#8 – Environmental Focus

Conserving and preserving Falmouth’s natural resources, including its shorelines, vernal pools, vegetative buffers, and wetlands and streams, protects the local ecosystem and retains the Town’s beloved rural character. Falmouth residents already have a keen appreciation of environmental issues, as demonstrated with the green-space preserves. Balancing continued growth patterns and land developments with the Town’s current infrastructure systems will continue to be an ongoing effort going forward. Survey results indicate that this balanced approach is desired and supported by community residents.

What we know so far (from the Community Survey results and background research work):

HISTORY

See Falmouth Sustainability Timeline: https://www.falmouthme.org/sustainability/pages/climate-action

Conservation and the Environment

  • The Falmouth Conservation Commission (FCC) was formed in 1972, when there was a renewed interested in preserving and caring for Falmouth’s natural resources and open spaces.
  • Since that time, the FCC has collaborated with Town staff to develop multiple assets and reports, including:
  • These reports continue to inform conservation and preservation work in Falmouth today.
  • The Town has also had a long-standing commitment to water conservation, becoming a leader in proactive water quality management over the past 30 years. This includes the development of:
    • Stream Protection Districts (1991)
    • Town-wide Watershed Management Plan (1993)
    • Route One South Commercial District Stormwater Management Plan (2013)
    • The Highland Lake Leadership Team, to improve the overall health of Highland Lake (2018)

Climate Action

  • In 2010, the Falmouth Green Ribbon Commission completed the “Green Ribbon” Energy and Climate Protection Report, and set a target of a 2% average annual carbon emission reduction goal in Falmouth. This report and goal were adopted by Town Council.
  • This report led to the creation of the Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee (REAC) to implement the recommendations
  • In 2018, an updated Municipal and School Department Energy and Sustainability Plan, outlining strategies to further reduce carbon emissions and meet climate goals, was developed and adopted.
  • These carbon emission reduction strategies continue to be top priorities on the Council Work Plan and are overseen by REAC.

RELATED MACRO TRENDS

  • Municipalities are beginning to consider and incorporate ecological functions and habitat into master planning, resulting in new and redevelopment projects including more ecosystem features including wildlife protection and conservation, ecological restoration, greenway connections, as well as, living roofs and walls incorporated into buildings and other hard surfaces.
  • A macro trend in cities is to view ecological infrastructure as essential, and emphasized and supported as much as energy, waste and other infrastructural streams. Valuable approaches include no mowing, edible Agri-scaping; goats on the go; honeybee hives; wildflower and natural grass areas; and sunflower parks.
  • Climate change is a macro weather condition affecting all communities. Shade will become a more significant economic selling point as climate warms and heat wave events increase. Preserving and investing in Falmouth’s vegetation today will increase its infrastructural effectiveness and social livability for decades to come.
  • In coming years, more cities will be designed to be net zero systems. Development, operation and maintenance of key infrastructure, from waste processing to energy generation to water transmission, will be achieved in ways that do not emit more carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. There is emergent thinking around innovative ideas and concepts, such as ‘Cradle to Cradle’ and closed loop waste cycle systems, and approaches such as recycling, reusing, and composting are increasingly being integrated throughout towns and cities.

WHAT IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN FALMOUTH

Conservation and the Environment

  • Pesticide and Fertilizer Ordinance – in March 2020, the Town Council adopted an ordinance requires professional pesticide and fertilizer applicators to register with the Town and submit an annual usage report. The FCC oversees this initiative and implemented the Living Lawns educational campaign to inform residents on alternative land care practices.
  • Planning Board Review – the FCC reviews planning board submissions with a focus on protecting natural resources, including vernal pools.
  • Invasive Management – Town staff and FCC members continually monitor invasive plant species in Falmouth and treat areas of concern semi-annually.
  • Open Space Plan – the FCC supports the open space preservation and conservation strategies outlined in the 2018 Open Space Plan
  • The Highland Lake Leadership Team implemented an education and outreach strategy to inform lake residents of land care practices to improve the health of the lake. In addition, work is underway on a potential nutrient management ordinance to reduce the amount of nutrients that enter the lake.
  • Strategic Watershed Plan – work is currently underway to develop a comprehensive “road map” to better understand current watershed health and prioritize watersheds for protection and intervention.

Climate Action

  • Landfill Solar Array – the Town is implementing a solar array on the 4.2 acre capped landfill on Woods Road. The 875 kW AC array has an expected annual output of 1,500,000 kWh for the initial delivery year and will produce enough renewable energy to offset ~70% of municipal electric use. It is estimated to save the Town $1.995 million in energy costs over its 20-year lifespan.
  • Electric Vehicle Transition – in an effort to reduce vehicle carbon emissions, the Town is leasing three all-electric vehicles for the Code Enforcement, Fire, and Police Departments to use for site visits, meetings, and educational trainings. The Police Department is also purchasing an all-electric vehicle to be used as an unmarked administrative vehicle. This is hopefully a first step toward adding additional all-electric vehicles to the Police fleet.
  • Climate Action Plan – in April 2021, the Council approved a partnership with GPCOG to complete an updated climate action plan. This will include a greenhouse gas emissions analysis, vulnerability assessment, and strategic plan to meet climate action goals. This process will include data collection and extensive community outreach, to be kicked off in Fall 2021.
  • Sustainable Business Recognition Program, developed by REAC and adopted by Council in February 2021, recognizes Falmouth community businesses that have implemented sustainable practices.

