Powering Up Belmont's Cushing Village On Energy Committee's Mind
Committee co-chairman list recommendations to increase sustainability of proposed project.
With the Belmont Planning Board deciding at its previous meeting to review other aspects of the proposed Cushing Village development, the focus of the three-building complex situated on three blocks in the heart of Cushing Square turned on recommendations to make the residential and retail proposal as energy and environmentally friendly as possible
According to Belmont Energy Committee Chairman Roger Colton, developer Chris Starr and his development team, Smith Legacy Partners, should view the recommendations of his and other sustainability proponents are making as a chance to produce a more profitable and sound project.
"I urge both the Planning Board and the Cushing Village Development Team tonight to view the recommendations I have articulated ... not merely as permit obligations, but also as development opportunities," said Colton, requesting that his recommendations be made a condition of any permit that the Planning Board issues for the Cushing Village development, on behalf of the Energy Committee, along with Sustainable Belmont.
In prepared remarks presented to the Planning Board, Tuesday, Feb. 5, Colton said there are two sets of “sustainability" issues the board should consider when reviewing the Cushing Village development: electricity/building site energy usage and transportation energy usage.
As Cushing Village will increase electricity consumption and demand, it will result in higher power plant emissions to meet those needs in Belmont, suggests Colton.
In addition, auto emissions in the area will jump from the vehicles owned by residents and from shoppers and visitors to the three-building development.
Colton advises a number of actions that will assist in mitigating the impacts.
While not demanding roof-top solar panels as a requirement for approval, Colton suggests the developer be directed to consider a solar energy system for the development, pointing to the financial benefits of installing one such as the type being constructed for the proposed Fenway Center in Boston. In addition, the developer should be pushed towards natural gas space heating which is cheaper and cleaner in the long term, said Colton.
Other areas include locations to plug in electric car charging stations that can be used off-peak (at night and early in the morning) to offset the higher electric rates Belmont residents will be paying for all that added usage.
And to offset the increase in emissions, the town and developer should consider negotiating a tree-planting commitment as part of the emissions offet strategy.
To minimize automobile-related pollution, the most critical act by the Board will be requiring parking places at Cushing Village be priced and deeded separately from the condos. Traditionally, living units come with a parking space to sweeten the deal. Dubbed "unbundling," it is found to be an effective market-based response to increased auto use, particularly for developments such as Cushing Village that is in close proximity to one of the most popular mass transit routes (the 73 bus to Harvard and Waverley squares) in a community where land prices are high.
"Under such circumstances, people who would choose to use public transit are forced to pay the costs of having a car in addition to paying the costs of using public transit," said Colton, producing evidence of its effectiveness Boston-based Metropolitan Area Planning Council on unbundled parking spaces.
Colton also recommends providing preferred parking spaces to car-sharing services such as Zipcar as the town already does in Belmont Center, setting aside parking spaces for high efficiency or alternative fuel vehicles such as hybrids and emphasize bike usage with racks and bike storage for unit owners and consider being a location for a bike-sharing station.
The development team should commit to locating many on-site facilities for banking (ATMs), dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up and other similar amenities that tend to generate short trips, which increases trips as well as dedicating a spot where building occupants can access transportation information that would include bus schedules, train schedules and Bike Belmont and Walk Belmont maps.
Sustainability also relates to the building material in the construction process. Colton points to the Belmont’s Sustainable Building Policy adopted in 2007 that addresses such things as the use of resource-efficient materials, and envi- ronmentally-sound construction and post-construction practices.
Colton said that each of the recommendations, whether it relates to solar panels or bicycle-sharing or separately-priced parking spaces is increasingly be- coming viewed not only as the fulfillment of an environmental responsibility to a local community, but as an offer of an economic amenity to the town.