Abbotsford's population has more than doubled since 1981 and is currently one of the fastest growing communities in the whole of Canada (City of Abbotsford, 2009). By 2013, Abbotsford is projected to have approximately 200,000 residents (City of Abbotsford, 2008), a population in which present-day land uses cannot sustain. Consequently, development on BC's Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) has recently been proposed to alleviate urban crowding and clustering in Abbotsford. Many argue that the city's ALR is highly ineffective in supporting local and regional food security, but instead, merely acts as an urban growth boundary to increase local housing prices and to promote the clearing and use of the uplands. The purpose of our project was, therefore, to investigate the relative potential of the Abbotsford ALR for residential use. We used a multi-criteria analysis to identify groups of parcels within the reserve as suitable sites for urbanization based on parcel size, parcel agriculture capability, topographical slope, proximity to city center, and edge contrast. Our analysis identified two general areas that contained suitable parcels for residential development: area directly south of the Trans-Canada Highway at the top of Abbotsford's Poplar neighbourhood and another area in the Matsqui neighbourhood at the top right edge of the city's urban containment boundary. At the local scale, the first area had the most suitable groups of parcels adjacent to residential and institutional land uses and away from the Abbotsford International Airport. At the latter site, suitable groups of parcels were approximately 3 acres each and, as well, adjacent to city residential land. Our study also suggests that agriculturally intensive peri-urban communities or roof top agriculture be established to reduce the negative affects of urbanization on the environment in Abbotsford. Finally, those should note that our study can taken further with the integration of data on existing parcel use and ecological processes within the ALR.
Aaron Cheng & Tiffany Soh