Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Setting The Stage For A Greener Community

Last week, I attended the Ohio Planning Annual Conference, which had a theme around sustainability.Most in attendance were urban planners, engineers, architects and consultants. I was the only banker. Planners are professionals that develop long and short term plans for the use of land in a region. They factor the vision for the city, demographic trends, social, enviromental and economic goals into development a document called a comprehensive plan. I attended four workshops, 1) Visioning with Sustainability In Mind 2) City of Cleveland Vacant Land Reuse Plan 3) Historic Building Preservation is the New Green and 4) Engaging Citizens in the Comprehensive Planning Process. This is what I learned:

1) The principles of city planning and sustainability share many values

2) It is important to engage the community or stakeholders in setting the vision for the future

3) There are many approaches to implementing sustainability into your city's plan - the Marin County, CA comprehensive plan is the cadillac of these plans

4) Foreclosures and population declines allow cities an opportunity to re-green space, improve water resources and neighborhoods through land banking

5) Some cities offer residents an opportunity to acquire property for $1 after a period of demonstrated improvements on the land

6) Residents have opportunities to apply for grants to recreate and re-develop their neighborhoods on a micro level

7) Preserving an historic building can be a greener approach to new construction, lots of value stored in the building in the form of solid construction and energy already expended in its' construction

8) You have an opportunity to shape the future of your city, region and/or state through participation on community planning boards and open houses

9) Elected officials, zoning officials and private companies need to be educated on the benefits of sustainability, economic and social rewards

10) There are lots of loan programs, tax credits and grant programs available for small businesses in the area of sustainability and historic building preservation, but no simple way to access this information (I can assist you with this-email me at bn2g00@gmail.com)

11) Bio-waste is the new oil, companies and cities are looking for ways to sell their organic waste

So there you have it, as Gandhi stated "Be the change you want to see in the world". Start visualizing and brainstorming some great ways to productively use land and space in your community, call your council person or county executive and make it happen baby!

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