By Mike Archer. If Abbotsford were to buck the trend of virtually every other municipality which has allowed homeless shelters in their downtown, and suffer lower real estate values for nearby properties, the owners of 2457 Montvue would have to be affected.
2547 Montvue is owned by Paul MacLeod, Larry Wiebe, Robert Wiebe and Marvin Wiebe. Larry Wiebe is owner of Vedder Transport and is closely associated with Ken Voth and Shawn Neumann, of Envision Credit Union.
Paul MacLeod is the President of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) and, as such, led the fight against the housing proposal which was, at times, based on fears that mom and pop stores in the ADBA would be adversely affected by taking 20 homeless men off the streets of downtown Abbotsford and housing them near their businesses.
That argument was certainly made by a number of downtown merchants in front of council. And Mayor Banman certainly lapped it up, re-itertaing the same arguments in his ‘Wisdom of Soloman’ address to council explaining why he was killing the project.
Abbotsford Today was asked to find out whether the ownership of the various properties under discussion as possible locations for the ACS/BC Housing supportive housing proposal had anything to do with the way the whole process evolved. We asked Paul MacLeod.
MacLeod is quite open and up front about the land he owns in downtown Abbotsford. Along with Bob Bos he was one of the first and biggest landowners in the area owning, at one time, ten pieces of property in downtown Abbotsford. He told Abbotsford Today the land he owns had nothing to do with his objection to the ACS/BC Housing proposal.
“My objection was based on the C7 Zoning which I maintain was a promise made by the City to the business owners of the ADBA. So long as the project was outside of the C7 Zoning I and the ADBA would probably have supported it. I didn’t believe we could allow the precedent to be set by breaking that promise,” says MacLeod.
Both Councillors Braun [ ACS Housing Proposal- Flawed Or Hijacked? ]and Loewen [ Is Integrity Of The C7 Zoning The Issue? ], have said that a second piece of property (Property B at the northeast corner of the map below), within the ADBA lands, was proposed as an alternative site to the one proposed by ACS (Property A at the south perimeter of the map below) and had the support of the ADBA executive. Property B was even closer to the center of downtown Abbotsford than ACS’ proposal.
What does that say for all of the arguments the ADBA has made against this whole process on behalf of the small business owners in downtown?
This is where the waters get a little murky and, without questioning anybody’s judgment, or taking sides, the confusion over what is or isn’t included in C7 zoning and what is or isn’t included in the BIA lands … or what is, or may be, considered C5 Zoning and whether or not that includes C7 zoning … sounds like a byzantine bureaucrat’s nightmare.
The fact remains – both properties would threaten the property values and the livelihoods of downtown merchants (by ADBA logic) but Property B is much closer to the mom and pop stores that Mayor Banman made such a fuss about in his explanation for killing the deal.
We asked all those involved for their understanding of the situation and we seem to have a reasonably accurate technical explanation of everybody’s position.
MacLeod told Abbotsford Today, “I have spoken to both councillors Braun and Loewen in regards to the fact that they claim I said I would support the housing project on a piece of land that was zoned in the C7. This was not the truth and somehow Braun, when checking into the parcel of land that I had said I would support the project on, was looking at the wrong piece of Land.
“I made it very clear from the start that I would support this housing project as long as it was outside the C7.
“Today this still remains my stand I think Councillors Braun and Loewen should stop using the Homeless to enhance their political careers and roll up their sleeves and try to find a solution that works for all.”
Counc. Dave Loewen told Abbotsford Today, “Humble Pie – There come times in everyone’s life when “humble pie” is the only item on the menu. Today I’m staring that menu in the face. I’ve learned this morning that Schedule ‘E’ of the staff report to Council regarding the ACS Housing Proposal is in fact INCORRECT! Whereas we were led to believe that the properties on the NW corner of Gladys and George Ferguson Way are in the C7 zone, they are in fact outside that zone.”I offer my sincere apology to the public for misleading them, and in particular, I apologize to Paul MacLeod and Tina Stewart, of the ADBA, for any embarrassment I may have caused them through the publishing of my article on this matter.
“As a former history teacher and one that always exhorted his students to have their information corroborated, I have failed to follow my own advice. Lesson learned – pie eaten!”
