Towns Collaborate on Sustainability Goals

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Tompkins Weekly 12-23-13

By Nick Goldsmith

The Town of Dryden and the Town of Ithaca have been collaborating around sustainability since 2010, when they were awarded funding from the Park Foundation to help support a shared Sustainability Planner position. To celebrate the success of this collaboration as it approaches its end date of March 2014, the Towns would like to share some of the accomplishments.

In the Town of Ithaca, the main project recently has been the development of the Community Energy Action Plan, which details specific actions that the Town government can take to reach goals for reducing energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions community-wide. The focus is on how the government can support and facilitate efforts of residents and businesses.

From its 2010 Community GHG Inventory, the Town discovered that two sectors were responsible for the majority of GHG emissions: energy use in buildings (53%) and transportation (44%). One thing was clear: to shrink the Town’s carbon footprint, it would be vital to improve energy efficiency in both of these areas, while also transitioning to renewable energy sources.

For ideas, the Town looked to the community; six public meetings were held to collect input. Next, an ad hoc citizen committee – representing higher education, small business, agriculture, and other sectors of the local economy – was formed to provide guidance for the development of the Action Plan. The committee narrowed down the list of over 100 ideas for energy-saving actions, comparing them side-by-side based on criteria such as: community interest; greenhouse gas reductions; cost; social benefits; and feasibility of implementation.

Finally, 14 actions which aim to accomplish seven goals were selected for the plan. Among other things, the goals aim to: improve the multimodal transportation system; reduce emissions per passenger-mile; improve the energy- and water- efficiency of new and existing buildings; and increase renewable energy installations. The 14 actions selected to support the goals represent a variety of ways the Town government can facilitate sustainable action in the community, from outreach and education (encourage ride sharing) to partnerships (participate in a Solarize program) to Town policy and code adjustment (consider adopting advanced energy codes).

The Community Energy Action Plan is anticipated to be adopted in early spring 2014, after a public comment period. Don’t miss your opportunity to preview the plan and offer your thoughts – check the Town website and Sustainability Facebook page for details.

In the Town of Dryden, a number of sustainability projects have recently been completed. In spring 2013, The Town made solar photovoltaic installations on its Town Hall and Public Works Barn through a third-party lease. The two projects will provide an estimated 30% of the combined electricity needs of the two buildings, while saving the Town money and reducing its carbon footprint.

The Town purchased a Honda Insight hybrid car for the Planning Department. The Insight gets 42 miles per gallon, compared to the 18 mpg achieved by the trucks used previously. Given that Planning Department staff drives more than 11,000 miles a year, the Town expects to reduce related costs by more than a third – about $2,500 annually. Gasoline usage savings – and the associated greenhouse gas emissions reductions – are even more dramatic; both are expected to plummet to less than half of the original amount.

Dryden is also making progress towards sustainability in its planning efforts. The Town is preparing for an update of its 2005 Comprehensive Plan, which could encompass anything from making minor revisions, to adding additional chapters, to completely rewriting the Plan. To help figure out the proper extent of the update, the Town is reviewing the 2005 Plan through the lens of sustainability, to evaluate the degree to which the Plan recommendations support sustainability goals, including protection of the environment, economic vitality and quality of life. The sustainability analysis is scheduled for completion in spring 2014; updates to the Plan are expected to start soon after.

An interesting related project in Dryden is the Hamlet of Varna Community Development Plan. This amendment to the Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2012. Dryden planners, residents, business owners, and board members worked together to develop a vision that would encompass complete streets, mixed uses, and new residential opportunities, all integrated with open space. The Varna Plan was recognized with a New York Planning Federation award in April 2013.

The successful collaboration between the Towns of Dryden and Ithaca is just one example in a County known for cooperative efforts. Working together towards shared goals has allowed the Towns to accomplish more with less, and make significant strides down the path of sustainability.

Nick Goldsmith is the Sustainability Planner for the Towns of Dryden and Ithaca. He can be reached at:

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