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City plans for ‘independent’ future
White Rock council has been asked to review the city’s economic sustainability to ensure it can remain autonomous.
But despite the wording of the recommendation – brought forward by the city’s economic, investment and revitalization committee – those involved in developing it say they have no doubt White Rock can continue to stand on its own.
It just needs a plan to do it successfully.
“Hope is not a strategy,” said Mayor Catherine Ferguson. “You have to have a plan… Until you have the conversation and until you look at the numbers and have an idea what you need to put in place, it’s guesswork.”
The recommendation was one of four put to council by the committee Monday. But it was only supported after the reference to autonomy was removed.
In proposing the amendment, Coun. Doug McLean said the wording suggests the intent is to compare White Rock remaining separate with White Rock merging with another city.
“Are we directing staff to look at the sustainability of the city on its own? Because you’ve said ‘remain autonomous,’ there is some comparison to be made.”
Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson agreed the suggestion “is huge.”
The supported motion reads: “that council direct staff to review the economic sustainability of the City of White Rock.”
Ferguson argued the intent is to look at the city’s growth, infrastructure and economic sustainability. She told Peace Arch News prior to the meeting that it is about looking to what investment, growth and development is needed to maintain current services.
“Take a good, long, hard look at this so we can plan for the future,” she said. “That’s really what it’s about – what sort of groundwork do we need to put in place.”
Economic, investment and revitalization committee chair Bob Bezubiak said he started the conversation at the committee’s April meeting, after receiving a copy of the City of Langley’s sustainability charter.
White Rock could benefit from a similar framework, he said.
“We’re looking at that and like what we see and perhaps feel that we should have something similar for our city,” he said.
“It may mean to some people it’s whether White Rock remains independent. To other people, it may mean some other things.”
Bezubiak said he has heard concerns about the number of empty shops in White Rock and the loss of businesses to South Surrey’s Grandview Heights.
The situation is “an opportunity for White Rock to rediscover itself,” he said.
“This is what we’re looking at. We certainly have some assets in here that we want to exploit.”
Bezubiak said rejoining Surrey would be “a very extreme measure.”
It’s not what’s on the table right now, he said. However, “over the next few months, there’ll be some tough decisions that’ll have to be made… some recommendations, and perhaps some changes to the way some things have been done in the past.”
Council Monday also endorsed proceeding with identifying a brand for the city; undertaking a comprehensive planning process for the waterfront; and directing staff to prepare a report outlining responsibilities for an economic development officer.