Counc. Braun told Abbotsford Today, “Based on information that I received – Schedule “E” [below], clearly outlined the lands that were zoned C5, which then became C7 zoned lands at the time the Bylaw was enacted.”It now appears, that Schedule “E” is in fact incorrect and includes lands that are outside of the C7 zone. Therefore, the lands (the alternative ACS site), located at the north-west corner of George Ferguson Way and Gladys Ave are, in fact, not zoned C7 but rather RM4 even though they are clearly shown on the schedule “E” as C7 zoned lands.”
“By way of background, I met with Paul MacLeod on Friday afternoon (February 28), to better understand why the ADBA was supportive of the alternate site located at the NW corner of George Ferguson and Gladys (Pine Street), while opposing the proposed ACS site, especially since the alternate site was much closer to the heart of the historic downtown. Mr. MacLeod stated that the alternate site was not zoned C7, hence, the ADBA could not oppose the site on the basis of C7 zoning. This came as a shock to me, which I expressed to Mr. MacLeod, followed by a statement along the lines of, “ … that does not line up with Reports that I received from the City Clerk’s office well in advance of the Public Hearing.”
“This morning, prior to [Abbotsford Today’s] request, I happened to have a discussion with our City Manager on this very topic , who confirmed that the lots in question for the alternate site are in fact zoned RM 4, and not C7.
“I understood that to mean that Schedule “E” attached to the original Bylaw is incorrect. Although I only became aware of this earlier this morning, my initial concern is how many other properties are not zoned C7 that are shown as being zoned C7 on Schedule “E”?
“To further complicate an already puzzling situation, I was also under the impression that the Business Improvement Area (“BIA”), mirrored the C7 zoned lands within the ADBA. However, that assumption may also be incorrect.
“I just finished comparing the lands shown on Schedule “E” (C7 zoned lands), to Schedule “A”, which show properties that are included in the BIA. It quickly became apparent that the two schedules do not capture the same properties.
“It appears that 15 or 16 properties on the western edge of the C7 zone are not included in the BIA. Additionally, the northern boundary of the BIA captures an area of land between the two railway rights-of-way that is also not part of the C7 zone. Since I was not on Council when the BIA and C7 came into being, it is impossible for me to know what was intended. In any event, the only way to know for certain as to which properties are part of the BIA and which are zoned C7.
“In light of this latest information, and since there appears to be a discrepancy between the two Schedules attached to the originating Bylaw’s (Zoning and the BIA), our staff will have to take it from here.
“*Please note that I have copied Mr. Murray so that he is aware of our dialogue and who may have further insights/details that neither Councillor Loewen or I have answers for.”
There would have been additional costs associated with Property B since ACS demanded the City cover the costs of new architectural drawings and the increased cost of servicing the building from a distance, but the question remains.
If there is another piece of land (Property B), within the ADBA or, technically just outside of it (depending on the version of the map being used), which is closer to the heart of downtown than that of ACS/ BC Housing property, which the ADBA Executive was prepared to give up in lieu of the proposed property (Property A) across from the ACS, how should the ADBA membership feel about the fact their executive was apparently prepared to make a deal that would protect land owned by their president and several wealthy Abbotsford residents, but allow the project to go ahead in an area closer to where most of the individual ‘Mom and Pop’ stores are located?
Paul MacLeod has been completely consistent in his opposition to the ACS/BC Housing proposal. He has opposed it because of the C7 Zoning.
We are looking for an answer that would explain the ADBA executive’s willingness to strike a deal that would have put the low-barrier shelter closer to the heart of downtown than the ACS was proposing?
MacLeod’s explanation is clear. It was zoned C7 which took it off the table. The fact it appeared OK to the ADBA if it was outside the C7 zone puts paid to the notion it was proximity to mom and pop stores which motivated anybody who opposed the proposal.
Editor’s Note: The map below is, to the best of our knowledge correct and after checking numerous times with numerous sources we believe the map reflects the two properties being discussed. If we are provided with convincing evidence that the map should be altered we will make any necessary adjustments. It is worth noting, for the sake of clarity and fairness to all concerned, that it took several days and a number of versions of the map, for us to arrive at this rendering. Regardless of the minutia of the discussion, the question remains – Why was the ADBA prepared to accept a deal which would have put the ‘horrors’ of a supportive housing project closer to the heart of the downtown than the ACS proposed site?