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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP boss Brian Edwards on moving forward, and what keeps him awake at night

Edwards spoke with Now-Leader reporter Tom Zytaruk about what he’s learning and hopes to accomplish as Surrey’s top cop

‘Focus on Surrey investments’ hoped for when Horgan speaks here in March

Luncheon at golf course planned by Surrey Board of Trade

Surrey Eagles start playoffs on the road in Chilliwack

South Surrey junior ‘A’ squad back in BCHL playoffs for second time in six years

White Rock woman says blocking ‘service dog’ from transit a denial of human rights

White Rock’s Lisa Arlin says guide-dog certification is voluntary

Surge in Fraser Health home-care complaints concerns seniors advocate

Number of people complaining about home care has risen substantially over the last four years

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Burglar swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

Two scout leaders missing near Sooke after swollen creek traps troop

Third leader and scouts located, while search continues for two leaders who’d gone for help

Snowfall warning in effect for the Coquihalla Highway

An unstable airmass is producing heavy flurries over parts of the southern highway passes

Fraser Health warns some schools of possible COVID-19 exposure

A sixth COVID-19 patient is a woman in her 30s in the Fraser Health region who recently returned from Iran

Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sex crimes in landmark #MeToo trial

The cases against the Hollywood mogul started the #MeToo movement

Most Read