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Focus group finds anomaly among Ocean Pines residents

(Nov. 12, 2015) According to a recent focus group conducted in Ocean Pines as part of the formulation of its comprehensive plan, the majority of residents would like things to “stay the way [they] used to be.”
That’s according to Dr. Memo Diriker, who is helping gather data for the plan with Salisbury University’s BEACON group.
The strange thing about that data, according to Diriker, is that, “they said they don’t believe that vision is realistic.”
[“That’s] something we were not expecting,” Diriker said during a comprehensive plan advisory committee meeting on Monday. “There was a lot of conversation about the need to build trust. Recently some of that trust was lost and how can we go about rebuilding that trust?”
BEACON recently held a pair of focus groups in the Pines. The members of the first focus group were what Committee Chair Steve Cohen referred to as “movers and shakers” and consisted of five people, including board members Cheryl Jacobs and Jack Collins, as well as two members of Ocean Pines committees.
The second group, consisting of seven people largely made up of residents not employed by the association, was the one that intrigued Diriker, who said the phenomenon of wanting the achievable – but not believing it was possible – was something he had never seen before. As such, he suggested further study was needed.
The short-term goal of BEACON is to conduct a “census-level” survey of a larger group of Ocean Pines Association members, likely through a mail and web-based questionnaire sent to all 8,452 property owners.
Diriker said he and his student-collaborators in BEACON were also discussing the possibility of creating a third focus group to zero in on the anomalous finding.
“That will give us a better idea as to what kind of questions we would need to formulate to capture it at the survey level,” Diriker said. “Why are they saying that’s not viable? Because we didn’t expect it … I really did not know how to delve into that. Is it because they have no confidence … is it because of changing demographics, is it because of finance? I don’t know.”
The comprehensive plan is part of what leadership in Ocean Pines have termed the “three-legged stool” that includes a reserve study and capital improvement plan, both of which will likely be completed by the end of the year and in time to be applied to the next fiscal year budget.
Diriker said phase one of the comprehensive plan, including results from the large-scale survey, would not be finished by the end of the calendar year. He suggested BEACON could present its findings to the full board of directors by May of next year.
“My phase one simply tells you what the community is thinking,” Diriker said. “My phase two tells you what the intended or nonintended consequences and return on investment … are for different scenario questions. It gives you not a single recommendation – it just simply informs you.”
The board of directors approved phase one of the survey, voting 5-1 to spend $8,250, in March. The directors would have to approve phase two before work begins.
During the meeting, members of the committee and Diriker discussed having a follow-up conference in December. A formal date was not agreed upon as of press time.