Sinclair questions OCP survey method

White Rock councillors raise concerns about non-White Rock respondents participating in questionnaire.

The City of White Rock held a Vision Fair last month to gather feedback for it's Official Community Plan update.

Questions continue to swirl over White Rock’s Official Community Plan survey, after a progress report was brought to city council Monday.

The survey, which closed on Wednesday, is meant to gather input from residents on a variety of topics as part of the city’s OCP updating process.

In recent weeks, it has been the subject of scrutiny by some residents – and now two councillors – after more light was shed on the survey-completion process.

Couns. Helen Fathers and Lynne Sinclair brought up concerns about the anonymity of the survey, and that non-White Rock residents could complete it .

“The survey doesn’t say ‘do you live in White Rock’ or ‘do you live elsewhere?’” Fathers said. “I think it’s important for people in White Rock to have the largest voice.”

Karen Cooper, director of development and planning, echoed what a city spokesperson told Peace Arch News last week, pointing to methods in place for the online survey that would distinguish White Rock residents from non-residents.

“The way you go through online, you have to indicate an address, and you won’t be allowed to go to the next step unless you indicate an address in White Rock,” Cooper told council.

(This week, PAN went through the pre-registration steps online using a Surrey address and was able to respond to all questions.)

Cooper did acknowledge Monday that the hard-copy surveys – dropped off at city hall – did not have any address-verification methods in place, aside from questions asking what neighbourhood respondents live in and how long they had been White Rock residents. However, Cooper said that having seen all of the close to 250 responses received by that point, she doesn’t believe results have been skewed.

Sinclair said she was “very concerned” after learning the print surveys did not include names and addresses of residents.

“Had I seen that survey in print without the name and address – and I don’t think I’m alone here – I think every one of us would have said ‘you have to put your name and address on it,’” she said.

Concerns were first raised when emails from a developer – proposing two highrises on Oxford Street – urged “White Rock/South Surrey residents and also any friends/family who can help” to fill out the survey.

The company, Elegant Development, later sent out an email clarifying that the survey was only intended for White Rock residents and business owners, and told PAN the first email was sent “with the best intentions.”

On Monday, Cooper sought council’s endorsement for establishing an ‘Official Community Plan Working Group,’ comprising various stakeholders.

The working group’s objectives would include “promoting transparency and public participation and representing the opinions and needs of people and groups.”

Members are to be selected by Cooper and staff, a detail that prompted questions from council.

“Is there a reason why council won’t have a say in these appointments?” Coun. Megan Knight asked.

Cooper explained she felt strongly that in the early stages the city shouldn’t have “political representation” on the group.

“It’s really important that it not be viewed or considered a political process,” Cooper said.

Council voted unanimously to endorse creation of the working group. The city aims to have a updated OCP by the fall of 2016.

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