On Monday night, the Cranford Environmental Commission met for the first time in 2013, to review its goals for the year, which include various carbon-footprint reducing actions and organizing educational efforts around promoting environmental awareness in Cranford.
The topic of global warming provoked discussion about its political aspects, and whether or not the commission should promote it as a way to discuss climate change.
"Agitating for global warming action and raising consensus on taking action on global warming," said Deputy Mayor Ed O'Malley, "should be our number one goal. It's a major elephant in the room that we haven't really talked about as a commission."
Commmission member Mary Reilly preferred the term "global climate change."
"My suggestion is at least the environmental commission become educated on it," said Mary Reilly, who will give a presentation on the subject later this month. "We're going to have hurricane after crazy weather, after crazy weather."
Two of the most important commission goals, according to Chairman Nelson Dittmar, regard stormwater management. A list of goals was topped by a 10 percent reduction in impervious surfaces on municipal and school buildings within the next three years. The use of pervious surfaces in building materials helps to control water run-off by absorbing more liquid during rainfall.
Under the environmental commission's goals, ordinances would be reviewed for the possibility of amending those that lack proper stormwater mitigation plans, and revise them to permit or encourage usage of pervious surfaces. The commission has plans in place for educating the public, including the Zoning and Planning boards on stormwater best practices.
Another issue of concern is the municipality's carbon footprint in terms of its buildings and vehicles.
"There is headway with the fuel efficient vehicles," Dittmar said. "I don't think that we should give up on that one," he added regarding a push to get township departments to go green when it comes to their transportation. Dittmar said public works officials were making headway and installed a plug for an electric car, but that there was some resistance from police officials to look at green vehicles.
But there is also progress in the rebuilding of the municipal building, according to O'Malley, who says improvements to the building are green and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certified.
Dittmar said the group would meet this week with Mayor Tom Hannen to discuss these goals.
The next Cranford Environmental Commission meeting is Feb. 4.
Here are the Environmental Commission Goals for 2013:
Priority Projects for 2013
- Work the Township Committee to enact our recommendations made in September:
- Pledge to a 10 percent reduction in impervious surfaces on school and municipal facilities by 2015.
- Amend existing ordinances to include a mandatory stormwater mitigation plan for development proposals that include the addition of 100 square feet or more of impervious surface.
- Encourage the Township Committee to:
- Coordinate with the Planning and Zoning Boards so that they provide mandatory training to their members on best stormwater practices.
- Work with Union College to comply with best stormwater practices.
- Increase the Township’s tree planting program.
- Revise ordinances to permit/encourage the use of pervious surfaces.
- Work with the County Open Space Fund to buy properties in flood-prone areas, e.g. on Springfield Avenue and Park Drive.
- Purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Plant rain gardens at the Municipal Building.
- Create programs to educate residents about ways to reduce stormwater runoff.
- Be involved with the Mayors’ Council Rahway River Watershed Flood Control.
- Have Commission members be part of the newly created Stormwater Advisory Board.
- Review the recommendations in the Master Plan Conservation Element (CE) and select some for implementation. These might include:
- Expand the public use zone to include publicly owned properties in accordance with the Land Use Plan Element of the Master Plan (pg. LU-39 and Ordinance Recommendation #1 of the CE). There are six recommended districts. Strengthen the protection of the Conservation Center and Roosevelt Park by placing them in the Public - Open Space district.
- Evaluate the feasibility of an open space tax to be utilized for recreation and open space preservation. This would provide funds for part of the debt service for the Solomon Schechter bonds and funds for future acquisitions of open space, among other things. This tax would not be subject to the 2% budget cap imposed by the State. (Implementation Action 5.)
- Create energy-efficiency goals for the municipal mobile fleet to reduce energy demand. (Implementation Action 4.)
Continue 2012 projects
- Monitor the status of the Birchwood development and continue to oppose the project. Review status of tree removal and enforcement of tree ordinance.
- Work with the Green Team to continue some of the Sustainable Jersey projects begun in 2010 and to become recertified in 2013. These include the business program, the community gardens, and the green fair. New projects include fleet inventory (a priority), home composting training sessions, Complete Streets Program, and the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign. We will need resolutions from the Township Committee for some of our actions.
- Organize another Earth Day Book display at the Library.
- Organize and conduct another rain barreltraining program. Consider the feasibility of creating a program to encourage residents to buy rain barrels al discounted rates.
- Work with the committee dealing with the implementation of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for Existing Buildings. This committee did not meet in 2012. Steps need to taken to install a new heating system.
- Participate with the Conservation and Renewable Energy Task Force to develop energy-savings ideas for the Township.
- Promote the BPU’s Clean Energy Programs and the ENERGY STAR Change a Light Program.
- Promote usage of our web site, My Green Cranford.
- Work with the Rahway River Association to promote regional projects.
- Be active members of the School District’s Environmental Education Committee (EEC) and be a participant in the implementation of the Cloud Institute’s Educate for Sustainability Program. Plant the community garden again at Walnut Avenue School.
- Promote our Rake for the Planet program, which encourages residents to keep their leaf blowers in their storage sheds and rake instead on one or more days in the fall.
- Provide the local newspapers with information about activities and programs of the Commission and enhance the use of TV35.