FLORENCE – Sixteen months ago, a group of Pinal County citizens was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to envision a “sustainable” future. In the December 7th Board meeting, the committee presented its findings to the Supervisors.
“Sustainability means different things to different people,” said District 3 Supervisor David Snider. “The Board was judicious when it gave the committee four specific areas of focus. This was a very intelligent group of residents who stayed on track throughout their timeframe.”
The four areas given to the group included:
• Energy Conservation: New Homes, Commercial/Office/Industrial, LEED and other standards
• Approval Process for Green Electricity Production
• Water Conservation: New Homes and Commercial/Office/Industrial
• Heat Island Mitigation through Reduced Parking Lot Sizes
Each area included a list of recommendations for the Supervisors to potentially adopt grouped by “immediate” and “next step.”
“While the committee was looking at recommendations that could be quickly implemented,” said committee facilitator Kent Taylor, “they also thought very hard about the steps that would be long term. They wanted these changes to last for years down the road.”
In the energy conservation portion of the report, the committee recommended an immediate measure of having new homes meet the Energy Star rating as well as having existing plats meet that standard as well.
District 2 Vice Chairman Bryan Martyn was impressed with the group’s effort. As the Board moves forward with potential decisions related to sustainability, serious consideration will be given to the report’s recommendations.
“Are we going to encourage or make them requirements for new construction?” Vice Chairman Martyn said. “People are going to want to know if there will be a reasonable return on investment. There will be some serious questions that will have to be brought up.”
When the committee looked at immediate recommendations with regard to green electricity production, their focus turned to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. One recommendation is to allow green energy production applications to be submitted as a non-major Comprehensive Plan amendment. This would speed the permitting process. They also thought that the development of a Pinal County Renewable Energy Overlay Zone would allow energy production throughout an entire area.
“Technology is changing so fast,” Taylor said. “We see solar and wind generation as green energy alternatives today. But what is it going to be in the future? Could we see algae power? Who knows what it is going to be?”
In the desert southwest, water conservation is a topic on nearly everyone’s mind. Water is the key commodity that must be present for development to occur and the county is keenly aware of the limitations of the groundwater supply.
The committee had several recommendations to the Board regarding how best to implement water savings throughout the county. Water reclamation, water harvesting and use of gray water were included in the recommendations.
Pinal County’s growth also could bring about a phenomenon called the “urban heat island effect.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an urban heat island is an area whose temperature is greater than surrounding rural areas.
The committee thought that more vegetation in parking zones, along with cool coating the pavement and roofs in nearby buildings would help stop an urban heat island from forming.
Following the presentation to the Supervisors, Chairman Pete Rios said he appreciates the work of the committee and hopes that many recommendations are implemented.
“For a volunteer group, spending 16 months together gathering data and coming up with green ideas is not an easy task,” Chairman Rios said. “These ideas would have to come before the public in a hearing to get the ball rolling, but I think there are those who would like to see these ideas implemented while we still have time to have them become effective.”
The members of the committee were: District 1 – Betty Peterson, Dr. Linda Leigh and J. Peter Armenta. District 2 – Fernanda Falbo, Dr. Liz Martin and Mike Schaffer. District 3 – Bill Collings, Gina D’Abella and Dr. Caroline Lobo.
Photo Caption: Three members of the Sustainability Committee receive recognition for their work. Front Row: (L to R) Dr. Liz Martin, Gina D'Abella and Bill Collings. Back Row: (L to R) Supervisor David Snider, Chairman Pete Rios and Vice-Chairman Bryan Martyn