Town Council Candidates Question 3: Sustainability

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Wikipedia defines sustainability as “the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth’s biosphere and human civilization to co-exist.”

Verona has done a lot to be more sustainable in the last 20 years. The Town Council has added solar panels to many government buildings and many residents have done the same to their homes. We’ve joined with other towns to help residents get more of their electricity from renewable sources and added electric car charging stations. The Town Council has passed measures to protect trees on private property from being chopped down, to protect our steep hillsides from erosion and to keep our storm sewers and wastewater treatment plant from being overrun by climate change-induced storms.

But there’s more to be done, so MyVeronaNJ.com asked each of the five candidates for Town Council this question:
What could Verona do to be more sustainable?

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You can read all the answers to Question Three below, and zero in on a specific answer by clicking on a candidate’s name in the list below, which is ordered by their position on the ballot.

Cynthia Holland
Jason Hyndman
Christopher Tamburro
Jack McEvoy
Michael Nochimson

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#9F33FF” class=”” size=””]Community energy plans are a really novel and cost-saving way[/perfectpullquote]

Cynthia Holland:: Sustainability is a really big part of what I do. If you just think about the main part of what the definition of sustainability is, it’s actually a two-part definition: It means the ability to be upheld and defended, but also the ability to maintain something at a current rate. And so the things that we can do to be more sustainable are really going to be planning for our future. How are we going to get to 2030? 2030 is huge in terms of climate change emissions targets but we can be doing so much here at the local level to really increase our sustainability. Everybody has experienced some level of flooding in this town and wet basements, and what we can do is really enhance the stormwater water management system that we currently have. I appreciate that the current Council has actually gone to the effort of enhancing our stormwater management rules here in town, but we can also enhance that system–that alone is a utility–and really having the planning and taking those proactive steps through the Master Plan through our asset management plans are all ways that we can move toward a 2030 goal that is more environmentally sustainable and is working more toward addressing some of the environmental concerns that impact all of us, our families, our children and our small businesses. Last but not least I would also add that community energy plans are a really novel and cost-saving way that we can include clean energy into our infrastructure and possibly benefit our community at large, not just the Council and municipal buildings, but possibly even the schools as well. Read more Cynthia Holland answers here.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#9F33FF” class=”” size=””]Stormwater, flooding, those are major issues that the town faces[/perfectpullquote]

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Jason Hyndman: For me, sustainability has two different aspects. There is economic sustainability. We need to develop our town. We need to invest in our town in a way that will support us economically. We want stable growth. We don’t want boom or bust bubbles. We don’t want to be vulnerable to changes in the economic climate. We want resiliency, economically, and in that same way we also need resiliency in our built environment: Stormwater, flooding, those are major issues that the town faces. We’ve got a good stormwater management ordinance that’s going to address development prospectively, but we still have to address the existing environment because that ordinance is not going to impact what’s already there, like our aging infrastructure, like our traffic patterns. Those are all things that tie into sustainability from an environmental perspective, and again, that all goes right back to our Master Plan, which is coming up in the next year. So those are things that we need to address in that document. Read more Jason Hyndman answers here.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#9F33FF” class=”” size=””]How can we create an environment where people are willing to engage in more sustainable practices?[/perfectpullquote]

