Committee Annual Report
Year in Review Report of the Sustainability Committee to the Cross Plains Village Board
Date: August 14, 2020
Members: John Burandt, Steve Douglas, Melissa Gavin, Michael Pomykalski, and Kevin Thusius
Introduction and Background
This report presents a year-in-review look at the work of the Sustainability Committee, shares the results of the community survey the committee conducted, describes the committee’s proposed work for the coming year, and provides recommendations to the Village Board.
The ad hoc Cross Plains Sustainability Committee was created by the Village Board in August, 2019. The mission of the Sustainability Committee is to guide and assist Cross Plains residents, businesses, and government in becoming a community that meets the needs of today without compromising the needs of the future. The goal of this committee is to identify and advocate for changes related to environmental stewardship, creating a more sustainable Village.
Summary of Work to Date
Following the creation of the sustainability committee, committee members have developed internal processes and structures (developing a mission statement, selecting a chair and co-chair, establishing a meeting schedule) and have begun outward facing work. The committee’s outward facing work includes:
- Facilitating solar in new developments. The committee presented a recommendation to the Village board that restrictions on rooftop solar be removed from an impending agreement with the Scenic Valley development, and that restrictions on rooftop solar be removed from future developer agreements. Subsequently, the restrictions were removed from the Scenic Valley development agreement, and Village board members are empowered to remove similar restrictions from new agreements as future developments are proposed.
- Obtaining community input on Village sustainability efforts. In spring 2020, the committee conducted a survey of the Cross Plains community to inform future sustainability efforts, querying the community about energy use, water use, transportation, land use and more. The survey was distributed to village residences through the Boy Scouts via a paper copy as well as made available online. A total of 102 responses were received. A summary of the results of this survey are included in this report.
- Exploring the potential of solar energy in Cross Plains. At the request of Jay Lengfeld, Cross Plains Village Board President, the Sustainability Committee conducted research on the requirements and opportunities for solar farms in and around Cross Plains. In April, the Committee shared a memo with the Village Board on the potential of siting a solar farm in Cross Plains. The committee researched site requirements, space requirements, and other needs for a solar farm that could offset the Village’s energy use. Committee members have since brought in a solar development expert to understand solar farm development process, financial opportunities, and timeline.
- Outreach and collaboration with neighboring communities. Recognizing that we can do more when we collaborate with others, the committee has engaged with leaders in neighboring communities to learn from and work collaboratively on shared opportunities. Committee members promoted and participated in the Western Dane County Climate Conversations, which educated community members on climate change and opportunities to reduce the threat of climate change locally. This included a film screening of “Paris to Pittsburgh,” a presentation by Focus on Energy, and promoting a solar group buy for residents in Black Earth, Cross Plains, the Town of Vermont, Middleton, and surrounding areas. Committee members also met with Middleton’s Sustainability Coordinator to learn from Middleton’s experience and share resources. By working with the city of Middleton, we were able to learn from their community survey process and their process to develop a sustainability plan.
Sustainability Survey Results Report
This section summarizes the April 2020 survey conducted by the Sustainability Committee of the Village of Cross Plains. 102 completed surveys were received. One of the goals of the survey was to see if there was support in the Village for the work of a sustainability committee and the creation of a sustainability plan. The creation of a sustainability plan was well received with a positive affirmation of 70.6%.
The survey resulted in positive responses to questions concerning stormwater runoff and how to handle it. Respondents would like to see policies that would meet the demands for future weather events (70.6%) and implement water management methods that restore or mimic the natural water cycle (65.7%). Many people felt that the new developments and areas to the north and east of the village need to have water retention systems that would be responsible for more than just their water runoff. Other answers were varied from more wetlands to larger storm drains to a stormwater utility. A comment was made to plan like the 1,000 year flood will happen next year.
