SUSTAINABLE CITY NETWORK VOLUME 7 APRIL 2013
WILL VEGAS BE THE FIRST ‘NET-ZERO’ CITY IN AMERICA? LEADERBOARD SERIES
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CONSPIRACY THEORISTS FEAR LOSS OF CONTROL FRACKING CREATES SMART-GROWTH DILEMMA BIONEERS DEFINE RESILIENCE IN MADISON, WIS.
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Conspiracy Theorists Fear Loss of Control
The Top 20 Biggest Placemaking Mistakes
Passive House Design Brings Simplicity to Energy Efficiency
Fracking Creates Smart-Growth Dilemma
Aquaponic Agriculture Holds Promise for Local Foods
Best Practices for Land Use Planning in Coastal Communities
Bioneers Define Resilience in Madison, Wis.
PACE Financing - Down But Not Out
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Maple Syrup, Moose, and Local Impacts of Climate Change
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In this issue, we introduce our Leaderboard Series by showcasing the City of Las Vegas. Known as the “City of Lights,” the Las Vegas of today is a shining star when it comes to sustainability. From its new LEED-Silver city hall to its recent conversion of 42,000 streetlights to LED lamps, the city makes sustainability a top priority, and it shows. One of the most water-smart cities in the nation, Las Vegas has decreased its water consumption by 36 billion gallons per year, while adding nearly half a million people to its population. In other top stories: If you haven’t had someone try to link your sustainability project to a united Nations plot to take over the world, consider yourself lucky! We talk to local government officials who explain the background of the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory and offer advice on keeping the conversation focused on reality. Other articles in this issue look at topics from placemaking to climate-change adaptation and dealing with housing problems when the fracking boom comes to town. Resilience is a continuing theme; we touch on aquaponic agriculture as a potential local food source; and we introduce you to Passive House, a simple form of green building that is sweeping Europe and gaining ground in the u.S. The articles in this magazine have been selected by our readers. We’ve packaged them together in this convenient magazine format, available in print or as a digital download at sCityNetwork.com/Bestof. We hope you find value inside.
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WILL VEGAS BE THE FIRST ‘NET-ZERO’ CITY IN AMERICA? LEADERBOARD SERIES BY RANDY RODGERS, PuBLISHER & EXECuTIVE EDITOR
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Sustainability Officer Says the City is No Flash in the Pan
TO M PERRIG O
MA R C O V E L OT TA
If you’re one of those people who think the glitter of Tinseltown will never last, Tom Perrigo has some news for you. “Las Vegas will be around for hundreds of years.” That’s how Perrigo, chief sustainability officer for the city of Las Vegas, opened his latest semi-annual report entitled Sustainability in ACTION. For him, part of the challenge is overcoming the perceptions people have about Las Vegas being a “wasteful and unsustainable place.” “It’s sort of a grand illusion,” he said about the city’s image as an oasis of excess. “We build on this brand of Las Vegas… because that’s what brings tourists in. That’s the engine behind our economy. But, if you look behind the curtain, what you’ll find is a hotel industry that is very progressive when it comes to sustainability in terms of recycling, energy conservation and water conservation. “What the visitors see are lush golf courses, lush landscaping, huge fountains, floating pirate ships and all this other stuff; but what they don’t see is that those golf courses are fed with reclaimed water, and at some of the hotels, all that water they use for fountains and landscaping is all water that was reclaimed on site. What they don’t see is that, from 2002 to 2011, we reduced our water consumption by some 36 billion gallons (per year) and we added half a million people to our population. They don’t see all that because we don’t really promote it.” “So, it’s almost like one of the best known cities in the world is actually its best kept secret,” Perrigo said. But Las Vegas doesn’t plan on keeping that secret for long. In fact, according to Perrigo’s semi-annual report, the city’s ultimate goal is to become “America’s first net zero city” – a bold statement, even in a city known for bold statements.
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“Well,” said Perrigo, “these are stretch goals. It’s great to talk about, but it isn’t like we’ve figured out the magic formula to get there. So, yes, we’re very aggressive about it, but I don’t think that goal is all that unusual compared to what other cities are pushing to achieve right now,” he said. Much of what Las Vegas has achieved in recent years has been focused on city-owned facilities and operations. Perrigo said there hasn’t been a “real appetite” for new ordinances to push citizens toward green building or more conservation. Instead, he said, the local government has committed itself to showing leadership by testing various models and setting a good example. A big part of that effort has been getting city staff on the sustainability bandwagon. When Perrigo was asked to manage the city’s sustainability program in 2006, there wasn’t a budget for any large-scale initiatives; and even some department heads within city government were dubious about the cost effectiveness of renewable energy and conservation. “But those of us who were committed to it went back and sharpened our pencils and developed strategies to move these things forward,” he said. “With any initiative, there are going to be early adopters; and then there’s going to be the large middle that’s kind of ambivalent and will be happy to go along or not. And, there’s going to be the detractors; those who will actively fight against the initiative. So we really worked hard, especially in the leadership – the city manager and the council – to cultivate the early adopters and find those key people in the departments that were going to be supportive. We tried to figure out strategies … to win the hearts and minds of the large middle,” he said, “and to sort of silence the detractors over time.” 
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Gauging the level of resistance and figuring out when to push forward and when to step back is a big part of the learning curve, he said. “So, you never give up. You just try to learn how to be strategic and keep pushing forward.”
a globally recognized leader because it has helped save the city money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and has created jobs,” Fretwell said. So, what’s next for sustainability in Las Vegas?
In 2008, the Las Vegas City Council took ownership over sustainability by adopting its first Sustainable Energy Strategy that set targets for city operations, city codes and the community. Since then, the city has, among other things: - Constructed more than 5 megawatts of renewable energy, including solar covered parking structures at 30 city facilities; - Made energy improvements to more than 1 million sq. ft. of city buildings; - Purchased two electric and two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and installed charging stations at six city facilities (nearly 100 percent of city vehicles now run on alternative fuels); - Introduced recycling at parks and city facilities, and now half of all waste is being recycled; - Converted more than 8 acres of grass to artificial turf; - Added more than 125 miles of bike lanes and started a bike share program; - Is upgrading 42,000 streetlights to LED lamps that will save the city about $2 million per year in energy and maintenance costs; - Built its new city hall to LEED Silver standards, reducing energy costs by more than $500,000 annually; - Achieved a 24 percent reduction in annual energy consumption by city operations, saving $4.4 million since 2008; and - Saved 200 million gallons of water at city facilities.
“We’ve picked a lot of the low-hanging fruit,” Perrigo said. So, in the next three to five years, his priorities will include performing energy and water retrofits on about 140 city-owned facilities; maximizing the potential for on-site solar energy generation; optimizing the use of the city’s groundwater supplies; redoubling the city’s water and energy conservation efforts; and continuing to replace natural grass with synthetic turf or desert landscaping. “Obviously, water is a huge issue for a desert city,” Perrigo said. As a result, he said, Las Vegas has become one of the most water-smart cities in America. “A lot of the standards that our water agency adopted early on – our drought ordinance and conservation strategies – were adopted by the EPA in putting together national water conservation standards,” he said. “We think we’ve got a lot more to do in conservation, but we also know we have a lot of rights to groundwater that we haven’t maximized,” he said. Marco Velotta, a management analyst in the sustainability office, said the water issues facing Las Vegas are shared by cities throughout the arid West and beyond.
Las Vegas City Manager Elizabeth “Betsy” Fretwell said these initiatives are only the beginning. “City leadership has made sustainability a top priority in Las Vegas,” Fretwell said. “The results of the program can be seen all over the city, from recycling bins in city parks, to our energy efficient streetlights on nearly every street, to our sustainable City Hall with its iconic solar trees.” Fretwell became city manager in 2009 and a year later was recognized by the Sierra Club with the Southern Nevada Environmental Stewardship Award. In 2010, she moved the city’s sustainability program out of the Planning and Development Department and created a dedicated Office of Sustainability, reporting directly to her. As part of the city manager’s Office of Administrative Services, the sustainability team became more directly accessible to Fretwell and the city council. New staffing was paid for in part by an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant, but since then the office has been funded with the very money its programs save in water and energy. In this way, Las Vegas continuously reinvests in even more conservation efforts. “Since becoming an initiative, sustainability has elevated the city to
The new Las Vegas City Hall is a LEED Silver building that has reduced energy costs by more than $500,000 annually. Its futuristic “solar trees” generate part of the city’s 5 megawatts of renewable energy installed at 30 city facilities. In addition, the construction helped to avoid a $1.5 million new equipment investment for energy efficiency improvements at the previous city hall. The new building was named the 2012 Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association.
Article concludes on page 32.
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Las Vegas Converts 42,000 Streetlights to LED That’s when Las Vegas officials decided to put out a request for proposals to see how close the industry could get to the city’s specifications for performance, longevity, energy conservation and cost effectiveness. Meeting existing roadway lighting standards was critical, Rohleder said. NI EL ROHLEDER
After further review, the city of Las Vegas has concluded LED streetlights aren’t just for parking lots anymore. In fact, after testing 6,600 units throughout the city since 2011, Las Vegas recently decided to move forward with converting a total of 42,000 streetlights to the long-lasting, low-maintenance, energy-conserving fixtures. The savings in energy and maintenance is expected to be $2 million per year, with a return on investment in seven or eight years, city officials said. When the city first started looking at LED lights in 2006, they were skeptical, according to assistant traffic manager Niel Rohleder, who was the project manager in charge of the retrofit. “To be quite frank,” Rohleder said, “we did not believe the industry had evolved to the level it really needed to be at to support a full-scale deployment of a solid-state lighting solution for roadway lighting. And, in fact, history kind of proved us right,” he said. But, three or four years later, Rohleder said, significant advances in high-powered LED output were beginning to take shape. “About that time – 2009 or 2010 – we were feeling a lot more comfortable, but we still weren’t totally sold on it,” he said. 
