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City notes: Rosemount puts focus on sustainability

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The city of Rosemount is carrying out several initiatives this year that touch on a common theme: the sustainability of our community. And residents are likely to see the results soon — and for years to come.

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Sustainability has become a buzzword in planning circles. But the concept is basic. It’s the need to maintain the conditions in which both nature and human society can exist in harmony, for the benefit of today and of future generations. We want to make sure we will have the resources to protect our health and economy. So it brings together everything from protecting water resources to growing Rosemount’s jobs and tax base.

The city started working on this in a systematic basis by taking part in the state’s Green Steps initiative to benchmark progress on sustainability issues. The logical next step was to join a national effort called STAR Communities. City staff members have worked for months pulling together information that will rate us based on a point system. But it’s not just to run up the score: the city council hopes this will generate more thoughts about ways to improve the community. We are the only community in the state this year working on the STAR program, and we were fortunate to win a grant to pay for part of it.

And we’re about to embark on a more in-depth program to research problems and generate solutions to support Rosemount’s future. The University of Minnesota selected Rosemount for its Resilient Communities Program. Over the next school year, students from the U — mostly at the graduate level — will come to town to research a variety of issues. The topics range from the future of our parks to how we can serve an increasingly diverse community.

Rosemount City Council members and staff saw a demonstration of how wide-ranging the students’ work can be when we attended an end-of-the-year luncheon for the projects that were just completed. They were carried out in the city of North St. Paul. And the work was fascinating in areas like how cities can help residents who “age in place” and remain in their homes well past retirement age.

Rosemount has given the U a list of nearly 40 potential topics. Faculty will pick ones that fit next year’s courses. And students will be assigned to do research here and on campus. It serves the University’s goals of real-world education and performing outreach to benefit the people of Minnesota.

The payoff to Rosemount could be substantial. But we’re not waiting for a final report. We’ve been pursuing efforts to support the community’s future for years. We’ve upgraded lighting and heating systems in city facilities to use less energy. We recently updated ordinances on solar power, and we expect to see more proposals to use it in the community. We test ponds for quality, and help with educational programs for local classrooms and Scout groups to understand the need to protect our surface water.

This summer, we’re implementing a new design for drainage as part of improvements to Bacardi Avenue. Instead of a traditional storm sewer pipe, we’re putting in what’s called a bioswale. It reduces erosion through shaping and planting. More water can be absorbed in place instead of being sent off for treatment.

And the good news is this technique is proving to be little more expensive than the traditional design. It’s one of the ways we’ll be working to make life in Rosemount attractive and affordable for generations to come – a high, sustainable quality of life in our hometown.

This column was written by city administrator Dwight Johnson.

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