For somebody who likes to share some of the most inconsequential details about his life with a bunch of random readers over the internet, I’ve been awfully reticent about something that’s been taking up a lot of my time recently.
I’m talking, of course, about my Wii. Yes, what started as a simple gift to myself for losing my first election has now blossomed into a full-blown obsession. I’ve already achieved pro status in Tennis and Bowling and am well on may way to becoming a Baseball pro, too (if only I could get that darn screwball to, er, screw).
Oh, all right, I’m just kidding (not about my pro status – I’m dead serious about that).
I’m actually talking about the county’s Commission on the Environment and Sustainability, to which I was appointed way back in February. For the first couple months, we met twice-monthly as a full group, but beginning in late April, the 21-member committee (not including those who are ex-officio) split into six subcommittees in order to focus our discussions on specific subject areas. Naturally, being a chronic volunteer, I signed up for two committees – Open Space and Land Management, and Green Building and Development.
And after many meetings over the last month-and-a-half, the commission finally has something to show for its work: draft committee reports! (see right sidebar.)
Although of interest to the wonky-few, the release of these draft reports is certain to be overshadowed by today’s announcement of new green building legislation.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced today a package of environmental legislation that he said will begin transforming buildings and residential developments in the county.(I’ve got to hand it to Larry Carson here. The time-stamp on this article is 11:37 am, only a few hours after the morning announcement. One can’t help but wonder, however, if the presence of a blogger in the room had anything to do with his quick report. I like to think so, but I also like to dwell on my own sense of self-importance.)
The three bills, to be introduced before the County Council in July, would require builders of any structure 20,000-square-feet or larger to meet minimum standards set by the Leadership in Energy Environmental Design (LEED).
In addition, the county would offer commercial developers property tax breaks of up to 75 percent for five years, depending on the environmental features a building has.
A second bill would require all government buildings that use 30 percent or more county funds, to meet a "silver" LEED standard. The law would not include school buildings, though Ulman said he would "strongly encourage" school officials to comply.
LEED standards use a point system to evaluate features that increase a building's environmental friendliness. A building can meet a basic standard, or go to silver, gold or platinum.
A third measure would encourage residential builders to design more environmentally friendly home developments. It would allow builders all over the county quicker permission to build if they use the techniques that limit energy use and water runoff, among others.
Ulman would do this by slowing development in the rural western county by 100 units a year and allowing builders all over the county to compete for those housing allocations. Howard allows no more than 1,850 new home allocations annually countywide, including 250 in the western county.
As a member of the green building subcommittee, I was fortunate enough to see this legislation while it was still in draft form and was given an opportunity to provide feedback and suggest changes. But if you’ve got any problems with it, please address your concerns to the commission’s executive director.
In all seriousness, what do you think about the proposal? Most of the committee members agreed that we needed a balance of mandates and incentives, which I think we achieved with mandatory LEED Certification as the floor and LEED Platinum (and a 75 percent tax break) as the ceiling.
What’s more, the annual transition of 100 units from the west to the east as an incentive for green residential neighborhoods is very welcome. I know this won’t ultimately limit total development in the west, but it will slow it down some, perhaps giving the county more opportunities to buy easements, and it will foster better development practices in the county’s eastern half. Win-win, unless you’re a developer waiting for allocations in the west.
Also of note is the schedule for the commission’s public dialogue sessions. I can’t find it online yet, but here is what we were told today:
- Thursday, June 21, 7 pm, Glenwood Library
- Saturday, June 23, 11 am, Savage Library
- Monday, June 25, 7 pm, Central Library
- Wednesday, June 27, 7 pm, Miller Library
- Thursday, June 28, 7 pm, East Columbia Library