Environment Chapter of Comprehensive Plan – Why Bother?

The Planning Commission kicked off its rewrite of yet another Comp Plan chapter on June 24. Submit your ideas to PCFeedback@pwcgov.org early and often.

Because the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) kicked off a round of community meetings to gather yet more input on the land use and transportation chapters already approved by the Planning Commission, a new Environment Chapter draft will be ready for BOCS action at roughly the same time as land use and transportation chapters.  We’re (eek!) at risk of adopting consistent guidance.

Why should anyone care about the Environment Chapter?  Well…

…the county’s track record on managing its environmental assets leaves lots of room for improvement, especially for controlling stormwater damage to our creeks.

New subdivisions dramatically change runoff patterns.  The new Linton Hall pump station for the Service Authority increased capacity for moving sewage from 9 to 28 million gallons per day.  That’s for the stuff we flush, or drain down showers/sinks, into the sewer.  The volume of surface runoff from roofs and roads into our creeks will cause significant damage, unless we manage stormwater better.

Organizations manage what they measure.  In the Comp Plan, measures are based on “action strategies.”  The Comp Plan is the place to define our goals and action strategies for county-level action on the environment.   Vague desires to be greener don’t turn into reality, unless we establish clear objectives and then measure progress towards those objectives.

One major opportunity: the current Environment Chapter pays minimal attention to energy conservation. It’s easy to say that we want county buildings to be shining examples of “doing it right,” or we want to avoid new electricity transmission lines cutting through the landscape.  If we focus on specific action strategies for LEED certification, the county’s commitment to reducing energy use might be measured by more than a few showcase projects.

(Of course, unless we have supervisors/School Board members who follow through on energy conservation and other environmental promises, in part by appointing officials who are committed to making things change rather than perpetuating business as usual, new plans are no better than old plans…)

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