The survey also saw a desire for renewable energy both for village operations (71.6%) and for homeowners (71.6%), with 44.2% willing to pay additional taxes to reduce carbon output and 52.9% not willing to pay additional costs. With regard to energy usage in homes, the survey found general approval for providing information about permitting for wind and solar, reduced building permit fees if installing a renewable energy system, and the creation of a shade tree/urban forest program. There were many responses wanting the village to plant more trees; areas mentioned were along Main Street, in Zander Park, and in newer developments. A resident would also like the sustainability committee to advocate for the use of nuclear power citing the safety of modern reactors.
With regard to solid waste, the survey reflected a positive response (~65%) to the village selling compost bins at a discount and giving out instructions on how to compost. This compost can then be collected along with the trash and recycling or at a village designated drop-off area. There were also desires expressed for a recycling center, an expanded recycling program that could take more items (batteries, paper milk cartons), and a verification that recyclables were being recycled properly.
Transportation and Land Use
Transportation saw a need for a bike path to Middleton (53%) and a possible bus/shuttle service (45%). There were also many write in votes for commuter rail with 10 people indicating a preference for it. Electric car charging stations were also mentioned.
The survey did not have a specific section related to land use but a few residents did comment about reducing the number of new housing developments and cautioned about building homes on top of the hills. Many responses dealt with how water, landscaping, and yard waste are interconnected. Many people would like to encourage the use of drought-tolerant native species (68.6%) both for landscaping and for along creek banks in order to reduce runoff and preventing erosion, ban or encourage a reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides, expand edible landscaping, see the creation of rain gardens, and promote the community garden. Respondents also felt there should be more street sweeping to keep the gutters clean and possibly consider curbside leaf pickup.
Villagers also commented on the need to reduce light pollution, light trespass, and street lighting in the village. This can be accomplished by informing the public about the village light ordinance and conducting an audit and evaluation of street lighting in the village.
Residents also used the survey to voice general concerns and opinions. These include a desire to not build structures in Zander Park, the need to reduce village buildings, an audit of public works, and a clean up of the Pott’s Inn parking lot.
There were responses to the survey that indicated that they would only be supportive of sustainability programs if they did not increase taxes both in the short and long term. And there were also responses that praised the village for taking an active role in sustainability matters.
Another major aspect of this survey is the need to educate the residents of the Village of Cross Plains in various aspects of sustainability. Many of the topics listed above are educational in nature and forums held at the library or school could function to fill this information void. A sustainability webpage is forthcoming and will function as an information resource.
The next step would be the creation of a sustainability plan where many topics listed above can be turned into action or village policy.
Forward Action of the Committee
In the coming year, the committee will focus on the following:
- Continue in a research and advisory capacity to the Village Board and Village administration, seeking opportunities to leverage sustainability principles to positively impact village operations, community life, and the environment
- Develop a sustainability plan, which is a document identifying specific goals and future activities the Village should pursue to become more sustainable
- Continue to investigate siting a solar farm in or near Cross Plains to offset the Village’s energy needs
- Continue to develop relationships with communities and organizations in western Dane county who are also pursuing sustainability initiatives, seeking opportunities and efficiencies in partnerships
- Deliver information about sustainability resources and initiatives for Cross Plains residents through the Village website
- Seek opportunities to interact with Cross Plains residents to hear their concerns and gather additional ideas for meaningful initiatives
- Continue to research opportunities for development grants and funding for Village sustainability initiatives
Recommendations to the Village Board
The Sustainability Committee makes the following recommendations to the Village Board:
- Support the Sustainability Committee’s development of a sustainability plan and review progress annually
- Incorporate sustainability principles into planning and decision-making with a mindset towards improving efficiency, conserving resources, and utilizing more renewable resources
- Support siting a solar farm in or near Cross Plains to offset the Village’s energy needs
- Proactively plan to mitigate the effects of climate change which will produce increasingly frequent weather extremes in all seasons, with a focus on preventing damage from storm water runoff
- Continue to support our local environmental and recreational resources, such as the Ice Age Trail and Black Earth Creek, as they improve residents’ quality of life and serve as a means to promote eco-tourism and increased economic activity in Cross Plains
- Offer incentives for residents to engage in personal sustainability initiatives in their homes, on their properties, and within the community.