“From a risk management perspective, as long as we adhered to the regional and national standards we felt we would not be exposing ourselves to any sort of tort liability issues down the road,” Rohleder said. Of the 12 proposals submitted – some suggesting conventional technologies and some proposing LEDs – the city chose five for testing in field trials. “Interestingly enough, the bids proposed everything from induction lighting to metalhalide lighting, to plasma lighting, and on to LED lighting. The top two bids were very, very close,” Rohleder said, “but in the end we wound up selecting – for arterials and residential both – the GE Evolve LED light fixture” to replace the city’s existing high pressure sodium (HPS) streetlights. “Again, the difference wasn’t huge, but LEDs did (and pardon the pun) shine brightly in the evaluation process,” Rohleder said. “It looked like they had finally made the big time.” But, the selection process wasn’t over yet. The city accepted the bid of Crescent Electric Supply Company, initially for the installation of only 6,600 units to serve as a live test. Some of the lights were installed in each political district of the city. “We put these first 6,600 in so that each of the elected officials would have some within
their respective areas, so they could get a feel from their constituency,” Rohleder said. “Overall the reaction to these first 6,600 was very positive.” Rohleder said the only negative feedback came from some members of the public who complained that the streetlights no longer lit up their private properties. He explained that conventional high-intensity discharge (HID) lights tend to reflect light in all directions, while LED technology is more directional. That’s part of what makes them more efficient. “What LED allowed us to do was direct the light onto the roadway and sidewalk, which is what they’re supposed to do. The challenge with this is there is a segment of the population that actually enjoys that light trespass; that spillover.” If he had it to do over again, Rohleder said he would do more public outreach in advance to prepare citizens for this change. In some cases, private property owners might need to install their own security lights after a conversion to LED streetlights. “We could have done a better job of getting that message out,” he said. Rohleder’s advice to other municipalities considering a switch to LED: Involve the public early and give them time to adjust to the change. Based on the positive results of the test, the city decided to continue with the second phase of the project and install all 42,000 LED streetlight heads. The installation was completed in March.
related youtube video: http://youtu.be/KnSDZ2Fdw0M
Conspiracy Theorists Fear Loss of Control Open, Honest Dialogue Helps Facilitate Civil Discourse BY JuLIANNE COuCH
According to the united Nations, sustainable development is a “mode of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come.” Yet according to conservative talk show host and commentator Glenn Beck, “sustainable development means centralized control over all of human life on planet earth.” Most observers would characterize the differences between these points of view as major. Indeed, Beck, via his television program on Fox News, now available on YouTube, claims that individuals, industry, business groups, governments and non-governmental agencies are part of a “massive movement” whose real motives are masked. As Beck asserts, some of these entities may have a “pure heart,” but most do not. “They have to trick you into more governmental control. It is time to ring the bell, and protect your own community.”
The bell has been rung, and now some individuals and groups around the country are coalescing around the idea that the government of the united States is in danger of being overtaken by the united Nations. For example, the 9/12 Project is a nationwide group founded on a theory proposed by Beck that imagines the u.S. the way it was on the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks. Among a variety of causes, these organizations fight against united Nations Agenda 21, a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the united Nations drafted for a 1992 conference on the environment and development. It has been affirmed and modified at subsequent u.N. conferences and demonized by Beck and groups motivated by his thesis. Various groups with ideas similar to the 9/12 Project have a presence online and often their members attend city council meetings or other public sessions to exercise their right of free speech. Because opposition exists to the sort of projects that take place under the umbrella of sustainable development, dealing with these groups and their concerns seems inevitable for today’s sustainability professionals. That is why Laurel Sukup, sustainability assistance coordinator with the Wisconsin Division of Natural Resources, has given a great deal of thought to interacting with individuals who argue against what she is doing, in ways that invite civil discourse. Sukup manages and directs the Wisconsin Legacy Communities program. She said her program “supports municipalities to move toward sustainability goals, further and
faster than if they were working alone.” However, this is the sort of thing that opposition groups resist. “I have had a number of instances where I’ve encountered folks that have been alarmed by municipalities’ participation in my program, which they feel is directly tied to u.N. Agenda 21,” Sukup said. Ironically, Sukup speculates that many of those who feel upset when they hear words like “sustainability and smart planning” actually do support clean air, clean water, and governments that do not waste taxpayer dollars on energy inefficiency. But she has heard from individuals who identify as being motivated by concerns over Agenda 21. “They don’t want the government to take action; they don’t want public/private partnerships. They feel it is a slippery slope because they are losing sovereign rights and autonomy. They argue this will lead to a relinquishing of power from the united States to the united Nations.” Sukup uses the example of a super pool cover, a product that reduces the cost of heating a pool by 40 percent. While members of 9/12-type groups who are citizens of a municipality considering such a product might favor its purchase, they want the impulse to be a monetary decision, not one driven by sustainability. For such a project, municipal and sustainability professionals might argue that it is important because it saves money, reduces long-term maintenance costs, is good for the environment, and has positive effects on citizens. 
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Sukup has had opportunities to consider useful communication approaches at various public meetings. “A man who testified at a council meeting mentioned that he was caring for his terminally ill wife, but he left her bedside because he felt this was an important topic, to discourage municipalities from participating in programs,” she recounted. “He felt that by taking on these sustainability actions, the city was undermining its ability to govern and turning over those abilities to the u.N.” “This is incredibly real to them,” she said. Sukup has become interested in research that studies how people take in information when they are in an acute emotional state. She understands that if people have an emotional reaction to something, they cannot be persuaded by logic. So, how can a municipality or a sustainability professional reach these individuals and promote discussion? “A municipality might lay out facts of a program, but depending on the level of concern by the people who are against it, they will need to determine the best way to message and dialog with them,” Sukup suggested. “We need to also learn more about the emotional side of the brain and how to dialog in high stress situations. It starts with listening, allowing people to talk through their fears.” She understands people who believe that Agenda 21 would take the united States down the road to ruin are in a different category from those who are unhappy about a malfunctioning streetlight, for example.
“This movement has not peaked. It is on an upward trajectory.” - Laurel Sukup, sustainability assistance coordinator with the Wisconsin Division of Natural Resources
“Make sure facts and goals are crystal clear,” Sukup advised. “Make sure that you are really actively listening and understanding their point of view. With any dialog there will be things that are true, and yet they are interpreted in a way that was never intended. Make sure you listen to what they are saying, and make sure they know that you are. Then try to establish true, two-way communication. It doesn’t happen readily, it takes dialoging and patience. For municipalities and public servants, that is just part of the job. We need to be really, really good at it in those situations.” The need to be good at interacting with the public is important for any municipal professional, of course, but Sukup believes the movement of people who hold ideas she finds difficult to understand is not going away. “This movement has not peaked. It is on an upward trajectory,” she said. She finds that to be true whether working on her projects in Wisconsin, or in her role as board member with the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. She has heard from her colleagues in that group that there are people who believe “sustainability masks a sinister agenda” all over the country, and beyond.
related youtube video: http://youtu.be/esJY2SK_4tE
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Sukup noted that groups of this sort consider themselves constitutionalists. “It stems from the fact that they also believe that the states do not have to follow federal laws. There are many issues these groups take up, and their uncomfortableness with sustainability is tied to the idea of the government telling them what they can and cannot do,” she said. “My perspective is that there is no doubt in my mind, when they are at these commission meetings, testifying in front of councils, that they are truly scared. That is why they are making impassioned pleas that the councils will wake up and see what they are doing to the community.” Sukup has confidence that sustainability is a healthy model for individuals and governments to use for making decisions. “Sustainability professionals are fortunate to be able to evaluate our work through the sustainability lens and make sure the project is economical, good for the environment and good for the community. That’s how we live our lives and how we want to see decisions made,” she said.
The Top 20 Biggest Placemaking Mistakes And the 10 Best Tools to Make Your Place Great BY RANDY RODGERS, PuBLISHER & EXECuTIVE EDITOR
A group of urban planners literally sang and danced their way through a presentation that identified the 20 biggest placemaking mistakes and the top 10 tools for making places great.
No, we are not kidding. Among the presenters at the 12th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference was Amanda Thompson, planning director for the city of Decatur, Ga., who also happens to be an accomplished interpretive dancer; and Eliza Harris, an urban planner for Canin Associates based in Orlando, Fla., who once sang in a Broadway musical. Chad Emerson, director of development for the city of Montgomery, Ala., who identified himself as “a recovering attorney,” is apparently an aspiring comedian.
Ok, now we’re kidding. The three multi-talented planners shared their expertise in a lively presentation at the smart-growth conference held recently in Kansas City, Mo. Harris sang parts of her presentation; Thompson played a video in which she and others performed dance sequences to represent sustainable design principles, as she narrated; and Emerson engaged attendees with his wit and wisdom.
Ok, maybe just his wisdom. Harris used the titles of popular songs as headings on her PowerPoint slides, and performed an a cappella rendition of James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam” to make a point about reducing urban congestion.
