by Luke Ulatowski
For The Beacon
The spotlight is on solar power, water conservation and recycling as Sheboygan nears the end of a five-year quest to go green.
At a Common Council meeting on Wednesday, April 3, Sheboygan Sustainability Coordinator Chad Pelishek presented the 2018 annual report on Sheboygan’s steps toward environmental sustainability in partnership with Green Tier.
The City of Sheboygan became the 11th Green Tier Legacy Community in 2014. That same year, the city published a 21-page sustainability plan that outlined environmental strategies for five years until 2019. Pelishek, otherwise known as Sheboygan’s Director of Planning & Development, leads the city’s involvement in the initiative as the sustainability coordinator.
In his presentation on Sheboygan’s green endeavors and accomplishments in 2018, Pelishek highlighted Sheboygan’s progress toward SolSmart designation, which is awarded to communities that “make it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar” by The Solar Foundation, a national nonprofit.
The educational nonprofit Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), a designated “SolSmart advisor,” is working with 10 Wisconsin communities looking to receive SolSmart designation in 2019. Sheboygan is among those communities. “It’s one of these things where there are certain types of developers that are looking to develop in communities that have these types of designations,” Pelishek said.
Pelishek made special note of events that took place during Biking Sheboygan 2018, a summer challenge encouraging residents to make use of Sheboygan’s trails.
One event was the June 1 Bike with Mike, in which residents joined Mayor Mike Vandersteen on a bike ride from the Veterans Memorial on Wilgus Avenue to the 3 Sheeps Tap-room.
“It was kind of a listening session on your bike,” Pelishek said.
In late 2018, Sheboygan joined the Wisconsin Active Together network, which pro-motes outdoor activities across the state.
Also noted was the ongoing conversion of city-owned lights to LED by the Department of Public Works. According to Pelishek, 393 light fixtures were converted to LED in 2018.
“On the water side of things,” as Pelishek put it, Sheboygan took part in the Wyland Foundation’s Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation in April 2018.
Mayors partaking in the event urge residents to take pledges toward water conservation on mywaterpledge.com, with cities competing to get the most pledges. Sheboygan came in 10th place.
Sheboygan is once again participating in the annual event until the end of April.
Pelishek provided numbers for items recycling in 2018. This includes 3,582 tons of re-cycled goods, 182 tires and 234 tons of scrap metal, 10,700 gallons of waste oil, 1,734 tons of leaves and 2,830 tons of yard waste.
On the topic of land use, Sheboygan officials worked with the Bay-Lake Region Planning Commission to complete a city code review for green infra-structure “to make sure that our code of ordinances, both our zoning code and our municipal code, weren’t becoming hindrances or barriers for people to implement green infrastructure improvements,” Pelishek said.
The revision process is on-going.
Green Tier began in 2005 as a program from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) that would provide a framework for businesses to develop toward environmentally friendly practices. Since then, Green Tier has contracted a number of charters including the Legacy Communities initiative.
Legacy Communities serves as a network of counties, cities and villages with a common goal of reaching environmentally sustainability.
Under contract with the WDNR, each Legacy Community is responsible for an annual report that tracks progress toward fulfilling a long-term sustainability plan.
General benefits of Legacy Community designation include access to non-govern-mental organization resources, Green Tier branding rights and additional grant point considerations.
Pelishek specifically highlighted Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding as a benefit.PACE Wisconsin is a statewide program partnered with Sheboygan County that provides up-front financing for “energy-saving improvements.”
As Sheboygan’s five-year sustainability plan will become outdated at the end of 2019, it will receive an update for 2020 and beyond, Pelishek said.