Westminster draft sustainability plan runs the gamut

Goals for a healthier environment, economy and transportation system part of new plan

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/26/21

Westminster’s health is defined by its economy, environment, neighborhoods, transit system, tree canopy and garbage collection, a new city plan points out. A draft of the city’s new …

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Westminster draft sustainability plan runs the gamut

Goals for a healthier environment, economy and transportation system part of new plan

Posted

Westminster’s health is defined by its economy, environment, neighborhoods, transit system, tree canopy and garbage collection, a new city plan points out.

A draft of the city’s new sustainability plan, one part of the city’s larger strategic planning initiative called “Westminster Forward,” outlines goals for Westminster to help it do more good than harm as it continues to grow and develop. That means tightening certain socioeconomic gaps, such as access to food and jobs, growing eco-friendly transit to rival CO2-emitting cars and properly managing waste.

The city anticipates having 151,000 people by 2040, according to a draft of Westminster’s new comprehensive plan - a different plan from the sustainability plan — meaning there will be more strain on the environment and public systems, such as transit. The sustainability plan and its seven main areas of focus aim to mitigate those strains.

A sustainability plan is made up of, “projects and programs that have economic, community and environmental benefits,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Paul Schmiechen at a city council study session on April 19. “We want to emphasize all these things and not just any one of them.”

The seven main areas are energy, economic resilience, health and wellness, housing and neighborhoods, materials and waste, transportation and mobility, and natural resources and environment. Each one has its own chapter in the sustainability plan, with lists of action items.

The transportation and mobility section recommends an update to city codes requiring electric vehicle charging stations in new single-family homes, large multi-family complexes and commercial properties. The environment chapter advises the city to establish a baseline “for ensuring sufficient tree canopy to meet air quality, urban heat island and stormwater management goals.” The health and wellness chapter calls for an inventory of food retailers and markets to determine food deserts.

The plan also sets relatively straightforward statistical targets, such as 80% renewable electricity for primary city facilities, 90% voluntary compliance with city nuisance code violations, and reduce city water use to 110 gallons per capita per day by 2030.

City staff has been working on the sustainability plan since 2018 alongside a consulting firm. At the April 19 study session, members of the city council mostly welcomed a presentation on the draft sustainability plan, though some were skeptical.

“I would like to see a little bit more meat around what it actually costs for us to put this in place,” said Councilor David DeMott.

DeMott said he wanted to “understand the true cost of these things and where we’re saving and where we’re not, and how this folds into long-term financial sustainability.” Councilor Lindsey Smith expressed a similar sentiment, saying she didn’t feel she received a satisfactory answer to the question: “At what cost?” Smith didn’t just mean costs associated with the plan’s formulation, but costs implicated in the plan. For example, she said she wants to know the demand for city water if the city plants more trees.

Mayor Pro Tem Anita Seitz, who has been a proponent of the plan since 2018, pushed back slightly.

“To have this be an actual community document, versus a top-down document, is worth the investment to me.,” she said. Seitz noted, and Smith agreed, that the sustainability plan exists more to set goals than to issue regulations.

Seitz added, “I do think that if we are going to invest in something, we want to really understand the problem and address it.”

At the study session, staff did not say when they will bring the plan before the council to vote on a formal adoption.

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