100 Ideas for New Paltz

1. form a public power utility

You don’t need to have a power plant to create a public power utility. According to the American Public Power Association’s Q&A For Communities Considering the Public Power Option, “Many public power utilities purchase wholesale electricity at prices that are beneficial to their customers without owning power plants.”

New York State requires that the New York State Power Authority charge local power authorities wholesale rates for the electricity they use.  The Town would negotiate a wholesale bulk purchase of electricity from either the NYPA or from Central Hudson.  Running a non-profit, locally-controlled power authority will save New Paltz ratepayers a significant amount of money – the national average being 30-40% savings.


2. buy the streetlights, run ’em on solar energy

Right now, the Village pays approximately $60,000 in rent each year to Central Hudson for streetlights.  The Village should buy those streetlights from Central Hudson, While the Village would be responsible for maintenance and repair, the savings in not paying rent should more than make up for it.

Once owned, it should be possible to upgrade or replace the existing lights with solar streetlights, and eventually to replace the big ugly lights we have now with lights more in keeping with the aesthetics of the village.

And it may even be possible to have a combo solar/wind streetlight that also doubles (or triples?) as a Wi-Fi relay:

11. make all new buildings green buildings

Create requirements in the housing codes of the Town and Village requiring all new construction to meet minimum LEED standards, with incentives of expedited review or density bonuses to those who exceed the minimum standards.

26. shift from use-based zoning to form-based zoning

Replace the Town and Village use-based zoning codes with more flexible, organic form-based zoning codes. A form-based code is defined by the Form-Based Code Institute as:

A method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form. Form-based codes create a predictable public realm primarily by controlling physical form, with a lesser focus on land use, through city or county regulations.

Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in Form-based codes, presented in both diagrams and words, are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development rather than only distinctions in land-use types. This is in contrast to conventional zoning’s focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS) to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, Form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory.”

One fine example of a form-based code is the SmartCode.  The developers of the SmartCode explain it’s use this way,

“Conventional zoning separates uses, forcing everyone to drive to work and shopping and creating traffic congestion, while only minimally regulating form. Parking lots and curb cuts are allowed to dominate the frontages, creating a hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

The SmartCode regulates form more strongly to enhance pedestrian safety and enjoyment, and to structure networks of streets that relieve traffic congestion. The SmartCode does address use, but the Transect zones signify different intensities of mixed use. Notice that in the Retail illustration, which shows a typical T-5 zone, the SmartCode allows Residential along with the Retail, in the form of apartments over shops. This helps keep housing affordable and enables “eyes on the street,” walkability, and vibrant downtowns.”


29. no more mcmansions

Set a cap on square footage for residential construction. There is no reason for McMansions; besides being aesthetically damaging, they undermine the rural character of New Paltz that so many cherish.

43. biodiesel

Create a small public biodiesel production facility to manufacture fuel for the Village, Town, School District and SUNY. Biodiesel is fully biodegradable, nontoxic, renewable and making our own would save hundreds of thousands of dollars otherwise spent on buying fuel from the New York State Office of General Services.

44. plan tree planting for the effects of global warming on forests

Posted in agriculture, climate change, environment, parks, smart growth by Jason West on June 11, 2009

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has published data about the effects of global warming on Hudson Valley tree species over the next century. Our local trees are going to change from a maple-beech-birch mix to an oak-hickory-pine. According to the DEC, maples are almost definitely on their way out by about 2070-2100. Tailor both public and private tree plantings to those species most likely to survive the climate changes of the next century

45. figure out new paltz’ collective carbon footprint

Posted in climate change, energy, environment by Jason West on June 11, 2009

Using software provided by ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability, map the carbon footprint of the Village, Town, School District and SUNY.

About the Clean Air and Climate Protection (CACP) software:

“CACP 2009 is a new product that replaces the CACP Software, originally released in 2003. CACP 2009 has been updated to support emissions inventorying and climate action planning based on the principles and methods of the Local Government Operations Protocol (LGOP). To learn more about how to use this software, please refer to our FAQs.

CACP 2009 is a one-stop emissions management tool that calculates and tracks emissions and reductions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) and criteria air pollutants (NOx, SOx, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, PM10, PM 2.5) associated with electricity, fuel use, and waste disposal. This tool can help you do the following:

  • Create emissions inventories for the community as a whole or for the government’s internal operations.
  • Quantify the effect of existing and proposed emissions reduction measures.
  • Predict future emissions levels.
  • Set reduction targets and track progress towards meeting those goals.”

More links about ICLEI:

46. lay out concrete step-by-step plans for carbon reduction

Posted in agriculture, climate change, energy, environment, green building, parks, smart growth by Jason West on June 11, 2009

Once a concrete number defining the Four Governments’ carbon footprint is established, design a program of tree plantings, green building codes, public transit, automobile usage reduction, etc. to not only reduce our collective carbon footprint, but to reverse it, making New Paltz into a carbon sink.