‘No one has defined White Rock’s unique character’

City survey indicates dissatisfaction with quality of buildings.

Residents take a look at information on display at a White Rock Vision Fair in May

How do White Rock residents and business owners define the city’s unique character?

That is one of the biggest questions to arise from the city’s recent ‘Imagine White Rock 2045’ survey, according to Karen Cooper, the city’s director of planning and development.

In a report to council Monday, Cooper outlined some of the findings of the survey, noting the city’s character stood out as something that came up frequently in respondents’ written comments.

“Many people said we need to protect White Rock’s unique character, but no one has defined what White Rock’s unique character is,” Cooper said. “I think it means different things to different people, and I think we need to do some work with the community on defining that and coming to a common understanding.”

The survey was launched in May, in conjunction with the kick off of the city’s Official Community Plan review. Cooper noted that 320 completed surveys were submitted between May 13 and June 17.

One portion of the survey examining satisfaction levels on a variety of elements indicated a low level of satisfaction with the “condition, style and character of the buildings in White Rock,” Cooper noted.

“That’s a very significant finding, and it shows we have some work to do,” she said, noting that the city’s seaside setting ranked high in respondent satisfaction. “So people love being here, but they’re not happy with the quality of the built environment.”

Development played a big part in the survey, as well, Cooper told council, noting that the areas that were most preferred as ‘potential growth areas’ were in the town centre and along North Bluff Road adjacent to the town centre and Peace Arch Hospital.

Traffic concerns and overburdened community services were among key concerns raised in relation to development.

Cooper alluded to concerns raised last month when an email was sent from a developer asking for White Rock and South Surrey residents to complete the survey, prompting questions about whether residents outside of White Rock were participating.

According to answers provided by respondents about where they resided, 71 per cent lived in White Rock, and most others were business owners or students within the city, Cooper said. She noted only two per cent of respondents were not from White Rock.

The city also received 148 pages of individual comments, which Cooper said were available online for the public to peruse.

“People can see there were no issues with adjustments by outside forces influencing negatively or positively people’s responses,” she said.

In addition to concerns about development and growth, Cooper said the city received many comments about the impact and possible relocation of the railway, as well as the need for better public transit in the city.

Staff will now move onto the next phase of the OCP review – which they’ve called ‘defining the big picture’ – and will include involvement of the recently formed OCP working group.

Cooper said this phase will also involve more community involvement, including workshops, engagement sessions and an additional survey.

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