An aldermanic committee Tuesday approved an ordinance that would require Evanston developers to give the city up to five percent of the value of construction projects — money that would only be refunded if a project ultimately met environmental building standards.

The proposal, developed by the city’s Environmental Board, was approved the Human Services Committee after the committee directed the city’s building department to develop a sliding scale for the fees, so that small projects would have to deposit the full five percent, while the largest projects might only have to come up with 0.5 percent.

If a project failed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification standard, the money collected would be turned over the the Climate Action Fund of the Evanston Community Foundation.

The ordinance would apply to both city-owned and commercial new construction and renovation projects of over 10,000 square feet — which means the city itself could have to turn over taxpayer-funded deposit money to the community foundation if one of its own construction projects failed to win certification.

The ordinance, in the works for over a year, is intended to deal with the issue that while developers can make promises about green construction in advance, the actual award of certification doesn’t take place until testing is conducted after the building is completed.

It drops an earlier proposal to deny certificates of occupancy to buildings that failed to meet the standards as being impractical and overly punitive.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdah, 7th Ward, said she likes the sliding scale proposal, saying she didn’t want the program to be so costly that it would “send people out of Evanston to build elsewhere.”

The head of the city’s building division, Jill Chambers, said the program will require “a lot of education and responsibility by the staff.”

“If we do a good job up front of educating people and explain why this is what we want, we shouldn’t have a problem with them not succeeding in getting green certification,” Chambers said.

Len Sciarra, an architect and the former chairman of the Environment Board who was instrumental in developing the ordinance, said that developers typically would seek to get more points under the certification program than the minimum needed to meet the silver standard, knowing that they might end up “getting dinged a bit” on one or two items.

Estimates vary about the added cost of green construction techniques, with some advocates saying they are negligible, and other experts saying they can add three percent to five percent or more to construction costs.

The proposal now goes to the City Council for final review.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Potential conflict of interest
    Using the link to the Evanston Community foundation site , a new alderperson Jane Grover is a employee of the Evanston Community Foundation.

    It appears she will be voting on this at council? Why should the city be directing fines to a private organization?

  2. Info on Climate Action Fund & Evanston Community Foundation
    The Evanston Community Foundation is not a “private” entity but a philanthropic organization where thousands of Evanston residents have made charitable contributions since 1986. We build endowed funds for many different purposes so that Evanston residents benefit today AND tomorrow from community generosity. By supporting nearly 200 nonprofits with project grants, capacity-building grants and technical assistance, and by providing training in leadership skills to more than 400 residents, the Foundation invests in Evanstonians’ visions of how to make Evanston a better place to live, work and play. Two examples: A 2006 Foundation grant of $10,000 to build capacity of the Evanston Alliance on Homelessness ensured that the Alliance continued to improve the lives of homeless people in Evanston—and ensured that the City retained its eligibility for federal funds. The 2008 application resulted in HUD grants to Evanston totaling nearly $975,000. Since 2007 the Foundation staff has been working with several community organizations, our public schools, and public library to enhance kindergarten readiness and workforce readiness of our youth. This “Every child ready for kindergarten, Every youth ready for work” collaboration facilitated and funded by the Evanston Community Foundation is part of a statewide initiative recognized earlier this week with a 2009 “Critical Impact” award from the Council on Foundations in Washington, DC.

    Jane Grover was a part-time Foundation employee and left her position in December 2008 to prepare for her City Council campaign.

    The Climate Action Fund is dedicated to helping the community meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2013. All gifts to this non-endowed Fund will be awarded in grants to help Evanston’s nonprofits contribute to this goal and increase their operating efficiency.

    If “Anonymous” and other readers would like to learn about the Foundation’s grants for 2009-2010, we welcome you to RSVP for our May 28th grants presentation event by calling our office at 847 492-0990.

    Sara Schastok, President and CEO, Evanston Community Foundation

  3. Green Building Ordinance Allows Evanston to ‘LEED’
    Bill Smith’s story about the approval by the Human Services Committee of the Green Building Ordinance missed the point. The real news is that, after more than two years of thoughtful work – including consultation with citizens, City staff, and developers – Evanston’s Environment Board succeeded in gaining approval from HSC of an ordinance requiring new construction in Evanston of over 10,000 sq. ft. to be certified LEED Silver or higher. (The Ordinance will now go to Council.)

    In developing and passing this ordinance, Evanston joins dozens of other forward-thinking American cities that are choosing to require the development of energy efficient and healthy buildings. At the same time, the ordinance helps the City achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals set forth in the Evanston Climate Action Plan – endorsed unanimously by the City Council last November.

    The refundable deposit requirement that was presented and approved on Tuesday (with a sliding-scale amendment that will be included when it goes to Council), far from ‘holding money hostage,’ is simply a simple and fair provision that will ensure accountability.

    Finally, the Climate Action Fund, housed at the Evanston Community Foundation (where Jane Grover no longer is on staff), was created to ensure that efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions are extended to our entire community – including not-for-profits and lower income residents.

    Special thanks to Elizabeth Kinney and Len Sciarra of the Environment Board for working tirelessly on the Ordinance.

    Susan Besson
    Environment Board

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