WHAT THE COMMUNITY SURVEY AND RAPID POLLING RESULTS SHOW:

  • Falmouth Community Survey participants were asked to indicate how important they believed the following environmental and landscape topics will be in shaping the future of Falmouth. Using a scale of 1-3 (not important), 4-7 (neutral), and 8-10 (important), below are the results:
    • Adopting zero-waste and net zero carbon goals: 14% not important, 24% neutral, 62% important
    • Embracing renewable energy: 10% not important, 21% neutral, 69% important
    • Enhancing coastal protection: 2% not important, 17% neutral, 82% important
    • Focusing on environmental sustainability: 5% not important, 20% neutral, 75% important
    • Preserving lands for habitat and recreation: 2% not important, 12% neutral, 86% important
  • When polled at the first Future Summit about what the future direction of an overall environmental sustainability focus should be for Falmouth, participants responded as follows:
    • Leave it as is: 9%
    • Need to gradually improve our environmental performance: 29%
    • We should aim to pursue environmental focus as priority: 21%
    • We should be bold and ambitious in our environmental agenda: 41%

CONSULTANT’S INSIGHTS and POTENTIAL TRADE-OFFS

  • Falmouth has had a progressive and proactive approach to environmental awareness, management, and preservation. This has served the community well and has helped preserve some of the rural character and greenspace.
  • As climate change accelerates, there will be added urgency and scale of community response to sustainability and environmental management. This will require bold thinking and seeking new solutions. There is clearly the willingness, with strong support from the community survey and Future Summit polling to look forward and crate bold and ambitious plans.
  • The environmental focus in Falmouth appears to be a deep and shared value. This offers a potential ‘rally point’ to help coalesce community vision and values.

We would love to hear your thoughts!

Preserving the Falmouth’s environment is clearly valued by its residents, and it is seen as a priority, and something to address with some urgency. Prioritizing a sustainable future will enable the Town to continue to support and maintain the Town’s natural landscape and efficiently plan for development growth.

How would you like to see Falmouth address the important topic of environmental sustainability over the next decade? What might be some innovative steps and goals worth pursuing?
Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ.

15 Comments

Falmouth has done good work in the last few years in reducing its carbon footprint; I would like to see continued efforts in that vein (such as continued exploration of solar power in town, increasing the town’s electric vehicle fleet, increasing energy efficiency at town facilities, etc.).

The town has also started the process of controlling the number/quantity of fertilizers and pesticides used in Falmouth, controlling the amount of potentially toxic chemicals put onto the ground and into our watershed, then our ocean is vital to the health of our planet.

The most effective, positive, and reliable means for controlling our carbon footprint and maintaining our environment is to minimize our growth and growth rate. More residents result in more carbon generated and more land made incapable of absorbing water due to asphalt, concrete, and roofing. How hypocritical is a town that on the one hand wants to impose a carbon tax while on the other wants to increase building permits for a given year?

MODERATOR COMMENT: This post is borderline regarding the guidelines of appropriateness. Please consider reframing your post and comments.

I do not think the town is hypocritical. As of the 2020 census, Falmouth has just under 12,500 residents. The town manager, town council, and town staff have one basic job: making the residents of Falmouth happy. I think it is unrealistic to believe any subset of town staff can make a managerial decision and have all the residents like that choice.

Supporting a carbon fee and dividend program (which by necessity would have to be administered, at a minimum on the state level, much more likely nationally) is not imposing a carbon tax on residents. We all pay a few cents a bottle for soda, beer, wine, or even water without question. When we return our glass and plastic bottles to a redemption center, we get out few cents back. The few cents we all input into the system helps to pay for the proper disposal or recycling of all those bottles. A similar fee for carbon production will reduce the carbon load on our planet by encouraging people to use less carbon and fund the necessary cleanup, planetary repairs, and more efficient technologies.

Borrowing a few building permits from next year will not forever increase the amount of development in Falmouth. It will help a few residents who may have been short-changed when developers grabbed all the available permits for the current year. The number of permits for next year will be less, the numbers for years after next will not change.

Has the town considered extending the availability of natural gas to more residents, not just primary roads and dense/new neighborhoods, to help reduce the carbon footprint from households that continue to burn oil?

