To the Editor:
I’ve been a South Burlington resident for 10 years, and am an advocate for retaining open lands and, more specifically, creating development guidelines that have a rigorous stance on reducing environmental impacts to air and water.
We have all seen the impact of climate change increase each year with wildfires, floods and violent storms increasing in frequency and severity across the country. I would like to see South Burlington require net-zero energy consumption for all new structures — residential or commercial.
The incremental costs can be mitigated in much the same way as food producers mitigate the appearance of rising prices with less volume or weight in their packaging. Housing developers can marginally reduce the overall footprint of structures to accommodate the investments required for net-zero buildings and can market the significant annual savings in energy costs to the buyer, which can be factored into the annual cost of net-zero home ownership.
We need to institute a building standard that requires net-zero infrastructure in the plans submitted for permitting, and that infrastructure must be verified during inspection for occupancy.
I have been very disturbed by the increase in impermeable surfaces being installed in more recent developments in South Burlington. Newer neighborhoods include sidewalks on both sides of the streets as well as paved bike paths, none of which use permeable materials — materials capable of absorbing rain.
Older South Burlington neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks and residents peacefully enjoy strolling in them safely. We must have a firm limit to the level of impermeable surfaces permitted by the city for new construction. The fact that an individual can afford to build a large home and pave large amounts of their property doesn’t give them the right to impose additional environmental impact on the rest of us to clean up.
I applaud efforts requiring developers to preserve fields, forests and wetlands surrounding their development to maintain green spaces, but none of those elements mitigate the value of the land lost to rainwater retention because of the impermeable surfaces created by structures and paving. The footprints of houses, pavement for driveways, and sidewalks all create additional burden to downstream environmental conditions that then ends in the groundwater and Lake Champlain.
South Burlington needs a more stringent set of guidelines that provide a ratio of permeable to impermeable surfaces for development, both residential and commercial.
Ghandi once said, “There’s enough in this world for every man’s need, but not enough for every man’s greed.”
Sustainability requires long-term thinking and action and, yes, a little sacrifice in the sizes of our homes and the way we use our resources.