Moderator Nathan Norris, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority of Lafayette, La., compiled the team’s top 20 placemaking mistakes and top 10 best tools. And, without further ado, here they are:
Top 20 Placemaking Mistakes to Avoid 1. Judging development on the quantity of budget/unit count rather than on quality or ROI (return on infrastructure investment). 2. Failing to provide context & path; i.e., the three steps of placemaking. 3. Refusing to do the heavy lifting that is required in order to create a meaningful vision; i.e., providing multiple scenarios and impact analysis (economic/tax, environmental, health, visual and/or freedom/access). “You can’t have a meaningful vision if all you do is say, ‘Here’s our plan, public, what do you think?’” Norris said. “It doesn’t matter if you have 75 different meetings if all you’re giving them is one choice.” 4. Refusing to identify a model to emulate. “It’s incredibly arrogant to think you can’t learn from others,” he said. 5. Accepting one-size-fits-all rules that prevent the application of different rules for different character zones. “Building regulations that are flexible and tailored, like form-based code, zoning overlays or context-sensitive design guidelines can allow the dance to occur between market demands and community vision,” Thompson said. “They preserve the things we love in our communities and create space for the change that we desire. The beauty of tailored code is that it does not discriminate against a variety of uses or building types. We all like to live in different types of places, from rural to urban. A good code recognizes this and encourages a variety of places and appropriate transitions between them,” she said. 6. Failing to regulate land use in conjunction with thoroughfares and public frontage.
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7. Prioritizing the long trip over the short trip. When you make pedestrians “walk half a mile to get to a legal crossing,” Harris said, it favors drivers over walkers or bikers and creates places people want to avoid rather than places that embrace them.
18. Engaging too many of your resources into planning as opposed to implementation. “Municipalities mistake placemaking for place planning and place design,” Emerson said. “The planning and design are critical parts, but placemaking is a creative process that doesn’t stop when the plan gets adopted by the city council. … If we stop there, we’re only half way done. … We need to grow the implementation funding pot, and we need more people who are focused on that.”
8. Undervaluing thoroughfare connectivity. “Connectivity is not just about connecting streets, it’s also about operations, crosswalks and all those things without which you have to get in your car and cross a six-lane highway to get to Starbucks,” Harris said. 9. Refusing to accept responsibility for your built environment (instead of blaming previous generations). 10. Failing to act like a developer; i.e. your city is a developer whether it likes it or not.
19. Focusing too much on the development of leaders as opposed to followers who are necessary to get things done. 20. Over-zoning commercial retail uses. 21. (Bonus) Failing to leverage art as an economic development tool. “We, as cities, have failed to unlock the economic potential of public space and public art in downtown centers,” Emerson said. “We’ve absolutely failed to realize that this is not just something for the parks and recreation department.”
11. Aspiring to master plans as opposed to comprehensive business plans. “That’s what’s driving the political process, so you might as well not hide from it,” Norris said. “You need the business community behind it if it’s going to happen.” 12. Failing to have an effective organizational structure for placemaking such as a Development & Design Center that acts as a concierge for good development. 13. Thinking that you do not have enough money for good placemaking. 14. Failing to embrace incremental urbanism. 15. Failing to document and teach the vision to citizens and youth. “We’re big believers in attracting the creative class,” Emerson said of the upwardly mobile 18- to 35-year-old set. “It’s really important to get them engaged. They’re more prone to be interested in becoming early adopters in the urban scene.” 16. Failing to prepare for the Great Migration; i.e., return of downtown living.
Emerson said economic development departments should care about creating quality downtown parks and cultural centers because those amenities “actually increase surrounding real estate values. And, when you increase the value of the surroundings, it increases your sales tax revenue, it increases your property tax receipts, it increases the number of tourists that come there, which increases your lodging taxes…. It increases not just the cultural value, but the economic value of your downtown,” he said.
Top 10 Placemaking Tools 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Kitchen Cabinet: great places start with great people. Advocacy Toolkit: presentations, field trips, speaker series, etc. Infrastructure Investment zones & ROI Analysis. Economic, visual, health and environmental impact analysis. Market Study. Form-Based/Transect-Based Code. Context Appropriate Thoroughfare Design Manual. Public Works Manual. Parking Management Plan. Development & Design Office.
17. Trying to fix everything at one time instead of focusing on the low-hanging fruit. related youtube video: http://youtu.be/E1i6Qp3OHqU
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Passive House Design Brings Simplicity to Energy Efficiency Modern-Day Science Meets Old-Fashioned Methods of Weatherization BY ADELAIDE CHEN
Do you think investing in the latest high-tech HVAC and on-site renewable energy systems is the only way to create an energyefficient building? Well, architects in Europe are suggesting you think again.
So Metropulous became a pioneer, spreading the idea to her organization and collaborating with others in the nonprofit housing industry who had also taken the tour in Germany.
Building a Prototype Passive House, a standard for green design and construction developed in Germany, is now being applied in the u.S. as a simplified and less mechanized approach to meeting rigorous standards of energy efficiency. Collaboration among affordable housing developers in the u.S. is helping it achieve more recognition on this side of the Atlantic. The Passive House Building Energy standard applies modern-day science to old-fashioned weatherization techniques, depending largely on super-thick insulation, triple-paned windows and air-tight construction to create green buildings that are customized for the local climate. A tour of Passive House buildings in Germany convinced a community-oriented developer in Pennsylvania that using the passive approach makes the most sense when developing affordable housing. “The real benefit to us as people who are building for low- to moderate-income families and households,” said Linda Metropulos, “is if we can find a way to lower utility bills substantially, we’re enabling them to have much more money in their pockets at the end of the month.” Metropulos is a senior real estate officer for ACTION-Housing, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit developer of affordable housing. While Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has become the standard for green building in the united States, the Passive House approach is less known here. In western Pennsylvania, at least 125 buildings have some type of LEED certification, according to the u.S. Green Building Council, but until last year, no certified Passive Houses existed in the area.
The first Passive House in western Pennsylvania came to fruition after damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 led to a county program that purchased and demolished flood-prone properties, and enabled participating municipalities and developers to build new housing elsewhere. Allegheny County financed the Passive House, located on a formerly blighted property in Heidelberg Borough. When considering Passive House standards, Metropulos described the local government entities as both cautious and supportive. “In general, government agencies have to be prudent and cautious with what is done with the money they are investing in communities,” she said. “But they were supportive and just wanted assurances that the people moving into the house would be warm when they needed to be and cool when they needed to be.” With the 1,800-square-foot house constructed and on the market, everyone is eager to track its energy performance over the first few years, Metropulos said. “I think everyone believes if you can demonstrate that you can really reduce energy consumption, it’s a good thing,” she said. “And if you can do it aggressively without costing a whole lot of money and putting on photovoltaic and geothermal systems, it’s even better.” In that way, the prototype house in Heidelberg, a suburb of Pittsburgh, is a game changer. Its total energy usage – heating and cooling, domestic hot water, and electricity – cannot be more than 38 kBTu per square foot per year by Passive House standards. An average house located in the northeastern states consumed about 50.7 kBTu per square foot in 2009, according to the latest available data from the Energy Information Administration.
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Passive House criteria limits heating and cooling loads to 4.75 kBTu per square foot, less energy than it would take to power a 1,500 watt hair dryer. Heating and cooling a house accounts for nearly half of its energy consumption, according to Energy Star, followed by lighting at 13 percent, water heating at 12 percent, and clothes washing and drying at 7 percent. Heating and cooling the Passive House in Heidelberg is projected to cost an average of $25 per month. The remainder of the bill depends on occupant usage of appliances and other plug-ins. using proprietary energy-load software, architects modeled and designed the house to be 68 degrees in cold months and 77 degrees in warm months. A Heat Recovery Ventilator exchanges the air completely every three hours, pre-treating the outside air for temperature and moisture. It also replaces the need for a more energy consuming conventional HVAC system. Not having a furnace might raise eyebrows in a part of the country where it snows, but the Heat Recovery Ventilator can handle the job because a super-insulated shell and airtight envelope minimizes heat loss.
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The airtight envelope must pass a blower test as part of requirements for certification. Passive House standards focus on the thermal barrier between the inside and the outside of the building, requiring less money to be spent on mechanical systems that will eventually wear out, said Metropulos. Thick insulation lines the walls, which explains why the house’s window sills are about one foot deep. Triple-paned windows, the only materials specially purchased from Europe, provide better insulation than double-paned. “We’re actually using a more durable window, better insulation, better siding material, and a thicker wall with a standard palette of materials,” said Laura Nettleton, president of Thoughtful Balance in Pittsburgh, the green architecture firm that designed the house. When ACTION-Housing approached the architects to design the Heidelberg house, they asked for about 2,150 square feet. Instead, the architects proposed a smaller 1,800 sq. ft. house, shifting more money toward materials. For the same price at the expense of size, the house also has bamboo flooring, ceramic showers, and solid surface countertops.
To construct the 1,800 sq. ft., 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath home, the developers didn’t have to break the bank. It cost about 13 percent more to construct using Passive House standards, not including the detached garage. “As long as upfront costs don’t become so ridiculously large that it’s hard to justify, there’s a lot of support across the board” for creating a higher-efficiency home, said Metropulos.
Architect as Energy Geek While Thoughtful Balance has worked on many LEED projects, they had to become experts in Passive House, too. One architect on staff went through the training and certification. Since then, a second architect has been trained and is awaiting certification. The process is different than LEED in that the software enables the architect to make calculations that used to require a mechanical engineer, giving immediate results on factors such as passive solar orientation and insulation thickness. Local climate input enables the software to tailor the model for the region, automatically adjusting the insulation and window values, for example.
While the firm specializes in environmentally-friendly buildings, Nettleton said high-tech systems aren’t always the best solutions. They may be eye-catching, she said, but using more mechanical systems creates more maintenance expense for the owner down the line. The exceptions might be larger office buildings and multifamily housing complexes. When the old YMCA is converted to SROs, the building will have a geothermal system. “If you think about geothermal systems, they’re pretty low tech. We’ve been able to reduce the size of our equipment to a fraction of what it would be” without using Passive House design, she said. She describes her discovery of Passive House “a little bit like a gold rush.” Last fall, she attended a conference in Colorado with 400 other “energy geeks.” “To us, Passive House is kind of the wave of the future,” she said, “It’s really exciting because it’s simple.”