We have moved into an era in which Science has been politicized. More and more it will be used to support policies that result in greater limitation of personal freedom. “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac is an American classic novel. The characters in the novel travel by car around the country, miles upon miles, free to go where they choose. In 1972, I and two friends took a trip across the country in a 1965 Ford Econoline van. It was wonderful adventure that I still think of. Would two or three young men like to make a “road trip” in the coming years? In an electric car? They won’t get very far, even if the Government grants them a intra-state “travel permit”. Our grandchildren will not know the freedom we have enjoyed. Ah… but they will be SAFE, kept safely in a locality by the nanny state regime.

MODERATOR COMMENT: This post is borderline regarding the guidelines of appropriateness and relevance to this Discussion Board. Please consider reframing your post and comments.

The entire “vision” process presupposes “change”. We are encouraged to accept that “change is inevitable” and that we should not resist change. Those who resist change are labeled as “reactionaries” as if all change is by its very nature “progress”. It is not.

Many of us have lived long enough to remember the “Coming Ice Age” of the 70s, which is now a forgotten idea. How about the “Population Explosion”? Declining population in Europe and the USA are now excuses for immigration. China’s “progressive” one child policy has now been reversed after obvious failure.

“Good ideas” like these constantly turn out to be false alarms. After it has done its harm, “Climate Change” will give way to some other scam in order to pick our pockets.

MODERATOR COMMENT: This post does not address the Discussion Board question, and is borderline regarding the guidelines of appropriateness. The question asked for solutions, goals and ideas regarding Falmouth. Please consider reframing your post and comments.

We should all be stewards of the environment we live in but we need to return to the time when common sense ruled. Too many people are making emotional decisions about what should be done to “save the planet” when their recommendations are more harmful to the planet. The loss of electrical power for homeowners in California is increasing because policies were instituted which did not make common sense. Texas has proven that switching from the installation of gas powered electrical service for wind and solar can have devastating effects. You must have a proper balance of electricity from all generation sources. Solar power is only generated when the sun is shining and there are no economical “storage solutions” at this time. Wind power is more abundant during daylight hours. Electrical car charging would be a nighttime event when Solar and Wind are not available. Upgrading of electrical distribution in neighborhoods would be required if all residents had electrical cars. Charging an electrical car using a regular electrical outlet provides for 2 miles of use for an hour of charge. Charging using a 240 volt outlet results a charge of that varies based on the amps going into the home or the breaker capacity available in the home electrical box. The charge per hour for a Tesla varies between 17 and 44 miles charged per hour using a 240 volt outlet. Achieving the highest levels of charge may require that the home have a 400amp service. Home electrical installation costs can range from $500 to $5,000 depending upon the age of the home. Upgrading electrical distribution and transformers will cost billions! We need balanced electrical generation where the cost of generating electricity is the primary driver. And the most important point is we need to use common sense!

MODERATOR COMMENT: It is great to see these conversational threads evolve.
These Discussions Boards are being moderated to match the stated guidelines: “Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ”. To date, we have had to exclude a number of comments that are critical about people or groups, or are obviously off-purpose (unrelated political commentary; for example). PLEASE remember, these are open community conversations, to which a wide range of people are contributing – including school students. These Discussion Boards are an opportunity for thoughtful, polite and convivial community discussion focused on exploring specific important issues. Please consider ‘tone and content’ before submitting, as we will draw a clear line – and exclude – inappropriate messages. Thank you.

I’d like to share my appreciation for everything the town has done to take climate change seriously, and other factors related to our environment in Falmouth. I support continuing these efforts in whatever ways we can collectively, as a community. Increasing options for travel (public trans, biking, walking, electric car charging), reducing carbon footprint at the municipal level, maintaining green spaces for habitat and other ecosystem services, increasing public awareness of issues such as sea level rise and how to cope with extreme weather events, are all actions I fully support. Cost may be a factor, but the financial cost of ignoring environmental threats will ultimately be much higher than taking preventative measures now.

I think if we (the town and its residents) are truly interested/commited to being environmental stewards, we should not allow developers to bulldoze large acreages of trees in their completion of new residential areas. I can think of a couple of developments where this is the case; one in particular is being built out right now. I find it upsetting to see such areas that have been clear cut in order to supposedly make building easier and faster. I don’t understand why we allow this to happen. Can’t there be tighter controls over what a developer can and cannot do to the land? I think about the habitats that are ruined by these actions and find it inconsistent with a purported interest in environmental sustainability and preservation.

Fully agree. People turn the other way when they see trees coming down. Trees are one of our, if not our greatest weapon against the climate crisis. But perhaps even more importantly for the purposes of these suburban planning discussions for the future – they have direct implications in communities for health and well-being, socio-economic propensity, safety and crime rates, educational performance, and so much more.

THANK YOU to everybody who participated in today’s focus group on the environment. I found the discussion incredibly interesting and learned a lot about ways Falmouth can develop a future vision that protects our environment.

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MORE INFORMATION​

For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:

David Beurle, CEO
Future iQ
Phone: (612) 757-9190
david@future-iq.com

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