Municipal projects would be affected by the plan developed by two high school seniors.
by Anne Gleason, staff writer
Municipal construction projects in York would have to meet environmental and energy-efficiency standards under a proposed ordinance being promoted by two high school students.
If the ordinance gets onto May’s town ballot and is approved by voters, York will become the second community in the state, after Bangor, to require Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
“It would be nice to have any new building construction, maybe even stretched beyond the municipal level, meet some criteria of LEED,” said Michael Estes, chairman of the town’s selectmen.
There are four levels of certification. Requiring the lowest level for new construction — but not renovations — could work, Estes said.
The students initially wanted silver certification, the next highest level, for all projects larger than 5,000 square feet. “It’s great to apply those standards, but it becomes very difficult when you need to meet those,” Estes said.
Many Maine communities have looked at green building standards. Bangor adopted its policy last fall, requiring certification for all city-funded construction or renovations of 5,000 square feet or more.
Bar Harbor added a LEED incentive to its zoning in 2006, but the town does not require certification. Developers are offered one additional unit if they build a clustered subdivision to LEED standards.
In Portland, the Sustainable Portland Task Force recommended last fall that the city create a green building program.
York has three major building projects coming up, so its ordinance would be triggered quickly.
Residents could vote in the spring on a new $6.5 million town hall and a $2.3 million addition to York High School. The town is also looking to build a new police station, which is scheduled to go before voters in the spring of 2009.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 25, after which the selectmen must vote before the measure is placed on the May ballot.
The proposal was developed by York High School seniors Hanna Mitchell and Bridget Rhinehart, who worked with town planning officials and recently gathered 140 signatures for a petition supporting the ordinance.
The students could get the ordinance on the ballot through a petition with 100 or more signatures if they don’t get approval from the selectmen.
York’s new town hall is already designed for LEED certification, a decision that was made before the discussion of the new ordinance.
Maine’s chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers LEED, has a goal to have green building programs in every community of 5,000 people or more by 2010, said Naomi Mermin, chairwoman of the chapter’s policy committee.
Municipalities can reduce long-terms costs with green buildings and can set an example for the private sector, Mermin said. Upfront costs may or may not be higher for certified buildings, depending on how they get certified, said Nathan Croteau, another board member with Maine’s chapter.
For example, buildings get points for being close to public transportation.
“It doesn’t have to be solar panels,” Croteau said. “Obviously, that’s going to be a lot more expensive.”
Bangor’s policy includes a waiver when the requirement would be cost-prohibitive or an unreasonable burden.
Bangor will soon have to replace several barns at the municipal harness racing track, for example, but Code Enforcement Officer Dan Wellington said the barns offer limited opportunities for certification.
The city will still incorporate aspects, such as day-lit rooms, recycled material and insulation, to make the barns as environmentally friendly as possible, he said.
A new fire station will present a better chance for Bangor to showcase its LEED policy, Wellington said, and the city may try for higher-level certification.
Eric Hopkins, chairman of the York Energy Efficiency Committee, said a move by the town toward certified buildings could influence the private sector, even without a written requirement.
“It will say a lot to the community,” Hopkins said. “We would like to encourage the private sector to do the same thing.”>/p>