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Those decisions, such as adding an extra inch of insulation, are in the hands of the architect. For typical construction in the Pittsburgh area, R-19 is the recommended thickness. For the Heidelberg house, the architects used R-62 for the walls and R-105 for the roof. “It’s really overkill in terms of insulation, but insulation is so much cheaper than what energy is today,” Nettleton said. However, they can’t always do the same for retrofits like the gutted brick YMCA building the firm is currently converting into 84 Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) units. The county approached ACTION-Housing to work on the project. “It’s very challenging. We’re aiming for Passive House,” said Nettleton. “We’re not sure we’ll be able to. The rating is very tough, but because it’s a retrofit, there are slabs that touch the wall, and we can’t insulate.” Still, by improving the envelope and tempering the water with a geothermal loop, the retrofit will pay for itself, she said. Currently the YMCA pays about $65,000 a year on energy. That should come down to between $20,000 and $25,000 after the retrofit is complete, she said. “We’ve blown it out of the water in terms of energy efficiency,” said Nettleton. “The owners were telling me I couldn’t make the numbers work as it is. But we put them in the black.”
The little red house at 1606 W. Railroad St. in Heidelberg, Pa., a suburb outside of Pittsburgh, is the first certified Passive House in Western Pennsylvania. Currently on the market as a designated affordable home, it cost $225,000 to construct, compared to $200,000 for a conventional one, about 12.5 percent higher. Photo credit: Denmarsh Photography
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Sustainable City Network Magazine
Fracking Creates Smart-Growth Dilemma Controversial Extraction Technique Creates Housing Challenges BY RANDY RODGERS, PuBLISHER & EXECuTIVE EDITOR
BRYCE MARET zKI
J A S P ER S C H NE ID E R
You might think it’s odd to be talking about supporting hydraulic fracturing at a smartgrowth conference. But, then again, there are some who would say there isn’t anything particularly smart about urban growth of any kind. Yet, growth happens, and someone has to manage it. In areas of the country impacted by hydraulic fracturing – commonly called fracking – it turns out that growth happens a lot, and seemingly overnight, bringing with it a long list of issues reminiscent of the fabled California gold rush of 1849. Some see it as an economic boom; others as a problem to be solved. For those evicted from their homes because they can no longer afford the sky-rocketing rent, America’s latest “gold rush” is more of a nightmare than a dream come true. Three authorities from Pennsylvania, Texas and North Dakota shared their stories at the 12th annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference on Feb. 8 in Kansas City. Although some conference attendees found it impossible to forego the environmental issues surrounding the fracking debate, [ 16 ]
G IL G O N zA LEz
moderator Jenilee Webb of the u.S. Department of Housing and urban Development did her best to keep the focus on the effects planners are dealing with on the ground, rather than the pros and cons of fracking itself. Those effects include everything from a woefully inadequate supply of housing to a sharp increase in bar fights amid the densely populated “man camps” popping up in areas that hadn’t seen growth in decades until fracking came to town. Induced hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas or other substances for extraction by drilling into reservoir rock formations and forcing highly pressurized hydraulic fracturing fluid into the borehole. The technique, popularized in the late 1990s, exposes vast amounts of formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons for extraction. But, the potential environmental impacts, which include contamination of groundwater, destruction of habitat, and other concerns, have caused the technique to be banned in some countries. In the u.S., it continues to be a highly controversial issue driven by tremendous economic
potential and a desire to be “energy independent” by relying less on foreign oil. According to Gil Gonzalez, rural business program director at the university of Texas in San Antonio, the state of Texas leads the nation with 7 to 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Eagle Ford Shale region alone. Generating about 120,000 jobs, oil and gas extraction in the Eagle Ford region is expected to have an economic impact of $90 billion over the next 10 years. But, that’s only the beginning. Gonzalez says the u.S. Geological Survey has recently discovered an estimated 30 billion barrels of extractable oil in the Cline Shale region of western Texas. North Dakota is second in the nation with about 4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. In Pennsylvania, fracking opened the floodgates on a rural economy that had been stagnant for decades. “In about 2006, we began to start hearing about these land guys coming to Pennsylvania and signing leases with farmers,” said Bryce Maretzki, director of business development
with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. “We’re talking about some very rural parts of Pennsylvania where aside from some coal extraction and steel production there hasn’t been much going on for 60-plus years. “So motels were all of a sudden getting very full. Restaurants were all of a sudden requiring reservations. We were beginning to hear that bars were having fights. The police were actually being called out into the community, and some communities actually needed to hire police for the first time,” Maretzki said. He said the “epicenter” of the oil and gas production boom in the state occurred in a county with less than 4,000 natives. “As we went out and started to talk to these communities and they started to scream at us inside government, we were hearing that ‘our roads are being destroyed, our farms are being torn up.’ And then we’d go talk to people who had signed leases and they were saying, ‘I could get gold.’ They were signing incredible leases for long periods of time. So, there was this very interesting dichotomy going on, starting in about 2006.”
In some cases, Gonzalez said, the smaller communities don’t have the organizational, leadership, or financial capacity to develop and implement smart-growth plans. “One of the biggest challenges occurring in these oil-impacted areas is affordability of housing,” Gonzalez said. “It pretty much puts people in the street. They become homeless. So, what’s our alternative? … We don’t want hotels… and other nonsustainable options. The oil and gas industry is very fraternal. It moves in a unit. It has transient workers, but in the end, it’s not that transitory. When you’re there for 15 or 20 years, you become part of that community.” Gonzalez said some of the areas in Texas impacted most by the fracking boom are among the most impoverished areas of the u.S.
“So, from that standpoint, the challenge is huge when it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to housing, and when it comes to social capacity,” he said. “They have no core competency with regard to strategic planning, comprehensive planning, financing public projects, applying for a government loan or grant. Some of them are struggling with this.” Worse yet, Gonzalez said first responders in some communities are not adequately prepared to fight chemical fires. To address these problems, the university of Texas has developed training programs for municipal leaders in rural areas of the state, financed in part by voluntary contributions from the oil and gas companies.
By 2011, work on drilling the new wells was going “full bore,” Maretzki said, and the number of wells was growing exponentially. To date, more than 5,000 new drilling operations have come online in the state. The same story has played out in other regions of the country, especially in Texas, where fracking has been a “game changer,” according to Gonzalez. His department helps small towns in Texas – “some with more cattle than people” – deal with the growing pains associated with the rapid expansion of oil and gas operations in their communities.
This schematic of hydraulic fracturing provided by the u.S. Department of Energy shows how wells pass through and far below groundwater tables to pump large volumes of water and sand, and small amounts of chemical additives, into low-permeability subsurface formations to increase oil or natural gas flow. The graphic indicates that protective steel and cement casings are installed to protect groundwater from accidental contamination. But, environmental advocates argue that spills could potentially contaminate water supplies over vast areas. Photo Credit: u.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory
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Sustainable City Network Magazine
Pennsylvania has gone one step further, according to Maretzki. It has instituted an “impact fee” assessed to drilling operators in the state. That fee generated $206 million in 2012, about 60 percent of which went back to the communities impacted by the fracking operations. The rest went to the state’s departments of environmental planning, environmental protection, transportation and housing — all intended to address the impacts of fracking. About $8 million helped fund the state’s “PHARE” housing act. The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement fund pays for a wide range of housing activities, many targeted to increase the availability of low-income housing in the Marcellus Shale gas fields. “We were seeing in some of these places motels and hotels being bought and turned into long-term housing for workers,” Maretzki said. “We were seeing rents triple,
quadruple… five times, six times. Any housing unit that became available in that region was being snapped up, primarily by people coming from outside Pennsylvania for short periods of time. But, they were being paid loads of money, so they were willing to pay anything to have a place to stay while they were there.” “We had people becoming homeless very quickly. Their lease would end, their rents would quadruple, they couldn’t afford it anymore… so they were out,” Maretzki said. Gonzalez described a south Texas community with a population less than 500 trying to support a transient workforce of more than 12,000 people. Local employers couldn’t compete with the wages paid by the gas and oil companies, so many businesses began cutting back hours or curtailing services. This has exacerbated the flight of young people away from local communities, Gonzalez said.
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The fracking operations in North Dakota can be seen from space in nighttime satellite images that show the flaring of natural gas in the oil fields shining as brightly as some metropolitan areas of the country. Jasper Schneider, North Dakota state director of the u.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development program, said the oil fields there were discovered 25 years ago, but the extraction technology at the time was not cost effective. All that changed with hydraulic fracturing. Schneider said the average per capita income in the state has increased from $25,000 in 2000, when it ranked 38th in the nation, to $45,000 in 2010, now ranking 9th in the united States. At 3.1 percent, it has one of the slightest unemployment rates in the country. With about 7,700 operating wells, the state produces more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day, recently surpassing Alaska,
Oklahoma and California to become the second largest oil producing state behind Texas, Schneider said. With all that oil comes a lot of money, both in terms of personal wealth (six-figure incomes are not uncommon among oil rig workers), as well as tax revenues to state and local coffers. But, the challenges are also considerable, Schneider said. “Part of the growing pain is just explosive growth,” he said. “We are not a big state. We were not equipped at the time to take on massive population increases, massive industry. Any way you spin it, we are playing catch-up to support this massive growth.” Schneider said the North Dakota legislature only meets once every two years, so the pace of legislation is slow. And, ironically, access to public and private capital is a major challenge. “Local bankers in North Dakota have been through boom and bust cycles before… so they’re a little bit gun shy. But, there’s also been some reforms to the banking industry, the credit and capital crunch, that have been felt in North Dakota, too,” he said. To find the money, Schneider said his office has been trying to forge public/private partnerships with oil and gas companies and other business interests who see opportunity in the state. Meanwhile, North Dakota’s infrastructure continues to deteriorate under the stain. Its water systems are running at maximum capacity. Its cell phone towers are overwhelmed. The costs of labor and construction materials have inflated significantly.
