Falmouth council lukewarm on energy recommendations

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council has taken the first step recommended by the Green Ribbon Commission, a group charged with making climate protection recommendations for the town, and passed a resolution in support of the overall plan.

But During Monday night’s meeting, councilors unanimously accepted only part of a proposed resolution on the Green Ribbon Commission’s report, opting to delay a vote to create an Energy Committee to implement some of the commission’s recommendations.

The Green Ribbon Commission was created in June 2008 after the council unanimously signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in May 2007, which pledged to take actions to reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The commission calculated the town’s “carbon footprint” as 162,000 tons annually and recommended the town set a goal of reducing that by 2 percent per year.

To achieve that goal, the commission recommended several “small, achievable steps,” including offering weatherization workshops and education events, creating a town-run energy office to increase municipal energy efficiency, requiring new homes obtain a Home Energy Rating System Index and submit that with the building permit application and adopting a “cool or vegetated roof” ordinance that would encourage or require white or vegetation-covered roofs for all new construction.

While the council did not discuss the substance of the commission’s report during its meeting, there was significant discussion about whether it would create an Energy Committee to work on implementing some of the commission’s recommendations.

“I don’t want to see another committee work for two or three years and come to us with a recommendation. I won’t be here then,” Councilor Fred Chase said.

Chase said he would not vote for anything that would increase the cost of a building permit, which he said had increased dramatically over the years.

“This is too much of a burden on anybody,” he said. “How we have the nerve to turn around and talk about affordable housing is beyond me.”

Councilor Bonny Rodden said the Recycling Committee is struggling with attendance and maintaining a quorum, and that the three members who attended the most recent meeting were interested in the group being folded into the Energy Committee.

“There are other, broader issues they hoped to address in an energy committee,” Rodden said.

After some discussion, Councilor Cathy Breen offered an amendment to create the Energy Committee and fold the recycling committee into it, but the amendment failed. Councilors then reached a consensus that they would review past documents on the subject and hold further discussion on Oct. 25.

In other business, the council came to a consensus that it would send amendments to the Zoning and Site Plan Review Ordinance that would change buildable area and open space requirements to the Community Development Committee for review.

The ordinance changes were voted down, 3-1, by the Planning Board at its most recent meeting, citing concerns about the magnitude of the changes.

Chase’s recommendations would reduce the required open space from 50 percent to 30 percent of the net residential area and change the minimum lot size requirement for residential A zones to 15,000 square feet from a requirement that a lot have at least 50 percent buildable area after the required open space and unbuildable area is accounted for.

The Planning Board did not receive any comments on the proposed changes at a recent public hearing.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net