NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 17, 2013

Amesbury in line to achieve Green Community status

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — Now that the Stretch Code has been signed into law, Mayor Thatcher Kezer is turning his attention to the final two requirements that the city must meet to become recognized by the state as a Green Community by the end of the year.

Amesbury has already met three of the five state requirements, of which the Stretch Code is one. The remaining two involve developing a five-year plan to reduce the city’s energy use by 20 percent and devising a policy to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles only.

Both of these issues can be handled directly by Kezer and will not require City Council approval, so the mayor hopes Amesbury will be able to apply for and potentially receive Green Community designation when the next round of applications comes out in November.

“I’m going to guess yes,” Kezer said about making the November deadline. “Because these two steps are not difficult steps to achieve.”

Going green has been a priority for city officials over the past year. By earning Green Community designationm Amesbury would become eligible for up to $10 million in grant funds that could be used for green-energy projects.

The five criteria that Amesbury must meet are: provide zoning for renewable energy generating, R&D or manufacturing facilities; adopt an expedited application and permit process for those facilities; develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years; purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles; and adopt the state’s Stretch Code.

Last week, the City Council voted 7-2 to approve adopting the Stretch Code, which is an amendment to the state’s building code that emphasizes energy efficiency and has tighter building requirements for both new residential and commercial projects.

Prior to that, the city created a solar overlay district to provide zoning for renewable energy facilities, meeting the first requirement. Councilor Christian Scorzoni, one of the city’s leading advocates for green energy, said the city has met the second requirement by establishing an expedited permitting process as well.

As far as the five-year energy savings plan goes, Kezer said a big part of the plan would be figuring out when the five-year timeline would start. The idea would be to pick a time right before the city began a significant energy saving in the schools to maximize the impact and help the city get a head start toward the 20 percent target.

“The flexibility on that is picking the starting point for the five years,” Kezer said. “We’ve already implemented energy saving, a lot of it on the school side, so we’re trying to figure out what we can capture already that means we’re already down the path of meeting our five-year goals.”

Kezer said coming up with a policy of purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles would require a review of other communities’ policies and a full understanding of which vehicles are exempt from the state requirement.

Kezer said public safety vehicles and DPW trucks would be among those exempt because they are specialty vehicles. The trick then would be figuring out where the rest of the city’s vehicles fall.

“It’s having a policy in place so that those that do fall under the criteria that when we go to purchase new vehicles, they’ll meet whatever the requirements are,” he said.