“Oil and natural gas, of course, are nonrenewable resources. So, how do we invest in new industries or attract new industries so that as the price of oil drops or we move to renewable energy we have the industries in place and the workforce that is trained to work in those new industries?” “The key is to get smart and plan. It’s hard to do because we’re going through so much growth very quickly, and everybody is so busy, but it’s imperative that we take a step back and ask ourselves what we want our state to look like 20 or 50 years down the road.” Schneider said the u.S.D.A. has launched a number of planning initiatives, one in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency, to help local communities define their future. But, to some, just the thought of a future impacted by the burning of fossil fuels and the potential contamination of precious water resources is enough to end the conversation. “I think this discussion is quite strange at a conference that speaks to the issues of climate-change adaptation, and how we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Amy Goldsmith, state director for the Clean Water Fund, a national organization dedicated to protecting water resources. She said fracking contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and contaminates water supplies already impacted by severe drought conditions, especially in North Dakota and Texas. “How can you contaminate scarce fresh drinking water supplies and still talk about growing small towns on an extraction industry that is counter to everything this particular conference is about?” she asked.
“I felt the question about health was glossed over and I didn’t hear anything about the negative impact on the environment,” she said. Schneider responded by saying that the environmental issues “underscore the need for good leadership, and people should hold their leaders accountable to the issues they feel passionate about.” Maretzki said, “What we have to focus on from a smart growth standpoint is how do we plan and mitigate and look into the future? This is an opportunity, and that opportunity has challenges that we all have to face together. … I am encouraged by the fact that people are coming together, and they’re talking about it, and there’s leadership being developed to think about it into the future.” In Texas, a grassroots organization called the Eagle Ford Consortium is composed of stakeholder representatives of a cross-section of community members, including those dedicated to environmental issues, Gonzales said. He said no studies in Texas have yet determined that fracking chemicals are getting into the water table, but he said stakeholders representing agriculture and public health are actively involved in the consortium. “They are being responsible, looking at the opportunity, but also looking at environmental management. There’s a balance there. …There are about eight different committees looking at a variety of issues that really focus on sustainability,” he said.
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And when the oil fields dry up… what then? “One of our biggest challenges is maintaining a diversified economy,” Schneider said.
Margaret May, executive director of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council in Kansas City, agreed. [ 19 ]
Sustainable City Network Magazine
Aquaponic Agriculture Holds Promise for Local Foods Fish Waste Grows Veggies Without Soil BY RANDY RODGERS, PuBLISHER & EXECuTIVE EDITOR
AMES, Iowa — An aquaponics experiment in Iowa is demonstrating that fresh greens and tasty fish can be produced almost anywhere in an economically and ecologically viable form of agriculture.
capture excess feed and fish waste, which bacteria break down into nitrates that are consumed by the plants. The filtered water is then recirculated back to the fish tanks in a continuously flowing loop.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics in which fish waste is used to organically create nutrient-rich water that allows plants to grow without soil.
The fish are harvested after about four months, and the system is capable of growing a year-round supply of Buttercrunch bib lettuce inside the greenhouse. In warmer months, the research team also grows Italian large leaf basil, which can fetch as much as $25 a pound in local markets. Pattillo said his team chose lettuce and basil because they’re cheap and easy to grow, but the aquaponics system could theoretically grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Partly funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, the experiment is being led by D. Allen Pattillo, a specialist with the Iowa State university Fisheries Extension. Pattillo is assisted by a number of ISu undergraduates. The aquaponics system, located in a greenhouse on the ISu campus, was intentionally designed in a low-tech fashion. “We kind of put a homemade system together with some 2-by-4s and extra tanks and things we had around,” he said. “So it took some ingenuity on our part to put this system together.” Pattillo said most existing aquaponics systems are “hobby-scale” operations. But, through his research, he hopes to help change that. “My objective is to evaluate the sustainability of aquaponics, economically, ecologically and socially. A lot of people are really in to local foods, and they’re willing to pay more money for local fish. So, we like the idea that this can provide a local product to people, and fresh greens throughout the year. To reduce the carbon footprint, we want to grow species of fish that lower demand for energy resources and feed input.” For these reasons, he chose Nile Tilapia, a mild breed of white fish that originated in Africa. Talapia live primarily on a plant-based diet, so they can thrive on soy proteins rather than more expensive feeds made of fishmeal. Pattillo’s aquaponics system works like this: Fish are produced in 40-gallon tanks that each hold 33 fingerlings purchased from a hatchery in southern Iowa. They’re fed a commercial feed made of soy protein and a little fishmeal. Water is continuously circulated from the tanks into a system of mechanical and biological filters that [ 20 ]
“You can basically grow anything,” Pattillo said, although fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers require more nutrients and have special lighting demands. Pattillo said his research is testing three types of filtration media in an attempt to determine the most efficient and productive environment for the bacteria to do their work. The three media include rockwool, a lightweight material similar to insulation; pea gravel, which allows water to ebb and flow; and a floating raft system that allows roots to dangle directly into the tank of water. A main focus of the study is to develop best practices for future large-scale commercial aquaponic systems. While Pattillo doesn’t see aquaponics as a potential replacement for existing commercial agriculture, he does believe the demand for fresh, local foods will make the technique a profitable alternative. “Why I’m doing the research is so I can evaluate it economically and develop a plan, so I can tell people ‘if you grow this plant with this fish at this time of year, with this feed in this location, then you can make money.’ That’s really what my goal is,” Pattillo said. “The price of vegetables goes up so much just because you have to take a tractor trailer and transport them from California or Florida and up to Iowa. People could sell a tomato for the same exact price here in Iowa, but make so much more money if they grew it locally. That’s a big deal for people to put more money in their pockets and create less emissions overall,” Pattillo said.
He said he gets questioned almost daily by people interested in the commercial application of aquaponics and he’s working with a national farm supply company to develop a “turn-key” commercialscale system. Iowa is also one of 21 states that participate in the MarketMaker program, which provides an online tool for local food providers to tap into regional markets, making it easier than ever to sell locally grown produce. Aquaponic systems can also be implemented at institutions, Pattillo said. St. Gregory Retreat Center, an Iowa substance abuse rehabilitation facility, is working with partners to provide work and food to its clients. “They have a small aquaponics operation on their site now,” Pattillo said. “They’re using it to put food in their salad bar, but they’re also using it as a form of therapy for their patients. It’s been so successful that they are planning to expand the operation to a research and production center in Des Moines.” Pattillo said the center sells its produce to local restaurants, and the proceeds go toward scholarships to help the patients pay for their treatment.
Thanks to a special project grant from the Leopold Center’s Cross-Cutting Initiative, extension specialist Allen Pattillo has set up an experiment that explores the use of aquaponics – the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – to produce an efficient and economically/ecologically viable form of agriculture.
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Sustainable City Network Magazine
Best Practices for Land Use Planning in Coastal Communities Louisiana Planners Travel the World to Develop Manual BY RANDY RODGERS, PuBLISHER & EXECuTIVE EDITOR
Since 1932 the Mississippi River delta in south Louisiana has lost 2,300 square miles of land. Every hour it loses the equivalent of a football field to erosion, subsidence and the rising sea. As the water closes in on the two million people who live and work there, urban planners are busy grappling with a looming crisis. How will humans continue to thrive in a place that is literally sinking beneath their feet? While coastal cities and river towns across the u.S. might view New Orleans as a bellwether, the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) in Baton Rouge, La., looked at delta regions around the world for inspiration. In a joint project with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority (CPRA), the center consulted with planning, coding and coastal experts to create The Best Practices Manual for Development in Coastal Louisiana and the Louisiana Coastal Land Use Toolkit. The two documents – intended for planners, developers and homeowners in Louisiana, but relevant to river or coastal communities everywhere – are available on the CPEX web site. Camille Manning-Broome, CPEX director of planning, spoke at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Kansas City, Mo. “We’re planning for communities that are fighting for their existence,” Manning-Broome said. “We’re working in communities that have nowhere to turn.” The manual and toolkit were developed to build on the state’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. The plan, revised in 2012, calls for the implementation of 109 different projects costing a total of $50 billion to restore marshes, build infrastructure, and take other actions to stop the gradual loss of land in the delta. It would take an estimated $50 billion more to reverse the trend and actually reclaim land that has already been swept away, according to the plan authors, the 20 members of the Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority chaired by Garret Graves, the governor’s executive assistant for coastal activities. [ 22 ]
The result: Implementing the plan would reduce expected damage from floods throughout the Louisiana coast by $5.3 to $18 billion per year.
The alternative: “Should land loss continue unabated, the nation would face costs of approximately $40 billion just to handle the retreat of communities inland,” the plan says. Damage to the network of pipelines in and around the coast would send energy costs soaring nationwide; and another major hurricane in the region could rival the $250 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “The catastrophe facing south Louisiana means that we must act quickly, or we will lose everything,” wrote the authors of the plan. Manning-Broome said the best-practices manual is intended to help local communities make informed decisions when implementing new codes and strategies in accordance with the master plan. “The whole document is based on the premise of living with water; embracing our water instead of always trying to get rid of it,” she said. The project team traveled to a number of delta areas around the world, meeting with engineers, architects and planners to gather best practices and build relationships among the world’s experts in delta ecology, restoration and management. Among them, the team visited communities on the Rhine River in the Netherlands; the Nile River in Egypt; the Mekong River in Vietnam; the Parana River in Argentina; and river cities in Italy, Sweden, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan and Australia. On the road trip the team studied levee designs, green infrastructure, water security measures, agriculture in floodprone areas, water transportation, building designs, land-use strategies, citizen engagement and a multitude of best practices for living with floods, droughts and storms in coastal communities. Armed with these examples, Manning-Broome said the team returned to Louisiana and began studying how these global strategies might be applied to serve the state’s unique agricultural, industrial and cultural needs.
