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County likes idea of a 'sustainable community'

Becker County is showing interest in becoming a sustainable community.

Earlier this month the Izaak Walton League and Natural Innovations brought Rolf Nordstorm to Detroit Lakes to speak about becoming a sustainable community.

Becker County Housing and Economic Development Coordinator Guy Fischer, along with the city's seal of approval, is expressing his interest to Nordstorm that the area is interested in a sustainable future.

"I'm happy the county, through Guy Fischer, was able to jump on this so soon," Alderman Bruce Imholte said.

Nordstrom, director of Upper Minnesota Hydrogen Initiative, presented the idea of a Sustainable Community Challenge to city and county leaders two weeks ago at a luncheon.

He suggested several ways to become a sustainable community, including solar and wind usage, ground-source heating and cooling systems, rain gardens and more.

In his letter to Nordstrom, Fischer mentioned several ways Detroit Lakes and Becker County could become more sustainable. Those ideas include a greener Highway 10 corridor, reducing solid waste and increasing recycling, creating Geographic Information System (GIS) land use maps for sustainable development outcomes and improving energy and resource efficiency of the housing stock.

For the Highway 10 corridor, Fischer noted that citizens will attempt to protect lake quality, provide more areas for bike traffic and provide more green spaces.

He mentioned the newly-formed Community Strategies Committee could look into these items.

For reducing waste, Fischer wrote, "a recycling increase of 10 percent has been initially suggested as a goal."

He also suggests exploring composting organic wastes, contacting businesses to see if there is an interest in reducing wastes and general education about recycling.

Using a Community Assistance Program grant, the county is improving GIS capacity in the county and identifying high value conservation areas, high value agriculture areas and high value forest areas.

He wrote that all those areas have potential, "but without an ability to identify where these areas are and make some assumptions relative to their value and best use, the county finds itself reacting to land use decisions -- development pressures -- instead of providing direction for them."

He added that Becker County Planning and Zoning and the White Earth Tribe are in the process of revising zoning ordinances to "control and direct growth and reduce its impact on the natural environment."

Although the city is supporting the letter and idea, it isn't necessarily committing to anything either.

"People that think development and the environment are opposite, and they don't have to be," Imhole said.

He added that a community like Detroit Lakes can grow and protect the environment at that same time.

With the 12-unit housing development for homeless the county is partnering with Mahube Community Council, Fischer said other entities have expressed interest in "energy and resource efficiency, creating a greener more sustainable housing stock."

In the townhomes, the county and Mahube are contemplating geothermal heating and cooling, rain water reutilizing, on-site composting, community garden, and storm water mitigation, among other sustainable ideas things.

If the county could receive a grant from the Izaak Walton League, as Nordstorm had mentioned, Fischer wrote, funds would be used "in an effort to begin to approach the larger picture and strategize how to further reduce our individual/collective energy use/carbon footprint."