Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Greening of Guilford County What Next and Some Questions to Ponder for the Future

Effort's under way to Green Guilford
Gerald Witt
Staff Writer
Friday, August 1 updated 10:08 am

What happened? Green Guilford partners met Thursday to review the final plan before it goes to the Guilford County commissioners.What's next? County commissioners will hear and review the plan in an Aug. 12 work session. After discussion and possible revisions, the board will accept or deny the plan in a formal meeting.

Information: Rob Bencini is seeking input on Green Guilford and bringing the county's communities together. Call 641-2552.

Related Links
Should Commissioners Support This? ( debatables blog on Greensboro News and Record)

If Guilford County is going to work together to protect the environment, then it must gather its greenies.

That means developers, environmentalists, politicians and regular people must trade ideas, according to Green Guilford, a plan that would help unite those groups to improve the air, water and land.

On Thursday, environmentalists, a Deep Roots Market manager, a High Point city administrator, economic developers, a professor, Guilford County staffers and others agreed to send the plan to the county commissioners for review.

But getting it past the board, and the public, may be tougher than it appears.
“You have to do outreach and public education to get even elected officials to pay attention,” said Carolyn Allen, former Greensboro mayor and self-termed “tree hugger.”

Education and organization are major components of the tentative plan, along with:
Supporting government purchases of environmentally-friendly goods.
Creating a neighborhood sustainability advisory board.
Tapping into existing soil and water conservation groups.
A Web site driven by the coalition could result, according to Guilford County’s director of community and economic development, Rob Bencini, who is organizing the group called Green Guilford.
Bencini stressed that the group is still in the planning stages — it must get past the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, where the topic of money is sure to arise. So far, no specific dollar amounts have been mentioned.
And the plan needs refining, which may come when it goes before the county commissioners in an Aug. 12 work session.
“It needs widespread support from the staff and county commissioners,” said Kim Yarbray, fundraising chairwoman for the Sierra Club’s Piedmont Plateau Group.
Yarbray worked to help Greensboro become a “Cool City” in 2007, which means that by 2012, the city committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent of its 1990 levels.
A solid goal also is needed for Green Guilford, she said: “With unknown landscapes, people get scared.”
Another, loftier aim is to make a multijurisdictional group to drive positive environmental impact, a page stolen from King County, the home of Seattle. There, the Puget Sound Partnership united 11 counties, businesses, developers, Native American tribes and activists to clean water for salmon — a mainstay in the Pacific Northwest economy.
“The more buy-in we get, the greater it would be,” Bencini said of Guilford’s plan to borrow from that partnership.
But gaining that buy-in could be the biggest challenge. The relationships among Guilford County’s cities can get tense when regional projects — even those for a greater good — get underway.
For example, the Randleman dam project to create a reservoir for High Point, Greensboro and other municipal water supplies was fraught with construction delays and other holdups; by the end, several municipalities accused others of dragging their feet to finish.
And water conservation and quality is no small issue, particularly on the heels of 2007’s severe drought, whose effects still linger as Guilford County heads into another round of August temperatures.
Clean air is another green concern for the county where Interstates 40 and 85 connect. The EPA in 2005 cited the county for high soot levels in the air.
As groups rise to handle those and other environmental issues, public attention naturally goes to the problems.
But the county would benefit to band those groups — and effort — together, according to the Green Guilford plan.
“We have so many groups that are not talking,” Bencini said. “How do we make it work?”

Contact Gerald Witt at 373-7008 or


What does "Green Guilford" entail? Definitions of “green” seem to mean different things to different folks depending upon their role within the community. Many actions reflect reliance upon development corridors and loops rather than moving toward light rail which is a better option for the environment.
One wonders where the agronomists, farmers, landowners, and regular people were in the development of the proposal by the Green Build partners. In deference to the Green Giant, many average consumers are aware of the environmental constraints in Piedmont North Carolina.

If the intent of the proposal was to encourage creative community problem solving, why were none of the above mentioned as helping develop the proposal? Education and organization won’t work unless there is a level playing field OR collaboration.

Will "Green Guilford" preserve the integrity of lifestyle as presented in the County and Greensboro's comprehensive plans? To date the news of projects comes across as "hit and miss" with regard to maintenance of community integrity. One council member aptly noted their regard for the maintenance of integrity depended upon the thorough homework of a community of residents. Hummm! Otherwise, the governing bodies may vote in deference to their comprehensive plans.

If the same folks manage the decisions as to the life and death of community projects are the major proponents of "Green Guilford", one would expect little change in the quality of our social/emotional interaction and further damage to the air and water quality.

Developing a multi-jurisdictional group without ethical grounding (the commissioners do not have an ethics policy) would further compromise the rights of citizens who would not buy into this type of regionalism.

Without the answers to these questions, how does a commissioner know what they are supporting? Perhaps they will receive them at their work session on August 12.

Donna Bonds
Member of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of the Triad

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