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Cost-neutral idea for Cleveland Heights green zoning; plus, Gov. Kasich's energy pillar

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/26/12 @ 3:49pm

· Cleveland Heights wants to reform its zoning code to encourage greener building and greener living. Tonight is a public review of the proposed zoning before Council finalizes the changes. Sustainable Heights Network has highlighted copy and put it into a separate document for an overview.

One area where Cleveland Heights could promote more green living is to allow zoning that helps fulfill the last wishes of a dying mall, Severance, to be the Town Center that it always wanted to be. If city officials are open to exploring all options for redeveloping Severance, they could consider rezoning the land for mixed-use development. The city would then be in a good position to lead a plan for introducing a bike metropolis at Severance. It would feature new community uses in soon-to-go-dark spaces like Wal-Mart, which is being poached by neighbor South Euclid for its greenfield development.

Zoning for mixed use could take the form of a special district or overlay. In other words, the city can provide a tool through its zoning so that the community can decide in a case like Severance how do you bring new life to obsolete ideas like commercial-only centers? In this way, it removes a barrier to integrating Severance back in to the community while building a dense, walkable district with apartments above shops and new green spaces.

· Public transit ridership boomed in Columbus and Cleveland last year. Columbus leads the nation in growth while RTA recorded a 11% jump in riders systemwide, including 17% more bus trips. 

· Speaking of Columbus, the city announced it will invest a quarter to $1 million on a bike share program ? a credit card swipe system where a bike can be rented by the hour or day and dropped off at locations around town. 

· Small business expansion continues in Ohio City's Market District as Charter One and Ohio City, Inc. launch round two of their grants competition (write an essay, submit a business plan and enter for a chance to win a grant between $5,000 and $20,000 to assist in opening or expanding a business around the West Side Market.). In 2011, Charter One grants helped launch five businesses: Joy Machines Bike Shop, Campbell's Sweet Shop, Salty Not Sweet, Urban Orchid and SOHO Kitchen and Bar. The RFP is available online at www.ohiocity.org

· The biggest impediment to smart growth in Northeast Ohio may be developing a common language around what it means to make choices as a community that balance our wants and needs. A good place to start building consensus may be in books like "Urban Planning for Dummies" just out in print and eBook formats (tip of the hat to CSU Urban Planning profession Jordan Yin for letting us know that the Cleveland Public Library has free access to the digital eBook version. 

· Governor Kasich has unveiled several new policies called the Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) with regard to taxes, workforce development & education, energy, and capital improvements. While it's a little heavy on shale and coal, there are some aspects to applaud ? including Co-generation as advanced energy within the state's advanced energy portfolio standard. The committment to clean energy could be even stronger with a similar (to the carbon capture and sequestration) $30 million initial investment in the renewable energy revolving loan fund. Below are the areas of initiatives within energy.

A new bill to establish energy policy for the state will be passed by the Senate; it includes the governors 10 pillars to help create jobs with a diverse mix of low-cost energy sources. The pillars include:

1. Shale: increase the severance tax on oil and gas; modernize health and environmental regulations

2. Generation: the administration will work to review and pilot new generation and efficiency technologies; expand customer choice for renewables

3. Electricity Transmission & Distribution: authorize the PUCO to review transmission infrastructure in the Ohio shale region to ensure transmission and distribution are adequate

4. Cogeneration/Waste Heat Recovery: require the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to review cogeneration as part of new construction and major renovations in state facilities; encourage efforts to recover waste heat by allowing cogeneration to qualify as a renewable energy source under the state's renewable mandates; revamp the Energy Loan Fund with increased emphasis on energy efficiency and alternative fuels

5. Workforce Training: invest in shale and energy industry training; work with companies to develop training credentials to ensure skills match demand

6. CNG/Alternative Fuels: encourage adoption of alternative fuels-an agreement has been signed with other states to develop regional Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refueling infrastructure; assess converting all or part of the state fleet to CNG; develop a flexible revolving loan fund for alternative fuels

7. Energy Efficiency: improve state building efficiency and finance through Air Quality Development Authority; determine standards for state fleet vehicle replacement to increase efficiency; review utility green pricing programs and establish customer choice

8. Coal: appropriate $30 million for coal research projects on carbon capture, sequestration, enhanced oil recovery and new technologies; streamline and simplify permitting process; exempt coal combustion waste from additional fees

9. Regulatory Reform: develop and issue "general permits" for business to minimize lengthy permit review; request federal wetland permitting program authority to eliminate duplication with state program

10. Renewables: develop flexible revolving loan fund for alternative fuels; identify and address interconnection challenges to renewable energy projects.

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