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Cottonwood Holladay Journal

Sustainability concerns for three municipalities

Nov 05, 2018 04:36PM ● By Jana Klopsch

By Cassie Goff | cassie@mycityjournals.com

Cottonwood Heights, Holladay and Millcreek are considering a joint sustainability operation. All three cities have identified sustainability as a priority, and collaboration appears to be a valid option to bring benefits to many communities. 

On Sept. 25, Lisa Yoder from Yoder Environmental Sustainability (YES) spoke to the Cottonwood Heights City Council during a weekly council meeting while Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle sat in the audience. 

Yoder began with a definition. “Sustainability is a balanced use of resources to sustain optimal level of service over the long term to help maintain quality of life and environmental and human health.” 

Sustainability encompasses everything that helps to reduce the carbon footprint of an organization, including maintaining water quality, policy recommendations, alternative transportation options, reduce reuse and recycle, climate action, waste reduction, collaboration, data management, project management, energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, leveraging resources, grant writing, measurement and verification, life-cycle cost analysis, education and outreach. 

“Utahans have a vision for the future that we are safe, secure and resilient,” Yoder said. Some common sustainability concerns of Utahans include air quality, water quality, impact of growth on communities, impact population and increasing traffic. 

Narrowing her focus to what Cottonwood Heights, Holladay and Millcreek can do, Yoder provided some recommendations. She suggested many different projects and programs for stabilizing energy use. Some of these projects could be completed within one to two years, such as electric car station installation and installing solar panels on city buildings. 

“Municipality leaders show the community that sustainability is possible, economical and viable,” Yoder said. 

Even though she realizes a municipality cannot enact anything more than a building code, she suggested incentives and encouragement for sustainability — perhaps by an extended building code. 

“There’s capital investment in capital improvements,” she said. “With all the growth, it’s important to address the construction of buildings, need to reduce the need for heating, air condition and other resources.”

If the three cities are to embark on a sustainable cooperation, there would be many risks and benefits. Yoder described some of the risks as being cost, political viability, interdepartmental cooperation, managing expectations, and data management. 

However, Yoder described many benefits, including decreasing operating maintenance costs, getting quantifiable and measureable results, demonstrating city leadership and gaining recognition for that leadership. “That’s attractive for businesses and community members; you’re a player in what the residents want.”

A joint sustainability operation should be beneficial for all communities involved. The three municipalities could pick common goals, have supporting structure for that staff, create a strategic implantation plan to address all goals with clear performance measures and monitor collective data as things proceed. Yoder recommended defining exit strategies as well. 

“Sustainability would be governed by that body instead of individual municipalities. It might take longer to get started, but then the sustainability staff could be off and running. Quality of life for all communities would be raised.”

She recommended a sustainability program manager and potentially a project manager. These individuals could help with outreach materials, grants and program implementation. 

Many partners available for a sustainability initiative were also mentioned. The Clean Cities Coalition has a similar mission so they’re easy to partner with. Leaders for Clean Air, Utah Clean Energy, Rocky Mountain Power and Envision Utah have all expressed interested in partnering as well. 

“I appreciate the opportunity to work with the mayors on common problems we have where we can’t fix it independently,” said Dahle. “We have all seen the Envision Utah presentations on population growth and pressure on resources. These problems aren’t going to go away. We need to be more proactive in these areas.”