Christopher Tamburro: I think Verona has done a lot on that topic. We have developed really good engineering structures as far as our wastewater treatment facilities and our water system. We have engaged with Sustainable New Jersey on a lot of things, our economic development department has done a lot on sustainability as well. Anything that a municipality does is a pretty significant balance between the immediate effects, whether it be financial opportunity cost, whatever it might be, and long-term effects. I think we can start looking at any of the practices that we have now–as far as construction, as far as what we do within Public Works–in order to use and to suggest using materials and processes that are more sustainable, not only for the environment but also economically. That takes a lot of commitment to do that, we have done so many things in particular ways for a long time. A lot of those really work. I think our municipal government does a really great job in most of what it does, especially our Public Works Department and the leadership of Chuck Molinaro–a phenomenal group of individuals who are the best I think I’ve ever seen and I have contended to other people are probably the best public works department in the United States. We’ve had people around for a long time that have made a difference. So we need to sit down and look at every structure: How are we getting our energy? How can we promote better recycling in town? How can we create an environment where people are willing to, themselves, engage in more sustainable practices? And really sit down, form committees dealing specifically with this. I have pushed this in my platform, especially for strategic planning. I think that this would be one of those opportunities to engage in some very meaningful, strategic planning, with experts who are in Verona. We have a lot of people who are very experienced in this, and we have a great Environmental Commission. We have a lot of folks in town who are engineers and can really help guide us in developing new policies and procedures that can benefit everybody. It’s not something we can necessarily do in maybe a day or a year. But if we do a plan that’s five or 10 years, we can potentially engage in practices that are more likely to yield us results over time that may not be visible right away, but can certainly help us as we move forward. Read more Christopher Tamburro answers here.

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[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#9F33FF” class=”” size=””]Make sure that development that is ongoing in town, or redevelopment, becomes more green[/perfectpullquote]

Jack McEvoy: In the last four years we instituted several ordinances to protect our environment. I think the latest one was February, our stormwater management ordinance. I do believe that this will continue if I’m in office. That was one of my goals and I talked about it four years ago when I got in. Verona, I think, is a very sustainable town. What more we can do? Next online for me would be a blasting ordinance. I’ve been proposing that for, for many years. I would be happier if it wasn’t just a blasting ordinance but a ban on blasting in the town, but that would be a little too severe, and I don’t think people would be happy with me. I don’t think it’s allowed because the state has control over that. But, to be more sustainable, I think those are things we just continue in that direction. I say we make sure that development that is ongoing in town, or redevelopment for that matter, should become more green as far as the installation of green roofs, and tone down development so that the entire property isn’t paved for a parking lot. In the last 10 years that’s all they do, they maximize everything there. I’d like to see in the future any development that we have be more like an Ardleigh Mews or a Wedgwood Gardens where you have a building, you have your parking and you have beautiful courtyards in there also. We need a nice balance in our developments. Read more Jack McEvoy answers here.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#9F33FF” class=”” size=””]There always has to be a balance between green and financially responsible[/perfectpullquote]

Michael Nochimson: I think Verona does a nice job. There is plenty of solar, we could convert a few more buildings. When I was on the Council we were still hoping to, at some point, turn the sewer plant into a self-powered facility based on solar. I think we could probably get there, based on the cost of solar, but I think we’ve done a nice job. We have solar on the Verona Community Center, and PSE&G has put a few of these charging stations in town. We do have recycling, up and down the avenue, but I always think you have to have a balance. People talk about being environmentally friendly. I know we have a Verona community garden. I think that’s great. We recycle. I’m talking about Bigbelly solar garbage cans, which compact garbage so it reduces the amount of pickups that have to be made each week. That’s all solar driven, but I think we’ve done a nice job. We can continue to evolve and add more solar, where it makes sense, but I would say the sewer plant probably makes the most sense because it does use up a lot of energy. But I think Verona does a nice job. We have a very forward thinking, responsible and educated community that I do believe we have a good balance, that are open to new ideas, as they evolve in partnerships, even with our electric company PSE&G, and possibly partnerships with other people, including the county, but to say we’re not green, we certainly are. We can get a little greener. But again, there always has to be a balance between green and financially responsible because we have noticed when we first started doing recycling we would get paid for a lot of the materials we were recycling glass, paper and cardboard. We actually don’t get paid anymore and in some cases we still recycle because it’s the right thing to do, but we actually pay to have the recycling picked up, rather than getting paid. So it’s just interesting how things evolve, but you have to really understand the finance of green for green to really work. Read more Michael Nochimson answers here.

The full interviews with each candidate are here:

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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