Council Considers Sustainability in the Community, Government Involvement

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Sustainability in the city was back on the Newport Beach City Council’s table for discussion this week.

Councilman Scott Peotter pulled the item regarding the Newport Beach Sustainability Plan from the consent calendar during Tuesday’s meeting

The item was ultimately approved 5-2 with Peotter and Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon dissenting.

“I like a lot of the things that are in there,” Peotter said. “My fear, in approving this, is we just perpetuate a bureaucracy, or a potential bureaucracy.”

Former mayor Nancy Gardner defended the plan.

“One of the points of the plan is to become more flexible, so that government doesn’t stand in the way of people trying to do things,” Gardner said. “In a sense, a sustainability plan can also be a way to of freeing applicants from government restraints.”

She mentioned an architect she recently spoke with who wanted to build more sustainable commercial buildings, because they provide higher rent, and often got tied up with government regulations.

The plan was prepared by a citizen’s steering committee, headed up by Gardner and former city councilwoman and Stop Polluting Our Newport founder Jean Watt.

It is a comprehensive document that provides goals and objectives in various categories, including: Education, building/development, waste reduction, transportation, energy, water conservation and water quality, and urban outdoors.

There are a lot of things the city is already doing as required by other regulations, Peotter pointed out. There are also a lot of financial incentives for people to conserve and save, he noted.

The city does already do a lot, Gardner agreed when she presented the plan during the April 26 council study session, but it’s done somewhat haphazardly and there are unnecessary redundancies.

“A plan will make us more efficient,” Gardner said.

The plan takes a positive and prudent approach with education, awareness, and incentives, not penalties and punishments, Gardner said.

During the April 26 meeting, Muldoon said he supported Gardner’s cause, but didn’t see why local, state or federal government should be involved in promoting environmental sustainability.

Peotter expressed he was reluctant to dedicate city resources to the sustainability plan. He was very tentative about moving forward with it at that point.

Gardner mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting that the plan still has to head to the various commissions and committees. They will review the plan and provide input, she said.

“Their input will be invaluable,” Gardner said.

Mayor Diane Dixon agreed and said she was looking forward to hearing the feedback from the commissions and committees. They’ll help identify what is needed and what will work in the community, Dixon said.

The plan also has the support of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

In April, Councilman Keith Curry said the city needs a sustainability plan.

“I think they’ve worked hard to make sure some of the onerous elements of these plans that have manifested themselves in other communities don’t manifest themselves here,” he said. “I think it’s in the long term interest of the livability of our community that we move forward on this.”

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