A long-time Oak Bay resident is warning neighbours not to throw out a piece of mail addressed to “resident” and marked “research,” something she almost did.
The District of Oak Bay is in the process of updating its Official Community Plan and has sent survey invitations to residents, asking for their participation. Liza Harris received such a letter, but because it was nondescript, she almost threw it out.
“I thought it was some kind of consumer research survey,” Harris said, explaining she is naturally suspicious when mail arrives with no name on it. “I decided to open it and it was a survey about our OCP, which is pretty important. I wondered how many people like me, in a rush, simply recycled it without a thought of opening it.”
Harris, who has lived in Oak Bay for 24 years, said the district should have personally addressed the letters.
Oak Bay’s interim-CAO Gary Nason said the district was made aware that the mail-outs can be mistaken for junk mail and the district is trying to mitigate that.
“We have taken steps to clarify things on the website to draw people’s attention that they may have gotten a letter from Point of View Research,” Nason said. The Abbotsford-based research firm was hired to conduct the study.
“We also hope to clarify things in the reminder letters that will be sent out in October, and minor changes have been made in ads in the newspaper.”
Nason said the district purposely chose not to have names attached to the letters because the survey invitations specifically ask for an adult with the next birthday to participate. This to ensure a fair representation of age and gender throughout the community.
Nason said 8,089 letters were sent Sept. 20 and as of Sep. 25, five per cent have responded. The district is hoping for a response rate of at least 20 per cent.
The next step after the survey process is complete is a third public open house, in January or February. The district hopes to adopt a new OCP by the end of June.
Those who rent or do not receive a survey invitation by Oct. 3 can call 1-866-299-0464 to request one.
Community Plan survey has its critics
Some Oak Bay residents are not happy with the tone of the questions in the survey and feel responses should include the option of maintaining the status quo.
“We want to encourage people to answer the survey, but ask them to keep in mind what the development would look like in the questions around density,” said Michael Wilmut. “The survey asks how, but not if, the community wants densification to take place. I don’t think that’s a level playing field.”
Tony Mears agrees. “Any positive response will result in the rapid overdevelopment of Oak Bay. My concern is that council will see that as a license to change the bylaws to accommodate overdevelopment.”
– with files from Laura Lavin