Carbondale development asked to embrace ‘green’ image
CARBONDALE – Some, in this town that has built a reputation as a model for all things “green,” would like for its largest commercial development to be that same kind of model when it comes to sustainability and energy efficiency.
At one point during a Nov. 16 continued public hearing on the Village at Crystal River in Carbondale – a proposed mixed-use development that would include a new, larger grocery store for the town – town Trustee Frosty Merriott remarked, “I don’t know why we’re stuck in the 20th century with this development.”
His comment came in relation to what he felt was a lack of public open space and usable private outdoor areas associated with several employee housing units proposed by developer Rich Schierburg as part of the grocery store parcel, meant to offset the affordable housing requirements for the project.
But it also served to express Merriott’s growing frustration over a project that he has repeatedly says lacks anything “uniquely Carbondale.”
That’s especially important when it comes to the town’s efforts at requiring new construction to employ environmental and energy sustainability practices.
The Village at Crystal River project proposes 125,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, including a 58,000-square-foot grocer, plus 16,000 square feet of offices and up to 164 multi-family residential units on 24 acres situated along Highway 133.
Earlier in the Town Council’s negotiations over the project, Merriott lost out to the board majority when he wanted to include a requirement that 30 percent of the development’s energy needs come from renewable resources such as solar.
“It’s an issue that’s important for me, and for the people who elected me,” he said at the time, noting that the town’s adopted energy goals call for 30 percent renewable energy by 2015.
At last week’s meeting, he said he was “shocked” to read a line in a report from town engineer Chris Lehrman that suggested Schierburg’s sustainable objectives, outlined in a recent memo to the town, “falls far short of addressing anything that resembles what would be considered sustainable by today’s standards.”
Schierburg’s Oct. 21 memo gave a few examples of basic energy efficiency and use of green-building strategies and technologies. However, it doesn’t commit the future grocer, presumed to be City Market, or any of the other commercial buyers, to anything specific.
“If the town is passionate about sustainability, it should require the development to use sustainable construction practices based on today’s standards,” reads Lehrman’s memo.
His memo was based on input from energy consultant Dan Richardson of Clean Energy Solutions, who attended the Nov. 16 meeting.
“The ideas presented [by Schierburg] are not binding,” Richardson said. “There’s nothing in there that guarantees anything.”
When it comes to achieving energy goals with new development, building to attain greater energy efficiency from the start is more important than requiring generation of renewable energy on site, he said.
“You have to eat your energy efficiency vegetables before you have your renewable energy dessert,” Richardson said.
Schierburg said he intends to use the “best practices in place at the time” of each phase of development. But to commit buyers of commercial property to certain standards up front is impractical from a business standpoint, he said.
Town planner Janet Buck suggested that, instead of including specific energy efficiency standards in the development agreement, they should be addressed with future building designs as they are reviewed.
“This will allow the board the opportunity in the future to ensure that the development complies with this important community objective,” she wrote.
The town may also have a new set of commercial building code requirements related to green building practices at that time, which are currently in the formative stage.
“You need to understand that all of this is coming down the road,” Merriott advised. “That’s why we’re trying to do this now, because it’s the right thing to do.”
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