A 40-acre Abbotsford property recently bought by the Roman Catholic Church includes a riding arena, coach house, finely detailed horse barn and several outbuildings. The church hopes to create an “agri-retreat. “ Photos via Resaas.com

Catholic church buys $7.5M equestrian facility in B.C., plans ‘agri-retreat’ centre

Church hopes to grow crops, host students and others on Bradner property

One of the priciest agricultural properties in Abbotsford was bought in 2017 by the Roman Catholic Church, which hopes to operate an “agri-retreat” at the Bradner property, The News has learned.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver bought the 40-acre Townshipline Road property for $7.5 million. In 2015, when it was listed for $7 million, the property was described as “the ultimate equestrian facility” and “a dream property for discerning equestrians.” It includes a coach house above a garage, a lavishly detailed 10-stall barn, a hockey-rink-sized riding arena, and an equipment shop and recreation area, along with a two-bedroom manufactured home.

Last year, a development company hired by the church submitted an application to the city detailing its plans to convert the equestrian centre on site “into a farm enterprise use producing a variety of agricultural products.” The church envisions partnering with local companies and organizations to provide a space for students, parish groups and other visitors to work on a farm and learn about agriculture, according to the church’s application.

A copy of the application was obtained by The News through a freedom of information request that sought information on an unrelated subject.

The church has not yet responded to The News’s request for further comment.

To operate its centre, the archdiocese needs the sign-off from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to allow a non-farm use on the site, which is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The diocese must be able to show that its plans will benefit agriculture, and its application argues that will be the case. The church hopes to grow blueberries, along with crops like grapes and figs. Onions, durham wheat, beans and lentils could also be grown on the property, according to the report.

The proposal has not yet come before council, which gets to decide whether to forward the application to the ALC.

Currently, the property is used as a private equestrian facility, which is permitted in the ALR, but does not involve the growing of food products.

“The proposed agricultural development will provide a substantial net increase of agricultural production compared to the current situation,” the report says. “The benefits of the proposed use will enhance agriculture in the short and long term.”

The application does not outline the church’s precise plans for the large, well-appointed buildings on site, including a finely finished stable and tack room. A riding arena would be converted into a building with administration offices, classroom space, a cafeteria and a chapel.

The retreat would also see the creation of six cabins, each of which would be about 1,200 square feet and sleep eight people, along with a larger staff residence.

Days after the church submitted its proposal to the city, applications were submitted to subdivide two neighbouring farm plots owned by a family into smaller parcels.

The application says the church hopes to partner with several companies and organizations, including a company that has “proposed a design for an outdoor [augmented reality] Agriculture Museum located adjacent to the proposed Agri-Retreat Centre.”

The Aquilini Group has also promised to “help build a sustainable farming operation.”

A variety of educational initiatives are also envisioned, including day programming for underprivileged kids, support for international workers and the provision of community gardens. The application says that about 50 schools have shown interest in visiting the agri-retreat.

To make its cause for the ALC’s support, the application points to several other agricultural-oriented retreats in B.C., including Fountainview Academy between Lytton and Lillooet and the Po Lam Meditation Centre in Chilliwack.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s Sumas Powerhouse no longer up for auction

RELATED: Realtor of massive house for sale says new ALR rules would hurt wealthy farmers

 

Just Posted

Runners brave wet, windy weather for Ucluelet’s 20th Edge to Edge

“The spirit of the runners I have nothing but compliments.”

ELECTION 2019: NDP’s Gord Johns re-elected in Courtenay-Alberni

Conservative Byron Horner finishes second, with Green Party’s Sean Wood third

Trudeau has won the most seats — but not a majority. What happens next?

Trudeau will have to deal with some of the implications of Monday’s result

LIVE MAP: Results in Canada’s 2019 federal election

Polls are now closed across the country

ELECTION 2019: Here are the results from our 12 B.C. races to watch

Incumbents mostly won our 12 key races, but there were a few upsets too

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

Horvat’s hat trick lifts Canucks to 5-2 win over Red Wings

First career three-goal game for Vancouver captain

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Two youth arrested in UBC carjacking at gunpoint, after being spotted in stolen Kia

‘A great deal of credit is due the alert person who called us,’ said North Vancouver Sgt. Peter DeVries

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

Windstorm knocks out power for 10,000 in north and central B.C.

Power slowly being restored, BC Hydro says

Investor alert: ‘Split games’ pyramid scheme circulating in B.C.

British Columbia Securities Commission issues warning about scheme selling virtual shares

Federal NDP may support B.C. with major projects, Carole James says

SkyTrain Surrey extension, Massey Tunnel need Ottawa’s help

Most Read