The Green Column #6

Who Could Possibly Be Against Sustainability?

July 05, 2009— On May 20, the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Commission unanimously approved the following statement, to be added to the Lincoln/Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan:

“The Comprehensive Plan has long recognized the importance of building sustainable communities—communities that conserve and efficiently utilize our economic, social, and environmental resources so that the welfare of future generations is not sacrificed.

“This concept has grown in importance with increased understanding of the limits to energy supplies and community resources, the likelihood that energy costs will continue to increase in the future, and the climatic impacts of energy consumption.

“In a new century where these factors are likely to affect economic survival, we need to think about building communities that are resilient and adaptable to change. We should encourage economics that are sustainable, an attractive quality of life, and a healthy environment so that long-term benefits are derived for our community. Sustainability, as a part of the Community Vision, now requires added attention.

“The community should be engaged in discussing how to more effectively approach this goal. Specific topics for discussion could include:

  • Creating stronger incentives to encourage more projects and neighborhoods that incorporate best practices for mixing uses and reducing vehicle trips.
  • Building a stronger relationship between city and rural communities and more security of our food supplies by encouraging more local food.
  • Encouraging reduced energy consumption in new building construction and in retrofitting existing buildings.
  • Encouraging more re-use, recycling, and conservation of natural resources, such as water, and other natural and man-made materials.
  • Attracting new and expanding industries that serve the emerging market for more sustainable products and services.”

If approved by the City Council and the Lancaster County Board, this statement of principle will appear in the Community Vision section of the revised Comp Plan, along with other existing statements on quality of life, economic, and environmental visions.

Why does a statement on sustainability matter?

  • The universal definition of “sustainable” community action is: “Quality development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Resources are becoming more scarce and expensive. Our descendants and the future Lincoln residents will be the benefactors of our conservation.
  • The Comprehensive Plan is a public policy document, arranged and approved by the public to guide the future development of the city. The Comp Plan is (in Lincoln) a living, dynamic, and evolving document that guides the future qualities desired by Lincoln citizens. It offers predictability and enabling conditions for developers, citizens and entrepreneurs, while protecting property values, land uses, and resources for the public health, safety and welfare.
  • The sustainability statement codifies the essential built-environment traditions that have distinguished Lincoln through years of civic leadership for the development and maintenance of quality-of-life places, facilities, institutions, businesses and events.
  • Planning for sustainable development in a five-domain context (environment, socio-cultural, technologies, economics, and public policies) results in greater public participation, more balance among the conditions of the five domains, less ambiguity and unintended negative consequences, and more often than not greater financial returns to the community and business stakeholders.
  • Good planning, design, and public administration with sustainability objectives will lead to a creative city. A city that is economically prosperous and stable; a city that retains and attracts its diverse socio-cultural youth; a city that respects and celebrates its historic heritage and the arts; a city that is safe, healthy and supportive of democratic freedoms; and a city that attracts growth and innovation in business and new enterprises and new residents.

A creative city will be made up of many distinct characteristics within the five domains of sustainability.

Within the environmental domain, it will be essential to insure that the habitat has adequate and clean air, water and sanitation, and that there is an abundance of environmentally protected, accessible green spaces and recreational areas, as well as goods and services that are free of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Within the socio-cultural domain, an atmosphere should exist of respect for cultural and ethnic diversity, safe and affordable housing, health care and exceptional educational programs and facilities to accommodate life-long creative endeavors.

Within the technologies domain, essential factors are applications of appropriate and affordable technologies: carbon-free and efficient energy systems, convenient and community-wide transit systems, functioning and sustainable buildings and infrastructures, and ubiquitous communications systems.

Within the economics domain, a dynamic atmosphere of locally owned enterprises with both local and export market goals will support a balanced and definitive connection to all of the other domains.

And finally, in the public policy domain, the rules and regulations for developing, operating and sustaining a creative city must be designed and administered to support the balance and coordinated effectiveness of all five of the domains.

Our civic leaders in city and county government need your support and your voice in upcoming public forums to adopt Lincoln’s sustainability vision. Lincoln is well on its way to becoming a truly great creative city.

© Lincoln Green by Design