Columbia’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is slowly making headway as committee members for the mayor’s task force begin the daunting task of sorting through the hundreds of suggestions received from community members earlier this spring.
Back in May, the city held its first of several community input meetings to gather suggestions from residents and businesses on how Columbia can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. More than a hundred participants attended, suggesting anything from creating more bike lanes to implementing new city building codes aimed at making homes and offices more energy efficient.
On Thursday, the task force’s built environment subcommittee, which deals with building codes and infrastructure, met for the first time to start sorting through those suggestions. The subcommittee then began weeding out ideas that members didn’t believe fit the city’s overall goals, or that would likely not receive strong community support.
“I think the strategies dealing with energy efficiency and renewable energy will have the most community support,” said Alex Antal, who chairs the subcommittee. “There’s no point in adopting something that people don’t want to do.”
One suggestion that was struck from the list Thursday asked the city to start planning new infrastructure for driverless vehicles.
Ryan Kaufmann, who sits on the subcommittee and also works in insurance, said that while automated cars will eventually become more mainstream, he doesn’t believe it should be a city priority just yet. “That’s something that’s way down the road,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time before it’s fully going to be there.”
Other subjects discussed included whether the task force might suggest new city policies to give renters more control over their utility bills — such as requiring landlords to install thermostats — or whether to suggest roll carts to help make waste collection more efficient. The wheeled trash containers have been a source of controversy in Columbia in the past.
But mostly, the subcommittee simply sorted through which suggestions seemed to align with larger city goals of reducing emissions from vehicles and buildings, and how to best group the suggestions under those goals.
Carolyn Amparan, another subcommittee member, said that the task force subcommittees all have to organize their recommendations before the city holds its next community input meeting in November. Antal said the full task force will meet on Aug. 2 to hear the reports from all the subcommittees and decide how to move forward from there.
It’s still too early to know just what to expect in the final list of suggestions, said Columbia spokesperson Patricia Weisenfelder.
The task force is expected to make a final report to the Columbia City Council with its suggestions by May of 2019. Those suggestions, which may include changes to city building codes, energy contracts and waste management, could have broad implications for the city’s residents and businesses.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce has said before that it intends to keep an eye on the city plan’s development but is unsure whether the plan is something it will concern itself with.