White Rock looks for OCP survey ‘skew’

City monitors results after developer urges support from neighbouring residents.

Residents take a look at plans for a two-tower development proposed for Oxford Street at an April 2014 public meeting.

Residents take a look at plans for a two-tower development proposed for Oxford Street at an April 2014 public meeting.

The City of White Rock is “monitoring the situation” after concerns were raised last week about a developer’s involvement in the city’s Official Community Plan survey.

Several White Rock residents raised the alarm after receiving an email June 1 from Elegant Development Inc. encouraging them to complete the survey, which launched last month to gather feedback from residents as the city begins updating its OCP.

“We need your help filling it out yourselves, if you are White Rock/South Surrey residents and also any friends/family who can help,” the email said. “This is very important for ‘The Oxford’ project.”

The Richmond-based real estate developer is proposing two highrise towers – 21 and 24 stories – to be built on a 2.7-acre parcel of land on Oxford Street, previously owned by Epcor, the city’s water provider.

When asked about residents outside of White Rock completing the survey, the city’s director of development and planning, Karen Cooper – who is spearheading the OCP update project – directed inquiries to the city’s communications officer, Shannon Levesque.

Levesque told Peace Arch News Tuesday that there are methods in place within the anonymous survey to distinguish residents and business owners in White Rock from those outside of the city. In addition to a question about what neighbourhood respondents identify with, surveys done online require participants to complete a pre-registration process, Levesque said.

“Before you’re even allowed to answer the survey, it does request that you have a formal White Rock address,” she explained.

Levesque later responded via email to inquiries about the developer’s emails, noting that the city was aware of the situation and has been in contact with Elegant, who issued a followup email June 3 with “brief clarifications” about the survey.

“The OCP survey is only intended for White Rock residents and/or business owners,” the email states.

A representative from Elegant told PAN via email Thursday that the company “immediately” sent out the followup email after concerns were raised by White Rock city staff about the original message being sent to South Surrey residents.

“Elegant believes that the OCP process will be strengthened by having widespread public input,” Rimple Manhas wrote, noting the email was sent to “approximately 50-60” residents and business owners.

“The email was sent with the best of intentions with the understanding that some residents of South Surrey may be business owners in White Rock, and therefore qualify to complete the survey.”

Levesque said by email that city staff are in the process of reviewing the submitted surveys for any problems related to the developer’s involvement.

“Currently, there does not seem to be an obvious skew in the results, and we are monitoring the situation,” Levesque wrote. “The survey closes June 17 and we will be reporting out to council on the results including addressing any skews.”

The concerns stemming from the email Elegant sent earlier this month come on the heels of another controversy regarding the proposed Oxford Street development. In April, the city admitted to providing the names and home addresses of neighbouring residents to Elegant, who used that information to mail residents invitations to a public meeting about the project.

Cooper said at the time it was a process that had taken place in the past, but the policy had been reviewed so that it would not happen again.

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