A telephone survey of Squamish residents had members of Squamish Council and the Sea to Sky University (SSU) project team buzzing last week.
The Chief learned that Merrill and Ring (M&R) commissioned the survey. The logging and development company based in Port Angeles, Wash. hired the Mustel Group to gather information from residents about development and what community benefit residents feel development of District Lots 509 and 510 will bring.
Donald Corson, the M&R vice president of planning and development, confirmed that his company is paying for the survey.
"It is really very straightforward," Corson said in a telephone interview. "The primary issue is one of community benefit. In the Official Community Plan (OCP) there is language that says in order to get any changes to the OCP you need to show community benefit. The community benefit discussion is quite lacking in terms of definition. We're trying to determine what community benefit is and what matches."
The polling firm interviewed a total of 300 people. Corson said that the interviews were done during two separate periods. One set of calls was made two weeks before the June 28 federal election and then more calls were made after the election.
Corson said his company wants to find out what people are thinking about in relation to growth issues.
According to one resident who participated in the survey, a number of questions related to the SSU."We can only hope that in any survey of Squamish residents, Sea to Sky University is accurately and fairly depicted," said David Strangway of SSU.
"Any reference to SSU must first of all state that we are an entirely not-for-profit educational institution. Every dollar we raise stays in Squamish to help us establish and sustain a university that will help young adults from throughout the world become our leaders of tomorrow."
SSU is concerned about future development of large tracts of land like M&R's two district lots because the university business plan is based upon the existing OCP, which governs district population increases from the current population to 20,000 in the medium term and then 30,000 in the long term. The OCP provides safeguards, Strangway said, to provide SSU with a window in which to sell market housing lands. The revenues from the land sales are going to account for one-third of the campus construction costs.
The university feels that if there are too many lots available in Squamish then its business plan will be negatively affected and campus construction might be set back.
One survey question asked respondents about how reliable information from the Mayor, local business, the Chamber of Commerce, The Chief, Sea to Sky University and Merrill & Ring was in regards to the OCP.
"The university as well as Merrill and Ring as well and the district are singled out," Corson said. "The university has marvelous potential."
"We are trying to work towards our own formal application for the amendment to the OCP," Corson said.
Corson wouldn't say if the survey results will become a public document.
"Portions of it will definitely show up in our application," he said. "One of the things that we are trying to explain is that we are not trying to cut up the [development] pie differently, we are trying to expand the pie."