Recently 200 folks gathered in the Ossining Public Library for a Regional Leadership Summit on sustainable communities. The capacity crowd included chief elected officials, members of municipal advisory committees and industry experts from more than 56 municipalities and 5 counties.
The Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium organized the summit in order “to support a vibrant and sustainable local economy that creates jobs, generates substantial savings, and strengthens the quality of life we enjoy in our Westchester municipalities.”
National experts in key topic areas were on hand to lead work sessions for participants on complete streets, micro-grids, community choice power aggregation, financing the clean economy, and municipal readiness, and more.
But what does the public want?
In November 2011, residents of Bedford, Cortlandt, Croton, North Salem, Peekskill, and Pound Ridge interested in climate action planning were asked to complete an online survey questionnaire. Over 600 people responded to the detailed questionnaire. (See “NWEAC CAP” for the complete results.) The survey results were presented in the evening's session on municipal readiness.
The priority that got more "high priority" votes than any other was clean water. Seven out of 10 the respondents said “protecting groundwater quality” is a high priority. Interestingly, land use protections as a group ranks as the highest set of priorities. These are colored brown in the accompany chart's columns.
Not surprisingly, the land use priorities relate to both health (clean water, reduced pesticides) and quality of life (open space, trees).
Energy and waste related priorities (local renewable energy, increasing recycling, reducing energy costs) are also high priorities. These are colored brown in the chart's columns.
In ascending order, respondents gave the following 11 topics as the most “High Priority” rankings out of the 35 different choices (% of respondents who ranked this as “high priority"):
- Learn about energy efficiency incentives. (49%)
- Increase local renewable energy. (50%)
- Expand existing recycling programs. (51%)
- Encourage mass transit, biking, walking. (53%)
- Integrate sustainable growth into municipal plans. (54%)
- Reduce pesticide & fertilizer use. (54%)
- Lower energy costs for homes & businesses. (55%)
- Improve stormwater retention and runoff. (58%)
- Protect farmland & agricultural open space. (58%)
- Protect forests & urban trees. (64%)
- Protect groundwater quality. (69%)
The survey was part of the climate action planning process in these 7 communities to help prioritize what actions community members find most important.