Creating an Environment Focus Area Plan with tangible key indicators

FY16 Environment Focus Area Plan

At today’s Charlotte City Council Environment Committee meeting, Councilmembers Driggs, Autry, and Howard voiced enthusiastic support and appreciation for a revised version of the FY16 Environment Focus Area Plan presented by staff. Compared to previous versions, the revised plan contains more tangible indicators, each of which will contain target metrics to ensure that the City is on track to meet its environmental goals.

Councilmember Driggs applauded the revised plan as “very businesslike” and said, “The more we can get tangible with measurable goals, [the more] we can look back on this and say whether we’ve achieved them or not.”

The three committee members present agreed that key indicators significantly improve the plan’s future usefulness to achieve measurable results. Councilmember Autry stated (with a smile!): “What I see before me now, I would speak much more enthusiastically about than [versions] in the past!”

Councilmember Howard added, “This feels more like a focus area plan for the environment than before.” and noted that the plan is very focused on the three key environmental issues of solid waste, energy, and water. He asked, “How do we quantify or capture being good stewards of nature and other natural resources, such as our tree canopy?” Assistant City Manager Hyong Yi, who presented the draft plan to the committee today, said that his office will look into addressing that question.

We’re incredibly appreciative of the hard work that City staff has put into revising this plan so that it will be a powerful tool to make Charlotte a world class model city for environmental sustainability. Today, our Environment Committee took a stand for the long-term health of Charlotte’s environment and residents.



Water System Master Plan

On March 23, City Council will be asked to approve the start of a $2.1M contract project to plan where new water treatment and delivery infrastructure will be needed throughout Mecklenburg County. Barry Shearin from Charlotte Water said that the plan (typically done every 6 to 8 years) is critical so that “we meet the needs of a growing population, but without over-designing” the water supply network.

Mr. Shearin showed a distribution system map of the 4,000 miles of water supply pipe in Mecklenburg County. The major large areas without a “backbone” for distribution are: east of Davidson and Huntersville, east of Mint Hill, and west of the airport. These are also the only remaining parts of the county that are still rural and undeveloped. Mecklenburg County has so little undeveloped land left. Adding large diameter pipes to supply newly residential areas is extremely expensive. Let’s make better use of our already developed land and keep these wild areas wild for future generations to enjoy. The land to the west of the airport borders the Catawba River, which in 2008 was named by American Rivers as the most endangered river in America not for pollution, but because it is most threatened by current trends of development.

Mr. Shearin emphasized the importance of mapping Charlotte’s central business district during this process. He explained the the importance of a well-crafted master plan that is flexible enough to allow for infill development: “Re-development for us is a double-edged sword. When you have a former block of single family homes re-developed as a 10 story office building, the water supply needs are different.”

The best news during today’s presentation is that customers are using far less water than Charlotte Water predicted last time they created a plan in 2008. Mr. Shearin attributed this to increased awareness of water conservation and reduced lawn irrigation. We’re hopeful that the City will continue to invest in water planning that is conducive to meeting the supply needs of future transit-oriented development and urban re-development that we need to protect our open spaces, streams, and the Catawba River.

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