The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce has reiterated its strong opposition to locating a proposed supportive housing project to house 20 homeless men within the downtown Abbotsford Business Improvement Area and is urging the business community to support its position at the Feb 3 public hearing City Hall.

In an advocacy letter circulated this week, Chamber President Mike Welte says that Abbotsford’s high unemployment rate and need for business investment trump the needs of desperate men and women living on Abbotsford’s streets or the millions of dollars infused into the local economy by BC Housing to create jobs – both for the construction of the building and the long-term employment possibilities generated by the facility.

Welte says that filling the empty lot across the street from the ACS with a supportive housing project would go against the Economic Development Action Plan the Chamber wrote for Mayor Banman.

A Letter from the President

At 7:00pm on February 3rd, a very important public hearing will be held at the Matsqui Auditorium regarding a rezoning application for a 21-unit supportive recovery facility proposed by Abbotsford Community Services (ACS).  The proposed location is within the defined Downtown Abbotsford Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the Chamber strongly opposes the rezoning application, as it is contrary to the intent and purpose for which the City created the BIA in the first place.  I truly believe that the business community has not had the opportunity to fully understand the economic impact of this potential application or had the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Downtown Abbotsford has been in a state of revitalization for well over 10 years.  Mayor and Council created the Business Improvement Area and the C7 zoning bylaw with the sole purpose of creating economic growth in an area plagued by undesirable and illegal activities, as well as other factors inhibiting healthy redevelopment.  In an effort to clean up our downtown, the city created the C7 zone which explicitly prohibits supportive recovery facilities in this zone.  Council made a promise to the owners, merchants and residents that they were committed to improvement, beautification and maintenance; conservation of heritage property; and encouraging businesses within the BIA.

The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association has worked tirelessly to uphold the spirit and intent of this bylaw, even as far as turning away businesses that didn’t fit within the bylaw.  Revitalization of the historic downtown core has been a great success and I am proud to say the downtown core now has a vacancy rate of about 5%, which is down from a staggering 65% prior to this area plan and the C7 zone.  The announcement of this project has already resulted in business uncertainty and further vacancy in an area that has reached its saturation of social service agencies in the very small 4 sq km Business Improvement Area.

As unemployment in Abbotsford hits 7.7% we need to be mindful that land in the BIA is the catalyst for entrepreneurship and job creation and results in an increased tax base for Abbotsford, lessening the financial burden on our businesses and residents. Furthermore, in December 2013 city council adopted the Economic Development Action Plan.  According to this plan, land in the downtown core must be reserved to “facilitate business retention and expansion, attract new business and investment, promote smart growth, and advance a business-friendly investment climate” for future generations.  It is important to note that, if approved, this proposed rezoning application would undermine four of the six objectives in the Action Plan.

It is time for the business community to articulate to Mayor and Council that the downtown core must remain an area reserved for commercial business interests and jobs for future generations to come.  I want to challenge businesses in Abbotsford to attend this public hearing, call the City at (604 851-4168) or write Mayor and Council showing your support for small business and the merchants in Downtown Abbotsford.  They have made considerable investment, financially, emotionally and in effort to the improvement of the downtown core and are concerned about what could happen to their livelihood if this rezoning application is approved. Please show your opposition to this project’s location on or before February 3rd.

Mike Welte

2013/15 President


Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Bas Stevens says:

    Quite obviously Mr. Welte does not understand that this facility will bring added employment to our employment-starved community. It will infuse close to $10 million dollars into the downtown area.

    In a letter that I sent to Mr. Welte, I suggested that he take a walk or drive through the downtown area and count the number of closed businesses/vacant storefronts. There are many! Included in this number are at least 4-5 restaurants who have shut their doors because they were no longer able to be profitable.Times are changing and it is high time that both the ADBA and the Mayor and Council realize this.

    One might want to ask the question, “how is the city supporting the ADBA and merchants when they give millions to developers to build malls, poorly designed, I might add, instead of infusing those millions into the existing business area – the South Fraser Way/ Essendene corridor?”

    Unfortunately, the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the ADBA and the Mayor and Council have it all wrong. For a community that is known to be the most giving in all of Canada, one would think that the giving starts at home, looking after our own, before we support others less fortunate in other parts of the world.

    Abbotsford, wake up, spring is coming. It is time to smell the roses, so to speak. Stop standing in the way of change! Change is good! Change is healthy! Do the right thing and support the ACS Supportive Housing Proposal.

  • Deceit in Drugs says:

    Over the years, the city has had several OCP’s and numerous rezoning changes within the city.

    Gladwin Road residential neighbourhood has been rezoned for a Mill Lake Tower despite opposition and it was chamber members, who came out to support the rezoning.

    Now, members of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce seem to think, that the BIA is the only area in the city, which should be sheltered from zoning changes.

    Other parts of the city are left to find their own way in terms of development. Many businesses in and around cities’ core are struggling with crime and drugs and gang activity and have been for years, without any special protected zoning to help promote growth and development.

    What makes the Abbotsford Chamber think that the BIA qualifies protection to prevent recovery homes yet neighborhoods (place, where the consumers live)in city are filled with recovery houses, domestic violence shelters, mental health related care homes in addition to the drug houses run by gang members.

    The ADBA voted against an expanded Salvation Army and 9 bed recovery home back in 2003. It has now been ten years and the homeless problem is still in the same parts of the historic downtown.

    The chamber says it supports the low barrier housing but not in that location.

    Perhaps, this is not the right location, but, don’t say you will support city in all adversity, when it comes to opposition for low barrier housing, in other parts of the city yet oppose it, when it is near the land, businesses of “select” business owners/property investors in Historic downtown business improvement areas & surrounding area!

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