Sustainability committee takes over Huntsville’s Unity Plan
HUNTSVILLE – Huntsville’s sustainability plan is being pushed back to the council table.
Rebecca Francis, sustainability co-ordinator for the town, presented a report to council on Oct. 15 that recommended drastic changes to how the municipality approaches the implementation of its sustainability document, the Unity Plan.
Francis explained it has been about two years since council adopted the document, which lists hundreds of initiatives the town can undertake to support the cultural, environmental and economic sustainability of the municipality.
The implementation of the plan had been the responsibility of six working groups and one standing committee of council called the Unity Plan implementation committee. Both the working groups and the committee consisted almost entirely of volunteers from the community.
“We’ve been having a lot of small wins, a kind of low-hanging fruit that we went for with the working groups,” Francis told council.
Those small wins include an educational Green Team for youth, a men’s shelter survey, a greenhouse gas inventory, an ongoing investigation into solar panel installation on municipal roofs, an active transportation study, a zero-garbage policy at municipal events, sustainability training for staff and councillors, promotion of the town’s smoke-free bylaw, and several others.
But as time went on, said Francis, some of the volunteers started asking whether the implementation strategy could improve.
The volunteers along with councillors and staff have been working since the spring on a new implementation strategy for the unity plan.
The new strategy, adopted by council earlier this month, will scrap the working group and Unity Plan implementation committee model in favour of a sustainability committee. According to Francis’ report, the sustainability committee will include four councillors and three community members. It will co-ordinate and prioritize Unity Plan projects and corporate sustainability projects. The committee will receive proposals for new projects from community volunteers and determine if and how projects will be undertaken.
There are now three colour-coded streams into which a project can fall.
Blue-level projects have policy, procedure or program implications for the town. Only three of these types of projects can happen at any one time. Each project will have a tactical team championed and chaired by a community member, but staff, residents and other partners will be part of the team as well. Projects that would fall into the blue stream include the active transportation strategy and solar for town buildings.
Brown-level projects are largely community driven, but may require town involvement for implementation. Only three of these types of projects can happen at any one time. Each project will have a “do tank” of community members and be championed and chaired by a community members. Staff will participate when necessary. Brown-level projects would include the men’s shelter initiative, food security, pharmaceuticals and emerging chemicals, large natural areas and micro power.
And green-level projects are entirely community driven. These projects will be driven by community groups and will be referred to committee for information-only and communication purposes.
“Over all it’s really a move from the topic-based working groups to project-based groups that have an emphasis on one project,” said Francis. “It’s not just ideas that are being talked about, it’s people working on projects to make them happen in a more focused and clear way.”
The new format will also put more emphasis on the town’s corporate sustainability so the municipality can lead by example, she said.
“This new sustainability committee provides really clear co-ordination, oversight and prioritization for those projects going forward,” she said.