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

Nelson’s SMRT1 Technologies to provide vending tech to Vancouver company

UpMeals will launch 22 machines across Canada using SMRT1’s personalized machines

July Kootenay real estate sales at record high

Sales and prices of Kootenay real estate on the rise

Valley of the Springs Winery grand opening event a smashing success

Three of four time slots available during the two-day event completely sold out

New 4.9 hectare fire burning east of Trout Lake

Another out-of-control fire in the Lake Creek area has also grown to 6.6 hectares

UPDATE: Search effort underway for Slocan River drowning victim

The man was swimming near Winlaw on Wednesday.

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Creston Valley Hospital addresses COVID-19 rumours regarding farms

‘Not one seasonal worker in Creston has tested positive for COVID-19,’ said Dr. Nerine Kleinhans

Most Read