As a state, Louisiana ranks number one in crude oil production and number two in natural gas. “It provides about 30 percent of the seafood consumed in the u.S., and the Port of South Louisiana handles more tonnage than any other port in the world,” ManningBroome said. “Taking all this into consideration, we want to be able to provide strategies as our communities adapt. And, we want communities to be able to go to this guide and figure out what type of issues they have in their environment, and what best practices apply to them,” she said. The manual maps all the various geotypes found throughout the state, providing a cross section of the land and water use, the natural layer and the infrastructure that exists in each distinctive geotype. Examples include upper, middle and lower riverbanks, chenier plains, alluvium and coastal delta areas.
Best practices for conserving and restoring wetlands and building low earthen barriers are addressed in the guide as well. The manual also contains best practices for homeowners when securing their structures against floods and strong winds. And, it introduces readers to the latest innovations in adaptive buildings, including homes designed to float when floodwaters rise. Then, there is guidance on the challenging topic of relocation. “This is a very touchy subject in Louisiana,” Manning-Broome said. “There’s no 1-800 number to call. There’s no one to turn to. In a lot of fishing communities, that is their way of life. You can’t go re-create that community that’s been there for centuries. Their ancestors’ burial grounds are there and you can’t re-create them somewhere else. So, this is a very big challenge for us as we move and redevelop along our coasts.”
Then the guide walks readers through a series of strategies that can be applied based on particular geotypes. “Every strategy is based on the multiple lines of defense,” ManningBroome said. “It’s where you think about the tide surge and what’s coming from offshore during a hurricane, and then building multiple layers that protect you.” So, in one example, a coastal area might start by creating a barrier island that reduces the wave action and weakens the storm surge, followed by a sound, some marshland, tree-lined ridges and a levee with floodgates. Pumping stations and drainage systems might follow, with ponds, lakes or swales providing additional protection. Finally, elevated homes and flood-resistant buildings with easy access to evacuation routes can be developed. The manual steps leaders through the process of creating community development and emergency management plans, designating evacuation routes, elevating critical infrastructure, protecting electrical networks and water/sewer infrastructure, and creating systems that capture and manage stormwater.
Attendees at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Kansas City, Mo., participate in a small-group exercise using tools provided by Center for Planning Excellence in Baton Rouge, La., and the Louisiana Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority.
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The best-practices manual begins with a foreword by Tulane University geographer and noted author Richard Campanella, who sums up the project in this way: “The time to adapt to change is now. While state and federal agencies oversee large-scale restoration and protection projects, key roles must also be played by local government, developers and individuals. The Best Practices Manual for Development in Coastal Louisiana inventories and explains these approaches, techniques, tools and policies toward the long-term stewardship of this dynamic delta.” [ 23 ]
Sustainable City Network Magazine
Maple Syrup, Moose, and Local Impacts of Climate Change understanding Warming Requires Long Term Studies that Account for Real-Life Complexity CARY INSTITuTE OF ECOSYSTEM STuDIES
patterns and ecosystem dynamics. We found that global climate models omit factors critical to understanding forest response, such as hydrology, soil conditions, and plant-animal interactions.”
P ETER GROF FMAN
MILLBROOK, N.Y. — In the northern hardwood forest, climate change is poised to reduce the viability of the maple syrup industry, spread wildlife diseases and tree pests, and change timber resources. And, according to a new BioScience paper released by twenty-one scientists, without long-term studies at the local scale — we will be ill-prepared to predict and manage these effects. Following an exhaustive review of more than 50 years of long-term data on environmental conditions at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the paper’s authors arrived at a sobering conclusion: current climate change models don’t account for real life surprises that take place in forests. Lead author Dr. Peter Groffman, a microbial ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, said, “Climate change plays out on a stage that is influenced by land-use
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One thing is clear: at Hubbard Brook Forest spring is advancing and fall is retreating. Over the past half century, the climate has warmed and there has been a rise in rainfall and a decrease in snowfall. Winters are getting shorter and milder, with snowpack melting some two weeks earlier. But soil thaw is no longer tightly coupled with spring plant growth, creating a transitional period that results in the loss of important soil nutrients. In the absence of insulating snow pack, exposed soils are more susceptible to freezing, which damages tree roots. Sugar maples are suffering a one-two punch: soil frost is linked to tree mortality and warmer winters reduce sap yield. Mild winters are also encouraging the spread of pests and pathogens, including the destructive hemlock woolly adelgid — which was once held in check by cold winter temperatures. As snow depth decreases, deer are better able to forage in the forest. Their browsing damages young trees and spreads a parasite that is lethal to moose. Reduced snow pack is also a challenge for logging operations, which use snow-packed roads to move trees, and ski resorts, which already rely heavily on manmade snow.
“Managing the forests of the future will require moving beyond climate models based on temperature and precipitation, and embracing coordinated long-term studies that account for real-world complexities,” Groffman said. “These studies can be scaled up, to give a more accurate big picture of climate change challenges — while also providing more realistic approaches for tackling problems at the regional scale.” Much biological research on climate change focuses on the impacts of warming and changes in precipitation over wide areas. Researchers are now increasingly recognizing that at the local scale they must understand the effects of climate change through the intertwined patterns of soils, vegetation, and water flowpaths — not forgetting the uses humans have made of the landscape. In the BioScience paper, researchers describe how aboveground and belowground responses to springtime warming are becoming separated in time in the New England forest. This and other indirect effects of climate change could alter the dominant trees and other plants in the region as well as the wildlife present, with likely consequences for local industry and tourism. The observations could be a bellwether for changes in forests elsewhere, the researchers said.
The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is operated by the Northern Research Station of the u.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, in Newtown Square, Pa. It is part of the National Science Foundation’s Longterm Ecological Research Program — the largest and longest-lived ecological network in America. Twenty-six LTER sites encompass ecosystems in the continental u.S., Alaska, Antarctica, and islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The LTER program was founded with the recognition that long-term, broad-scale research is necessary for understanding environmental phenomena, such as climate change. Learn more at lternet.edu. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is a private, not-for-profit environmental research and education organization in Millbrook, N.Y. For more than 25 years, Cary Institute scientists have been investigating the complex interactions that govern the natural world. Their objective findings lead
to more effective policy decisions and increased environmental literacy. Focal areas include air and water pollution, climate change, invasive species, and the ecological dimensions of infectious disease. Long-Term Integrated Studies Show Complex and Surprising Effects of Climate Change in the Northern Hardwood Forest was released by the following scientists: Peter M. Groffman, Lindsey E. Rustad, Pamela H. Templer, John L. Campbell, Lynn M. Christenson, Nina K. Lany, Anne M. Socci, Matthew A. Vadeboncoeur, Paul G. Schaberg, Geoffrey F. Wilson, Charles T. Driscoll, Timothy J. Fahey, Melany C. Fisk, Christine L. Goodale, Mark B. Green, Steven P. Hamburg, Chris E. Johnson, Myron J. Mitchell, Jennifer L. Morse, Linda H. Pardo, and Nicholas L. Rodenhouse.
A researcher records snow levels at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest operated by the Northern Research Station of the u.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Newtown Square, Pa. Photo Credit: Cary Institute
related youtube video: http://youtu.be/vAee9fWRzJo
The industry’s most durable radar speed signs are also the most ecological and energy efficient. In 2004, Radarsign™ established new industry standards for traffic-calming solutions with the debut of the world’s first armored radar speed signs, which are vandal, weather and bullet-resistant. Designed from the ground up to be reliable with unmatched viewability, our radar speed signs are effective at traffic calming, and versatile enough to mount anywhere. AC, solar, and mobile battery models available. School zone Beacon solutions are also available as stand-alone systems, or integrated with our radar speed signs. Engineered and manufactured in the uSA, Radarsign products are MuTCD-compliant and utilize recycled aluminum, innovative LED reflector technology, minimal battery power and solar panels to deliver bright, easy-to-read feedback to drivers. Radarsign products are scientifically proven to reduce drivers’ speeds. Covering the corners of North America—from Alaska to Puerto Rico, Canada to Arizona and communities in between—Radarsign has been entrusted to provide safe and effective traffic-calming solutions for municipalities, treasured national parks, schools, neighborhoods, military bases, and private and public development projects.
www.radarsign.com [ 25 ]
Sustainable City Network Magazine
Bioneers Define Resilience in Madison, Wis. Activists Discuss City’s Capacity to Confront ‘Irrational Situations’ BY JuLIANNE COuCH
By most definitions, sustainability refers to a community or practice that is stable enough to continue, thus assuring its environmental, economic, and social elements will be available for future generations. Lately another term is being applied by social and scientific innovators who are examining what allows a community to stand up under pressures that might otherwise destroy it: “Resilience.” Resilience is a word that captures the ability of a community “to respond dynamically and constructively to disruption so that core functions are maintained,” said Grant Albert at the recent Badger Bioneers Conference in Madison, Wis., a city working toward resilience on many fronts. The community, the environment, and the personal were all framed through a “resilience lens” at the conference. Albert is a principal at the Kailo Fund, an investment and philanthropic fund “working to build ecologically, economically and socially resilient communities through investment, philanthropy and
entrepreneurial engagement.” A conference panel moderator, he said resilience is entering our vocabulary as we encounter more largescale environmental change. Albert cited Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the tornado that nearly wiped out Joplin, Mo., and other natural disasters as examples. But natural disasters are not the only events that demand resilience to survive, he said. “What would $5 or $10 a gallon gas do? What about food shortages. Would we return to riots over the rising price of grain?” he asked the crowd. Panelist Jim Lorman, academic director of the Sustainability Leadership graduate program at Edgewood College in Madison, spoke of resilience in ecological terms. He said social and economic systems depend highly on resilience. “The resilience framework is about a way of thinking, and it complements the sustainability lens very much,” he said. “Natural systems self-organize, and paired with the capacity for self adaptation, they are shown to be resilient. A natural system can have more than one stable state.” The question is how close we are to shifting from one stable system to the next. For example, Lorman studies lakes in the Madison area. He examined how a lake might be clear, contain a limited number of carp and algae but be home to abundant rooted plant life. Alternatively, a lake might be dominated by algae and carp. These are both stable and sustainable states, Lorman said, but one is more preferable to most people. In a demonstration project, about 6,000 carp were removed from a section of lake, resulting in fewer nutrients, which meant less algae, which made way for more rooted plants, and ultimately clearer water.
