"Green" building guidelines to ensure development is environmentally friendly soon could become the law in Scottsdale.
Councilman Tony Nelssen initiated a proposal to make it a citywide law that any development or redevelopment that requires a council vote - like a zoning change - be required to meet Scottsdale's standards for environmental friendliness. Those standards are currently voluntary.
"It's past time to do this. We have been talking about green buildings since the 1970s," Nelssen said. "We're talking about designing and implementing desert architecture."
The council voted unanimously last week to have the Environmental Quality Advisory Board work with experts, residents and businesses on the environmental rules, and come back to the council with a recommendation.
Nelssen said the city also could offer more height and density to developers in exchange for getting additional, voluntary green building commitments, provided other potential concerns about traffic and infrastructure are resolved.
"I think that should be a bargaining chip," he said.
WHAT 'GREEN' MEANS
Mayor Mary Manross said Scottsdale was the first city in the country to require that all municipal buildings meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design "gold" standards. The LEED certification criteria were developed by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.
"We are striving to be No. 1 in the nation, not just the state," she said.
Anthony Floyd, Scottsdale's green building manager, said the city established a voluntary environmental rating checklist for residential and commercial construction in 1998. The city doubled the number of points required for a development to be considered green in 2006.
"It's like a menu; they get to pick and choose," Floyd said.
So far this year, about 25 percent of building permits for new houses in the city met the green building guidelines, he said.
One example of a green building is Scottsdale's Fire Station No. 2, at 7522 E. Indian School Road. Completed in June for about $4.8 million, the station was placed to minimize direct sun in the summer while maximizing heat gain in the winter. It's also energy-efficient, incorporates recycled materials and uses reclaimed water.
Several dozen jurisdictions around the country have enacted environmental standards for construction over the last several years, Floyd said, ranging from offering incentives to developers, to mandating they build green buildings. Cities like Boulder and Aspen, Colo., and San Francisco have gone the route of enacting laws, he said. Some cities are phasing the rules in over several years.
"It gives everyone a chance to adjust to it, so you're not doing it all at once," Floyd said.
Rick Kidder, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, said the business community will have to see whether the proposal is feasible from a cost-benefit perspective.
"The chamber is very strongly in favor of green buildings," he said. "The thing we have to look for is what are the details."
Nelssen's initial proposal called for bundling new architectural design standards with the proposed environmental regulations. Instead, the council went along with Councilwoman Betty Drake, who said the discussion of architecture standards remain part of ongoing efforts to draft six neighborhood plans that will be incorporated into the city's general plan update in 2011.
The neighborhood plans will be tailored to six geographic areas of the city. They will govern such things as land use, traffic circulation, utilities and infrastructure, and how each area redevelops. The planning areas include south Scottsdale; downtown; the Shea Boulevard corridor, between Indian Bend Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard; the airpark business district; McDowell Vista, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Jomax Road; and Tonto Foothills, from Jomax to the city's northern boundary.
"I think a blanket overlay honestly isn't the answer," Drake said. "What's going to be appropriate downtown isn't necessarily what's going to be appropriate at Desert Mountain."
Councilman Wayne Ecton said there should be a place for different architectural styles.
"There are certain areas that need to be considered for one type of architecture over another," he said. "I certainly believe Scottsdale should embrace this in the best way possible, but we also need to be logical and sensible in how we do it."
Efforts to encourage green buildings and to define the city's architectural style haven't gone far enough, and he doesn't want the process to get bogged down again, Nelssen said.
"We live in one geographic area. It's called the Sonoran Desert. It's as simple as that," he said. "Through a lack of leadership, we are where we are today. It's time to do something and stop talking about it."
It's not accurate to say that nothing has been done here, Manross said, since Scottsdale is recognized as a leader in green building construction.
Councilman Bob Littlefield said he would support codifying the city's environmental construction standards.
"We should get a little more hard-core about some of this stuff," he said. "If we really believe in it, we should be willing to write it down and hard-code it."