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

Trail Shoppers Drug Mart offers virtual doctor appointments

Most Shoppers locations in B.C. will offer online appts by Aug. 4

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Two search and rescue calls involving children end with happy outcomes

The incidents took place in Trail and Salmo area on July 5 and 6

Province releases Columbia River Treaty public feedback report

Reservoir levels, fair compensation for impacted communities, among many issues raised

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

Most Read