be built in our downtown. At the Public Hearing on February 3rd, we heard many great stories from around the province about lives being changed by great organizations like ACS, and we applaud these organizations for what they do. We did not hear any specific reason from ACS or BC Housing justifying this particular housing project’s proposed location in Downtown Abbotsford, other than it is more convenient for ACS staff and that they have a government grant to build the project.
The Mayor and Council have to decide to allow or not allow this project to go forward at this location. If they make the decision to discard their agreement with the ADBA because of the convenience and the money for this project, what kind of a message will that send out to the world around us? If you come to Abbotsford with money and a convenient idea, we will discard our prior agreements and commitments and allow anything to be built.
At the public hearing, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Mike Welte, said that in the event that the housing project finds a site outside of the C7, he will come on board and help build it, as would the ADBA.
We have the unique position of having three MLA’s that represent our community and the government of the day, a city hall that understands we need to help the homeless and many churches and community organizations that would come on board. Let’s not let this issue divide our city any longer. Let us find a suitable location, raise funds and work together to build this home; after all, we are all trying to make a better Abbotsford.