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IC locals want sustainable community

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | FEBRUARY 02, 2012 7:20 AM

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Locals residents want Iowa City officials to focus on sustainability efforts in the coming decade.

"I want the city to increase walkability," said resident Judith Pascoe. "I want them to make the city more pedestrian and bike friendly."

Pascoe was one of roughly 40 Iowa City community members who gathered Wednesday night to rework the Iowa City 2030 Comprehensive Plan, a guideline that will direct city planning over the next 10 to 20 years.

Iowa City officials support ideas such as Pascoe's because it will improve the city economically, socially, and environmentally.

"People meet face-to-face, and you become aware of how the community view things." said Sara Walz, a city associate planner. "Naturally, you view things through the lens of your neighborhood. That's how people tend to see things."

Walz said the city currently has a grant from the state that will help to promote more sustainable projects.

The group also discussed several aspects of sustainability, including land use, economy, and natural resources. Several community members at the meeting also discussed urban farming, non-student affordable housing located downtown, and rebuilding on vacant plots.

The Iowa City 2030 Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1997 and focused on neighborhood safety, attractiveness, and connectivity.

Officials have implemented several projects focusing on those three main objectives, such as altering the city's zoning code and subdivision regulations and designating historic districts throughout the city.

Walz said after the city had made progress on the original plan, many felt it needed additional restructuring.

"In light of the things that are going on with growth in Iowa City," she said, "it seems like a good time to take advantage of that and go back and visit the plan."

Liz Christiansen, the director of the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability, said the university and city have been collaborating more over the years in sustainable efforts.

"I think Iowa City is well poised to take on planning for sustainability," she said. "This is an issue that is of interest to its citizens."

Iowa City became the first in Iowa to create an inventory of greenhouse-gas emissions, Christiansen said. The city also worked to promote public transit and developing a walkable, bikable city.

"They have got a good grounding from sustainability and now it's time to hear from citizens," she said.

New attention has been brought to energy conservation and local foods, which Walz said the city hadn't thought to include when crafting the current plan.

Brenda Nations, Iowa City environmental coordinator, said the city is moving along with sustainability projects, noting ventures such as the public transportation tracking system Bongo and the housing program UniverCity, a collaboration between the UI and Iowa City to restore homes.

"It's a real growing movement and I think local foods and sustainability in general is a great thing that is becoming popular," she said.


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