Several weeks ago, we wrote about the Village of Great Neck Plaza implementing a climate action plan to combat climate change.  We now report on the efforts of other municipalities on Long Island to implement sustainability plans and climate action plans that are aimed at preserving and protecting Long Island’s future.  Can these plans achieve the goal of ensuring the long-term viability of this region?

What Is Sustainability?

In its Statement of Qualifications, Sustainable Long Island defines sustainability as “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”  In other words, sustainability seeks to meet present needs without compromising the resources available to future generations.  It is a melding of economic development, environmental health and social equity principles for the betterment of the earth and its current and future inhabitants. Sustainability focuses on conservation of resources, adaptation and innovation, and reliance on renewable resources.   It also relies on zoning and land use changes that encourage sustainable development practices.

Long Island’s Attempts At Sustainability Planning

Long Island Regional Planning Council’s Sustainability Plan

In December 2010, the Long Island Regional Planning Council issued its report entitled Sustainable Strategies for Long Island 2035, the first phase of its sustainability plan for the region.  The plan cautioned that unless entrenched notions for development and growth are changed, Long Islanders face an economic, environmental and social catastrophe. The plan’s components include: (1) tax and governance; (2) economy; (3) environment and infrastructure; and (4) equity.

The plan includes several different strategies for each component.  The economy component has nine strategies, several of which target innovations in energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, affordable housing, worker training for 21st century jobs including jobs in health care, green energy, and remediation of contaminated sites.   The environment and infrastructure component has ten sustainable transportation strategies, including creating transit-supported communities and significant improvement to the public transportation system.  It also has six strategies for environment and infrastructure, including protection of water resources, developing regional energy and energy conservation programs, creating a “zero waste plan,” developing a climate change resilience plan to address sea level rise and coordinating emergency preparedness.  It also has four land use strategies that include protecting open space and farmland and protecting neighborhood character with location-compatible new development.  The equity component has five strategies, including the development of workforce housing, establishing training, education and employment centers in low-income and minority communities.

Suffolk County Climate Action Plan

Suffolk County adopted its Climate Action Plan in June 2015.  This Climate Action Plan is a framework to combat climate change and saves the county over $5 million per year from reduced energy use.  The county installed energy efficient condensing blocks, lighting upgrades, occupancy sensors, low-emissivity windows and HVAC upgrades in 30 county buildings.  It also installed solar photovoltaic array panels on new and existing structures, installed an electric vehicle charging station, and met the LEED standards for new construction and reconstruction of existing county buildings.  The plan calls for enactment of policies to evaluate cool/green roofs and other energy conservation techniques.  It is also conducting biodiesel pilot programs. It is looking at its handling of wastewater and is evaluating ways to decrease solid waste including recycling programs  and “paperless” county offices.  It is also taking steps to implement design guidelines for new residential, commercial and industrial buildings to reduce energy consumption and improve environmental quality.  The county is also looking at acquiring more open space (the county owns in excess of 162,000 acres of preserved land) as part of its sustainability plan.

The Town of Southampton Sustainability Plan

The Town of Southampton added a sustainability element to its comprehensive plan at the end of 2013. It is referred to as the Southampton 400+ Sustainability Plan.  This plan is aimed at maintaining the unique characteristics of the town; in particular, the scenic vistas, maritime heritage and world-class beaches.  In fact, the mission statement notes that the town is using the word “sustainability”  to mean sustaining and preserving the beauty, farmlands, woodlands, walkable village centers, culture and history of the town.  The town notes the plan is aspirational, to be used in the planning and land use process, but that policy, budget and legislative changes to implement the plan will be handled separately in the future.

The plan aspires to minimize human degradation of nature, improve fisheries and agricultural lands,  reduce the use of man-made persistent chemicals, reduce fossil fuel use and create vibrant economic prosperity, culture and learning.  It seeks to expand the Sustainable Southampton Green Committee website to provide information about living green in the town.  It also seeks to restore and protect the town’s ground and surface waters by expanding the Suffolk County Clean Water Coalition and continuing its efforts to develop a septic system inspection program.  It seeks to diversify the local economy, will promote the town’s “Safe and Sustainable” procurement policy and will expand the town’s website to encourage sustainable business practices.

On the land use side, the town notes it intends to promote the voluntary transfer of development rights to shift development away from sensitive and open space parcels.  It will also implement a Complete Streets policy, where appropriate, to encourage increased use of bicycles and walkable downtowns.   The town intends to develop a climate action plan to lower its carbon footprint and use alternative energy sources.  It is considering amending its town code to implement green building practices found in LEED and other similar third-party rating systems.

The Town of Huntington Climate Action Plan

The Town of Huntington adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2015.  It assessed municipal facilities and its operations, community-wide policies and initiatives , and climate change adaption and resiliency.   The town has already implemented energy conservation measures at Town Hall and other town-owned sites.  It upgraded HVAC systems and lighting and installed a 28kW solar photovoltaic generating system.  It conducted energy audits of its buildings.  It incorporated new energy requirements into the Town Energy Codes.  It is considering incorporating compliance with LEED principles in its building code as well as requiring green or cool roofs, improved insulation for new, and rehabilitation of existing, structures.  It is considering recommending the installation of solar panels on every facility that can reasonably support it.  It is looking at wind parks.  It is going to make additional upgrades to street lights and is looking at purchasing fuel efficient vehicles to replace its current fleet.  It intends to promote greater use of the HART bus system to raise ridership.  It is implementing paperless offices at town offices, reducing the use of Styrofoam and other disposal products and is considering a single town-wide water-wastewater district that includes sewered and un-sewered properties. It will consider reusing grey water where appropriate as well as ways to redesign recharge basins to enhance surrounding neighborhoods.

Okay readers, what do you think of these plans? Do you think they can achieve their goals of sustainability or decrease the impact on climate change? Let us know what you think.   We’d also like to hear from other municipalities regarding their sustainability and climate action plans.

Note: The author, Charlotte A. Biblow, a partner at Farrell Fritz, is president of the board of directors of Sustainable Long Island.