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Poet, counselor and teacher Donna Carnes, left, listens as former Madison, Wis., mayor Joe Sensenbrenner makes a point in a panel discussion on resilience at a recent Badger Bioneers Conference in Madison. The conference was presented by Sustain Dane, a non-profit sustainability organization based in Dane County, Wis.
Lorman compared this natural system to the adaptive cycles of a community. First there is a period of rapid growth, as one might see in a booming new-market business. Eventually the business reaches the point of conservation when more resources go into efficiency and specialization. The result is a stable state that operates under a narrow range of conditions. At some point, the business will hit a disruption, which might cause it to collapse. So, it can start over, or it can become some new form.
“Efficiency and resilience are often opposed,” Lorman said. For example, we have a very efficient global food system but if there is a breakdown, it is fragile and bad things can happen if there is no backup. That means that if there was a natural disaster that prevented food from being grown or distributed, we would see people have great difficulty feeding themselves without a local backup plan. Panelist Joe Sensenbrenner applied Lorman’s ecological concept to a location in Madison: the Resilience Research Center. Sensenbrenner is the center’s board president and a former three-time mayor of Madison. The center is a non-profit institution committed to revitalizing urban communities. Built to LEED platinum standards in 2012, the center is surrounded by community gardens and contains Badger Rock Middle School, a charter school that focuses on experimental education and sustainability. Researchers from the university of Wisconsin-Madison study the outcomes as the center engages residents of its culturally diverse neighborhood. According to its website, the center is “a living laboratory where neighbors build relationships; where intensive urban agriculture yields nourishing food and green-collar jobs; where middle school students engage with the world around them instead of sitting at desks; where researchers study systems that impact daily life, ranging from public health to air quality to energy efficiency; where one of the most sustainably designed buildings in the world models the latest advances in green technology.” When Sensenbrenner thinks of resilient cities, he said, he thinks of an “inquiry into essence.” This inquiry takes two main forms. “What are the features, attributes, values, traits, that are essential to this community? Second, what are the trends?” These might include trends in demographics, economics, education, transportation, food, or others. “How do we develop strategies for dealing with important trends in order to preserve the essence of a community? What is worth keeping?” Sensenbrenner asked. Finally, what difference does it make? That’s what Sensenbrenner said is the important research question the center is asking. They are working to expand the civic virtue survey instrument developed by Robert Putnam, Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard university and the author of Bowling Alone, a book about the collapse and revival of the American community. Putnam’s survey measures civic virtue by asking if people know their neighbor’s names, if they’ve had them over for dinner, how far away from home they consider part of their neighborhood, how far away they are comfortable allowing their children to play. The Resilience Research Center’s survey instrument has added questions about food preparation and acquisition, education, energy, and the “regulation of intention and emotion.”
The survey also asks people to rate their neighborhood according to how much they like it, the degree to which they participate in activities. Early results suggest that “people lead richer, more compassionate and satisfying lives as they engage each other,” Sensenbrenner said. “People can improve their ability to be present, focused, happy, and compassionate, through certain practices that are taking place in our classrooms” at the charter school. The goal, he said, is to see what happens, rather than engineer something to happen. The survey helps them measure how a person’s definition of “neighborhood” changes after engaging in certain activities. “The goal is to see if one’s definition becomes more inclusive over time. If so, what did they do? Did they come together around gardening, around the school, around the energy classes?” During the 2012 presidential election, Sensenbrenner said, a new polling place was established in the neighborhood. “More citizens registered to vote there than at any other polling place (in Madison), and the voter turnout of 92 percent tied for the best in the city,” he said. Panelist Donna Carnes also thinks about resilience, though at more of a personal level, as a poet, speaker, counselor and teacher. “Systems and groups always start with the individual,” she said, adding to Lorman and Sensenbrenner’s broader views. “How optimistic and resilient a person are you, and how do you apply that to your community?” “Resilient people can build and maintain not just sustainable systems, but systems that grow. Resilience is about managing and rebuilding after an irrational situation,” such as a natural disaster or personal tragedy. “It is also a combination of creativity and spirituality, using it in a collaborative way, and from that, growing.” Albert summed up community resilience in this way: “When you address resilience you address the core aspects of what makes a community thrive. All communities were established based on access to resources. If we attend to food, water and energy that is available locally, and attend to our social fabric and density and quality of relationships, that’s what makes a community thrive in the long term. That’s the premise of work on resilience.” Bioneers is a national community of thousands of engaged leaders, groups and citizens that hold an annual conference. According to the group’s literature, “Bioneers connect with each other in a field of opportunity oriented to innovate action. Participants come from diverse walks of life, cultures, disciplines, and sectors, including civil society, education, science, the arts, technology, media, government and business.” Badger Bioneers is the Wisconsin version of this conference, organized by Sustain Dane, and by the university of Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and [ 27 ] Global Health Institute.
Sustainable City Network Magazine
PACE Financing - Down But Not Out Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs Continue Despite FHFA Ruling BY ARAM KALOuSDIAN
While the FHFA ruling means the assessments can no longer be passed on to future property owners without their consent, municipal officials said the financing tool is still viable. Borrowers need to understand that the loans might need to be paid back if they sell or refinance the home while the debt is still outstanding.
The Western Riverside Council of Governments, based in Riverside, Calif., operates the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Program, an example of a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program that continues to provide value despite some restrictions imposed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
If you thought PACE financing was dead on arrival, think again! Some jurisdictions are still using Property Assessed Clean Energy programs to help finance housing retrofits, despite a controversial 2010 ruling by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, according to speakers at a Jan. 31 webinar hosted by Applied Solutions. PACE financing programs allow private property owners to install small-scale renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings and pay for the cost over its functional life through an on-going assessment on property tax bills.
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under the voluntary program, property owners only pay for the cost of their project (including interest) and fees to administer the program. Property owners contract with qualified private contractors for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. In some cases, the municipality provides the upfront funding for the project through proceeds of a revenue bond issuance, which is repaid through the assessment on property owners’ tax bills. Sometimes, other forms of re-payment are offered. PACE addresses two barriers to clean energy and energy efficiency installations – the high up-front cost and the possibility that those costs will not be recovered if the property is sold. under most PACE programs, there is no up-front cost to the property owner and if the property is sold prior to complete repayment, the new owner might voluntarily take over the remaining special tax payments. Charlotte County, Fla., started looking into the possibility of implementing a PACE program in 2010, when Florida passed PACE enabling legislation.
“unfortunately, the FHFA passed guidance that blocked the implementation of traditional residential PACE programs in the summer of 2010, which brought the progress on our programs to a halt,” said Jason Stoltzfus, program liaison for Charlotte County. “Since then, we’ve been working with the surrounding counties in order to try and identify viable alternatives to PACE programs where we could accomplish the same objective without using property tax assessments as a repayment mechanism on the residential side. There have been a number of great ideas and concepts discussed and there are a number of programs in Florida that are being developed, but we haven’t seen anything successfully established in our area since the FHFA guidance was passed.” In a July 6, 2010 statement, FHFA said the PACE program presents financial risks. “under most of these programs, the loans acquire a priority lien over existing mortgages, though certain states have chosen not to adopt priority positions for their loans. First liens established by PACE loans are unlike routine tax assessments and pose unusual and difficult risk management challenges for lenders, servicers and mortgage securities investors,” FHFA said. The FHFA statement also said that PACE financing arrangements lack adequate consumer protections and standards for energy retrofitting. FHFA has proposed a rule that would secure and preserve the right of a mortgage holder to make a mortgage that becomes subject
to a first-lien PACE obligation without the mortgage holder’s consent, immediately due in full. The rule also bans the purchase of a mortgage that is subject to a first-lien PACE obligation. FHFA is considering three alternative means of mitigating the financial risks that first-lien PACE programs would otherwise impose. Dana Fisher, residential program manager of Efficiency Maine, said his state avoids the FHFA problem by acquiring only secondary liens on properties. “We’re frequently asked to sign subordination agreements to primary notes or to refinancing, which we do happily,” Fisher said. “It’s no problem at all.” Fisher said the biggest obstacle in Maine is that the program requires homeowners to have at least as much equity in their homes as they wish to borrow, along with a 45 percent debt-to-income ratio. “We have received in the past two years roughly 2,000 PACE applications and we’ve rejected more than 900 of them ... mostly due to the 45 percent debt-to-income ratio,” Fisher said.
