A full house is expected at a Straiton community town hall meeting on Tuesday night regarding the City of Abbotsford's future community plans for rural Sumas Mountain, and whether landowners there will be restricted in what they may or may not be allowed to do on their properties.
The evening will be hosted by Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, and will include information boards on the city's plans for sustainable growth on the mountain and explanation by city staff on the preliminary plans and studies done so far. The floor will then be open to public discussion and questions.
In 2008, the city took over a portion of Sumas Mountain called Area H, which was previously under the jurisdiction of the Fraser Valley Regional District and its official community plan.
Abbotsford is now preparing to bring the former Area H under its own official community plan, and tonight's meeting is the first with the community. Another is planned for September.
To date, Abbotsford has begun an environmental assessment of Sumas Mountain, known as a biological "hot spot" due to being home to more than 40 at-risk species, six at-risk ecosystems, plus 112 species and 21 other ecosystems potentially at risk, along with a vast array of indigenous species not at risk.
The city also hopes to retain and build on recreational trails, parks and protected areas, but it has to balance that with the development aims of the community, which are restricted by agricultural land elsewhere.
The Sumas Mountain Environmental Management Study includes most of Abbotsford's green space on the hill, including the McKee Peak area near Auguston, a region seen as a key area for residential development.
While the SMEMS is not a land use plan, it "may inform a future land use plan," stated a city document outlining frequently asked questions on the study. A made-for-Sumas Mountain management plan could flavour the type of development that would be encouraged in the region, by balancing habitat protection with development aims.
Although still in its early stages, some property owners fear that the SMEMS would mean that any development, even building a shed or falling a tree, could be "off limits," says an article on a website at smrpoa.ca, created by the Sumas Mountain Rural Property Owners Association in response to the city's plan for the uplands region.
The group also questions why property owners have not yet been consulted while other stakeholders such as gravel companies and Metro Vancouver Parks have.
Diking fees for uplands property owners and the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Canada pipeline and storage area on Sumas Mountain may also be up for discussion.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Straiton Community Hall, 4698 Upper Sumas Mountain Rd., Abbotsford.