White Rock residents are questioning the composition of the city’s Official Community Plan Working Group, alleging that the city-selected membership does not fairly represent the community.
The group, selected by city planning staff and named in a report to council in July, includes 10 members: Cliff Annable (White Rock/South Surrey Chamber of Commerce), Harp Hoonjan (Peace Arch Hospital board member), Morley Myren (Tourism White Rock board member), Ruchir Dhall (Advisory Design Panel member), Douglas Smith (White Rock Business Improvement Association), Randy Heilbron (Fraser Health Authority representative), Dawn Wattie (resident/business owner), Judy Forster (resident, former mayor), Jim McKinlay (resident) and Richard Harding (resident).
In an email to director of planning and development Karen Cooper, forwarded to Peace Arch News, resident Charles Fast said he was curious about the criteria the city used to select the members, questioning its “non-political” status that Cooper insisted upon when the group was first announced in June.
“At first blush, this group seems to be mostly Realtors and pro-development proponents,” Fast writes. “Some are not even White Rock taxpayers or residents.”
Resident Erika Johanson echoed Fast’s sentiment in an email to PAN, saying Cooper “needs to explain herself.”
“The majority of White Rock residents are seniors, not Realtors and developers,” Johanson writes. “The majority of White Rock residents are opposed to changing the existing OCP to accommodate Realtors and developers. So, why were so many of them appointed to the OCP working group?”
Two other residents – Dennis Lypka and Ross Buchanan – also sent critical messages.
Phone calls and emails to Cooper this week were not returned by PAN press time Thursday.
However, the city’s communications officer sent an email addressing the selection process and criteria for the working group.
“We are confident that there is a broad range of stakeholders for this group and (it) is in line with the terms of reference,” Shannon Levesque wrote. “Staff selected members based on the criteria outlined in the terms of reference and a ‘letter of interest’ application process.”
Questioned further, Levesque said there were 25 applicants.
The criteria included a demonstrated interest in and knowledge of the community; knowledge of good planning principles; the ability to attend regular meetings and related events; and a balanced representation of interests.
The working group was created to “maintain a high degree of public representation” in the OCP review process, according to the report presented to council in June. The group is meant to function as an informal advisory body, meeting once a month until the review process is completed.
At the time the creation of the group was announced, Coun. Megan Knight asked Cooper why council would not have a say in who is selected.
Cooper responded by saying the group should not have “political representation.