Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hailey P&Z recommends fast-tracking green projects

Community housing also encouraged

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission passed ordinance changes Monday night that call for fast-tracking community-housing and environmentally friendly building projects. The approvals are in the form of recommendations that will be acted on by the City Council.

"This is a way for the city to prioritize or 'green tape' applications," said Planning Director Beth Robrahn, who presented the changes to the commission. "When people are financing a project, time is money."

Two city-initiated amendments to Hailey's zoning ordinances were recommended to the City Council on Monday. One of them is designed to fast-track Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building projects through the planning department. The change would also prioritize community housing developments.

Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy. Intended to promote energy efficient products and practices, LEED certifications are based on the amount of environmentally friendly materials used during building construction.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council's Web site, following guidelines laid out in the two programs costs more than conventional building practices, but can result in energy savings and cost savings in the long run. Two recent LEED-certified projects in Blaine County have been the Bellevue Habitat for Humanity house and the new Blaine County Jail.

"It is important for us to move the world in this direction," said Commissioner Mark Spears, "But it is not within everyone's capability to do so. What if you get bumped (from the waiting list for a building permit) and sit there for an inordinate amount of time?"

Kelly Jackson, outreach director for Citizens for Smart Growth, spoke in favor of the ordinance changes, but expressed concern about those unable to pay for the more expensive, greener projects.

"These seem to be positive changes for the city, depending on the circumstances of the individual applicant," she said.

Hailey resident Peter Lobb spoke out against prioritizing certain projects.

"No matter how laudable the projects are, I think we should stick to our rules," he said.

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