Verona has joined hundreds of cities around the country in creating a sustainability policy.
It doesn’t prescribe any specific requirements, but it addresses future construction, building retrofits, vehicle upgrades, conserving and preserving natural areas and resources and designing infrastructure to deal with the possibility of more extreme flooding and weather events.
It also recommends changing city ordinances.
The resolution establishing the policy prefaces its list of recommended measures with a long explanation of why, relating to climate change, dwindling nonrenewable resources, the increasing availability of renewables and the impact of severe weather. It cites the prudence of planning for change and the benefits of trees and other vegetation on health and happiness and refers to Wisconsin-based environmental leaders John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson.
“The city and the utility serving the city must take strong action imminently to reduce carbon emissions and shift to 100 percent renewable electricity as soon as feasible,” it states.
Mayor Luke Diaz told the Press after Monday’s Common Council meeting, where it was adopted unanimously, he decided to introduce the policy and wrote most of it, with help from similar policies in neighboring cities that have adopted them in recent years, such as Fitchburg, Middleton and Monona.
In addition to his own interest in environmentalism, he said he had been hearing questions from constituents and alders about whether the city had such a policy.
“We are going to have to deal with climate change,” he told alders.
Ald. Sarah Gaskell (Dist. 2) asked whether the city would turn this resolution into a more formal sustainability policy. Interim city administrator Adam Sayre said it could be done but was not being worked on, explaining that the resolution essentially is the policy, and the two could be considered interchangeable. He also alluded to a staffing shortage.
The policy has been distributed to department heads to consider as they budget this year, he said in response to a question from Ald. Kate Cronin (D-3).
Among the recommended actions – which Diaz read out loud at the request of Ald. Heather Reekie (D-4) – are rewriting the city’s ordinances.
While changing policies could affect how the city spends its money, builds infrastructure and maintains its own properties, expecting similar behavior from developers or businesses would require changing ordinances. That could start, interim city administrator Adam Sayre said, with the city’s imminent rewrite of its zoning code.
One of the major recommended actions includes working toward using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
Other Dane County communities have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy within the next 20 to 30 years, with Fitchburg’s resolution two months ago promising to meet all of its electric needs through renewables by 2030 and cut its energy consumption in half by 2050.
The policy says the city should replace its vehicles with hybrid, electric or other fuel-efficient ones, ensure city buildings are built to be energy-efficient and are retrofitted as necessary and install renewable energy sources. It also recommends planting more trees, encouraging more natural areas, using natural methods for flood control, educating the public and encouraging and facilitating private adoption of renewable energy and installation of electric vehicle charging stations.
“I don’t consider the to-do list definitive,” Diaz told alders. “It’s only a start.”
He added that the goal is not just to be responsible to the environment but rather to think long-term about saving taxpayers money through efficiency.
The importance of a new policy, he said, is to turn it into action. As evidence city staff are already taking it seriously, he told alders, they’re meeting with a solar cooperative this week.
“Ultimately, good intentions aren’t going to do anything for anybody,” he said. “It’s what happens after we pass this.”