DEKALB – The DeKalb Citizen Environmental Commission is seeking residents interested in building a sustainable future for the city, as the group has been charged with developing a long-term plan for DeKalb officials.
Dan Kenney, who leads the committee, said anyone interested in the areas of social, environmental and economic sustainability is invited to the group’s next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at DeKalb City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St.
Talks already are under way with DeKalb elected officials and Northern Illinois University, Kenney said, adding that he hopes to reach out to city staff, the school and park districts, chamber of commerce and other organizations in the future.
“We want it to be very inclusive of the entire community,” he said. “We need to figure out how we can best use the resources we have now with the idea of what we can do to preserve those resources for the future.
“The goal is to build a model similar to the sustainability plan in Elgin, which has already begun to transform the city in multiple areas.”
Aaron Cosentino, sustainability coordinator for Elgin, said that city’s group has started to implement changes and city officials have started funding projects. DeKalb’s group is volunteer driven and is not expected to receive funding in the near future.
Cosentino said successful initiatives include rebate programs such as the Home Energy Savings Rebate Match Program, which resulted in 85 percent savings for homeowners who improved insulation. For a $2,958 project, ComEd and Nicor would offer a $1,250 rebate, which was then matched by the city, leaving homeowners with about $440 of the bill.
“There is a lot of excitement around the Chicago metro area about sustainability,” Cosentino said. “Each community is a little different, and [DeKalb] is going to have to see what their needs are.”
Although incentive programs and “go green” initiatives could be part of the plan, DeKalb committee member Herbert Rubin said there would be a larger-scope approach as well, with a focus on improving the city’s layout with an eye toward greater walkability, and attracting and maintaining young professionals and families.
He said concepts such as mixed-use buildings housing both residential and commercial units need to be explored, along with a bolstered mass transit system. Both options could mean less cars on the road and a more walkable, attractive city.
“The great concern is not wasting resources and finding out how to maintain a community and keep people who contribute to that community around,” Rubin said. “You want to enable your children to live in the same town in which they grew up.”
Jennifer Diedrich, the committee’s liaison to the city, said that although planning is in the early stages, the potential for positive changes in the city is great.
“I think sustainability is something [cities] should focus on,” Diedrich said. “There are so many small things we could be doing at low cost to improve the environment.”