Sonoma County, Calif. has a population of approximately 500,000 and about 180,000 households. Before the FHFA guidance was passed, Sonoma County received about $2.5 million of assessment funding each month and the average size of a project was $30,000. The county funded approximately $24 million in projects in the first year of the program, even though the county had originally targeted about $10 million in projects. “The biggest challenge right now is the FHFA and the opposition to the program,” Liz Yager, energy and sustainability manager for Sonoma County said. “Many people are refinancing now and that can create a hiccup in the process for them.” The Western Riverside Council of Governments in California focuses on disclosure in order to address the FHFA hurdle for residential programs. “It’s disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. We inform the property owner in several places on our application and the assessment contract that they may or may not need to pay off the assessment during a sale or refinancing. We’ve had 34 properties go through a sale or refinancing and have had no problems,” said Barbara Spoonhour,
director of Energy and Environmental Programs for the Western Riverside Council of Governments. The PACE program that the Western Riverside Council of Governments has implemented has provided a much needed boost for the construction industry, Spoonhour said. “This program is a job retainer and creator program,” said Spoonhour. “Our area has a lot of construction. So, when the housing market went down, a lot of people in construction lost their jobs. Doing retrofits has helped a lot of our businesses bring back some of these contractors, put them back to work and retain the people that they were possibly going to lose,” she said. “So, for us, the priority of our region is economic development and our PACE program really fits that model.” Founded by local government elected officials in 2008, Applied Solutions was established to provide resource to, and help local governments design and implement projects to diversify their energy and water supplies to save money, increase efficiency, and spur investment in local economies.
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Sustainable City Network Magazine
HUD-DOT Community Challenge Grant Supports Rural Studies Randolph County, WV Plans for Aging Population BY ADELAIDE CHEN
Housing planners in West Virginia’s largest county knew the silver tsunami had hit. In 2011, the state edged past Florida as the state with the highest percentage of citizens over 50 years of age — almost one-third of its population, according to the American Community Survey conducted annually by the u.S. Census Bureau. But when an analysis of Randolph County was released in a housing study this summer, the gravity of the situation caught a few by surprise, including Dave Clark, a planner who handles special projects for the Randolph County Housing Authority. “We were aging even more rapidly than we realized,” he said. The study shows a particularly alarming projection from 2010 to 2015 –- working families moving out and replaced by more affluent households of baby boomers moving in. The housing authority works with low-income households in supplying affordable housing and Section 8 vouchers. To help plan for the future, they applied for a HuD-DOT Community Challenge Grant for the 2010 fiscal year. The payoff resulted in studies on housing and transit, as well as a walkability study of one neighborhood near downtown. The results were all released this summer. The studies will provide a long-term strategy for the rural county, which does not
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have a planning commission. The county commission had proposed a comprehensive plan, and abandoned its efforts due to public outcry. “The fact that Randolph County is grasping this livability smart growth agenda is unique,” said Jason Espie, planner and project manager with the Renaissance Planning Group, the consultant for the studies. About 28,000 residents live among 1,040 square miles, with a third concentrated in the county seat of Elkins. That’s where most retirees live, close to the city’s downtown area and services.
Planning for the Baby Boomers For Clark, this information was a call to action, leading to the agency’s decision to acquire and rehabilitate housing in these areas. With nearly 10 percent of non-seasonal housing stock in the county sitting vacant, the agency is actively buying and increasing its portfolio. Currently, 10 of the 60 rental units are set aside for seniors. But in the next year and a half, the senior housing units will increase to 34. “We had a couple of housing projects that were in the planning process,” said Clark. “We decided to make those senior projects.” One of them is a turn-of-the-century, twostory brick schoolhouse in Elkins which has
stood vacant for nearly four decades. The First Ward School will be adapted into 16 rental units. In addition, an emphasis is being placed on service-enriched housing for a “seamless way of accessing services,” said Kate Somers, program manager for the housing authority. Partners, such as the Randolph County Senior Center are already providing valuable services, including in-home care, transportation and nutritious subsidized meals at dining sites. Regardless of ability to pay, seniors 60 and up can access services. That demographic has grown in the county, from about 5,650 to 7,400, between the 2000 and 2010 census. But demand for in-home care services are increasing, while congregant meals are decreasing, said Laura Ward, executive director of the senior center. “The folks who are becoming senior citizens now don’t want the same things as seniors before them,” she said. About that stereotype of retirees wanting to join choirs in their free time? “Those days are gone,” she said. “What entertains one generation may not the next.”
Improving a Rural Transit System County Roads Transit, Randolph’s only public transit system, a 12-vehicle fleet, is managed by the senior center. It started as a service for seniors, but is open to all ages. It works on a deviated fixed route as well as by demand. A transit study funded by the Community Challenge Grant and Housing Assistance Council, shows that ridership has remained flat. The average ridership per revenue hour is 1.4 persons. The average (real) cost per passenger trip is $26 based on figures from the 2011 fiscal year. Needed improvements — such as hiring a mobility manager, extending service hours beyond weekdays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and adding bus stops or shelters — would cost money. And what Ward has been told is to expect cuts in federal dollars, passed through the state department of transportation. For Somers, the housing authority’s program manager, the vision of service-enriched housing includes better aligning new housing with the existing small transit system. The studies have charted a longterm strategy for the future of the county. Recently, she presented at a HuD grantee convening in Washington, D.C. There have only been two cycles of funding for the Community Challenge Grant, fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Even though Randolph County’s grant — less than $200,000 — was smaller compared to others, the county is often held up as an example of what a rural community can do. “We’ve been able to move forward more quickly than others,” said Somers. There have been few roadblocks, which has helped. “We’ve certainly had a good relationship with HuD all along,” she said.
Randolph County Housing Authority Special Projects Manager Dave Clark and Planning Coordinator Kate Somers (seated, facing camera) work with Renaissance Planning Group specialists Jason Espie (top left), West Virginia university Professor Ron Eck (bottom left) and community partners to decipher possible mobility improvement strategies for a target neighborhood just outside of Elkins, W.V. Community partners include (front row, left to right) Dept. of Highways Lead Traffic Engineer Mark Morgan, County Commissioner Janice Johns, and Dept. of Highways Assistant Traffic Engineer Jeremy Metheny.
Rural areas can take the lead in driving sustainable initiatives. They are harder to quantify for HuD because the definition may vary, but among the grant recipients in the last two years, 23 of 92 Community Challenge Grants went to areas with populations of 50,000 or less.
“Housing is where jobs come to rest at night.” Better connectivity between housing, transit and jobs also counters the silver tsunami. For the workforce, an estimated 99 percent of jobs in the Randolph County are located in the city of Elkins. In addition, the housing authority wants to support creation of more jobs. One concrete solution has resulted in the formation of a community development financial institution
(CDFI), a private non-profit which promotes economic development through loans. Marti Neustadt, business developer for the newly-formed Woodlands Community Lenders said they saw a need for small business lending. She is currently working on a loan to finance equipment for a restaurant. The owner was able to finance his building through the bank, but the equipment was considered too risky. “We’re willing to take more risky borrowers,” she said, because with technical support, such as planning and accounting, CDFIs are able to ensure the lender’s success, with a lower loss rate compared to banks. The restaurant adds eight full-time jobs to Randolph County. And that’s something to smile about. [ 31 ]
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Conclusion of article from page 8. “The aquifers in the Great Plains and some of the reservoirs in the wetter parts of the country have experienced droughts just as the American West has experienced them,” Velotta said. “So, we face the same challenges as everybody else.” One of those challenges, he said, is that Las Vegas gets most of its water from the same source being used by desert communities throughout the Southwest: the Colorado River. The river, either directly or indirectly, supplies water to some 40 million people throughout the region, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City and elsewhere, according to the u.S. Department of Reclamation. In fact, Nevada, which is allocated a 1.8 percent share of the river’s water, ranks seventh on the list of states that draw from it. That list is topped by California, with a 26.7 percent allocation, and Colorado with a 23.5 percent share, according to the department. Fed mostly by snow melt in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Wyoming and utah, the river forms Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam, about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. At full capacity, the lake is the largest water reservoir in the world, but levels have dropped perilously in recent years. Velotta said Las Vegas recycles 75 million gallons of water per day at its wastewater treatment plants, which is used for irrigation at city golf courses or returned to Lake Mead for “return-flow credits.” The city plans to complete a water optimization study this year and reduce water consumption another three percent in the next few years, Velotta said.
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At the same time, Perrigo said, the city is looking at ways it can use zoning, land use and building codes to provide incentives for people to think green. “That’s a big part of where we’re headed in the next few years,” Perrigo said. “We’re working with our downtown resorts and businesses to promote energy conservation, and we’ve got some ideas about how we’re going to start there simply by reporting out energy and water use and working with some of these business organizations… on developing commercial standards and reporting mechanisms.” As the iconic city faces an uncertain future, Perrigo encourages his colleagues to keep their eyes on the long view. “If you go out on the northwest side of town, you can see the ruts of the wagon trail going from Las Vegas to Tonopah, from back when Las Vegas was barely even a town,” he said. “And right next to those ruts you can see the railroad bed from when they had a railroad between Las Vegas and Tonopah (1906-1919). And, right next to that is Highway 95. It’s all in the same little transportation corridor. The point is, when you put something in place, like infrastructure, it’s around for many, many, many years. So, we have to think about that in the long term. We can’t just build things for current needs, because they last for decades,” Perrigo said. And, if he has his way, they’ll last for decades – or centuries – more.
related youtube video: http://youtu.be/LerOqbc05Ek
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Published on Apr 20, 2013
Published on Apr 20, 2013
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