Enhancing the City's Attractiveness and Ecological Sustainability
My department at TAMU is ranked #1 in the U.S. by its peers and our salaries are competitive with those of other institutions. Despite those advantages, recruiting top-class faculty is challenging because College Station is not perceived to be as attractive as the cities of our competitors. Those communities include: Fort Collins, CO ; Boulder, CO ; Raleigh, NC ; Salt Lake City, UT ; Clemson, SC ; Blacksburg, VA ; and State College, PA. These communities should be our "comparables" which we use to evaluate our quality of life, not Bryan, Temple or Huntsville .
There are no great cities in the world that do not have a great green infrastructure of streetscape landscaping, parks, historic districts and urban forestry ("great" is defined as a place you want to live). Green infrastructure is a city's "canary in the coal mine". It is the visible cue used by visitors to evaluate its quality and livability.
Attractiveness and ecological sustainability are both a moral imperative and the cornerstone on which the city's efforts to attract “high-end” economic development is dependent. Expenditures on enhancing a city's attractiveness and ecological sustainability are not costs to the city. Rather, they are an up-front investment which provides a substantial economic return. An attractive and sustainable community is not only an end in itself, it is a prerequisite for attracting talented people and “high-end” economic development.
Progress Report (June 2007 – Present)
1) Initiated a pilot program with the Utilities Department whereby they will invest $50,000 for new tree planting to offset the “Heat Island Effect” and the visual and air pollution caused by utilities. The pilot venture is on William Fitch Parkway from Highway 6 to Pebble Creek Parkway .
2) Initiated public input into the planning of roads so there will now be public hearings on street capital projects before a professional services contract is awarded AND before the contract is bid out i.e. after the design is completed. In the past there was zero input and these were Consent Agenda items, approved without discussion. This input provides opportunities for the public to comment on landscaping and bicycle provision, as well as on a road's functionality.
3) Initiated the “College Station Green” initiative based on Austin 's “Green Energy” program which will involve all departments revising their operations so they are state-of-the-art environmentally friendly. The effort will develop specific action plans for:
- Implementing LEED standards to ensure energy efficiency in buildings
- Air quality and reduction of HCF footprint
- Renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Water conservation
- Reduction of pesticide and fertilizer use
- Greenhouse gas emissions reduction
- Protection of open space and green areas
4) Initiated the council's endorsement of the “Cool Cities” program. Signatories to this national program pledge to reduce global warning pollution in their cities to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
5) Initiated integration of extensive green landscaping as a requirement in all city street construction and renovation projects.
6) Initiated a comprehensive Water Conservation Plan which was endorsed in principle by the council and will be implemented over the next three years.
7) Initiated the process to establish a tree preservation ordinance. The council endorsed this initiative in principle.
8) Initiated the council's new policy of zero impact on floodplain areas by any development. An ordinance to implement this policy is being prepared. The taxpayers have recently spent millions of dollars to keep floodwater out of homes on Bee Creek because the floodplain was not respected. This will prevent such costs being incurred in the future. There are many other benefits to protecting floodplains, including better connectivity of trails for transportation and recreation within the community.
9) Initiated a review of architectural design and landscape requirements for non-residential properties.
Proposed Future Agenda (2008 – 2011)
1) Develop and implement action plans for each of the eight elements in the “ College Station Green” initiative identified in #3 above.
2) Translate the council's endorsement in principle of the water conservation plan, tree preservation plan, and zero impact on floodplain areas into meaningful ordinances.
3) Conceptualizing “Roads” as “Parkways.” Extensive native plantings, green landscaping and tree planting should be an integral part of every street project. The city, for the most part, has failed to match the green infrastructure which has been incorporated in many neighborhoods by developers and residents. As a result, too many city streets are harsh, barren and ugly. The TAMU campus and the landscaping of streets such as Woodcreek, Emerald Forest and the west end of Rock Prairie Road should set the standard for the city's streetscapes.
4) Initiating extensive tree planting by the utilities department to reduce residents' electricity bills by reducing the “heat island effect” and shading homes in summer. Much of the city's natural tree canopy has been removed. The replacement of trees, grass and green landscape by development causes the city's temperature to be 5º - 9ºF higher than the surrounding rural areas.
5) Amending city ordinances to make it economically advantageous for developers to create “Conservation Developments. These encourage preservation of green space rather than standard suburbia developments.