Northbrook board takes further steps toward sustainability

 
 
Updated 7/28/2021 6:57 PM

Drawing comparison to such significant village legislation as its Master Stormwater Management Plan and the more recent Affordable Housing Plan, Northbrook trustees on Tuesday took a step toward implementing a Climate Action Plan.

In a public hearing, citizens and trustees generally praised the 186-page report that capped a nearly yearlong effort.

 

Northbrook Development & Planning Services director Michaela Kohlstedt headed a 40-strong contingent of village staff and board members -- principally trustees Bob Israel and Heather Ross -- and various village entities, guided by sustainability consultant paleBLUEdot of Minnesota, whose co-founder, Ted Redmond, spoke at the hearing.

The goal of the Climate Action Plan, which is included in the village website's (northbrook.il.us) "Living & Visiting" tab under "Environmental Sustainability," is to increase sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the village 35% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Israel said, "It's very important to know that this plan has been forged through opposing viewpoints."

When a draft of the plan was released for public viewing and input in April, 87% of respondents agreed with its "intent and goals," said Tessa Murray, hired as Northbrook's sustainability coordinator in May.

Constructed to be implemented over a 10-year time frame, Redmond said, the CAP recommends 190 "action items" pertaining to transportation, buildings and energy, waste management, water and wastewater, local food, health and safety, green space and "climate economy." (The study suggests that a "business-as-usual" approach will cost the village economy $51 million annually by 2100.)

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Of the 190 items, 100 of them were identified as priorities to be accomplished within three years; of those, 67 had no cost other than staff hours and village resources.

"We urge the board to adopt the plan in a way that no other plan has been adopted before, because we are facing a type of crisis that we have never had before," said Go Green Northbrook Vice President Catherine Caporusso.

"It's a crisis that will affect every living person and every living thing on earth. Therefore we believe that every department, every commission, every task force and every staff member should consider climate change and the implementation of the plan as a part of their mission."

A "collective consciousness" toward sustainability was stressed by another speaker, but not all were head-over-heels for the plan.

Northbrook resident Rod Burton, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at the University of Illinois, said there was no mention of nuclear power, a fuel source he said provides 66% of electricity in Illinois, with sustainable sources contributing 17%. (The Illinois Environmental Council said as of March 2019 Illinois nuclear comprised a national high of 54%, 10% renewable energy).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Should a state discussion to close a pair of nuclear reactors come to fruition "that would have a major affect on CO2 emissions because they would not be replaced with other nuclear reactors," Burton said.

"I argue that the plan, a part of it, needs to have a Springfield presence, talking to the legislature, being involved with the governor's energy plan -- maybe not just Northbrook, maybe a regional collection of towns around this area. That's something I wanted to see in the plan; I'm disappointed it didn't get in," he said.

In addition to wondering where the CAP fits into the village budget, trustee Muriel Collison believed a few components had yet to be solidified elsewhere in Northbrook ordinances, such as the village's ongoing discussion on affordable housing units.

Israel countered that aspects of other documents, such as for Stormwater Management, have yet to be executed.

"If those things are things that are not taken up by the board, or accepted by the board, then those things may stay out there. They're encouraged, I don't think they're mandated by the plan," he said.

"At the end of the day," said board President Kathryn Ciesla, "making that kind of a change is subject to a public process. We're going to have a budget meeting, and decide how much we can spend for this and that or the other thing. So I think there are an appropriate amount of checks and balances."

She also agreed with trustee Joy Ebhomielen's comment about people "voting with their pocketbook" toward sustainability efforts. To answer Burton, she vowed to reach state legislators.

The six trustees agreed on Ciesla's proposal to create an ordinance to adopt the plan "with language that gives the board flexibility to set priorities and requires us to go through the normal public process with respect to certain initiatives," she said.

"This is sort of the tip of the iceberg," Ross said. "It took us a long, long time to get to a place where we could conceptualize things that we can do. But if we can't do these things, none of it matters. So what's the biggest issue? Obviously, it is enforcement. And I think right now, there's energy ...

"I think the way for this to work is to make sure it becomes a part of everything we do. It has to be sort of a sustainable lens for every department, every commission, every committee within the village because it really touches on everything," she said.

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