Milford pledges to push sustainability

The City of Milford has taken a vow of sustainability.

At its meeting Monday, Jan. 8, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution to join Sustainable CT, a statewide volunteer certification program aimed at encouraging and rewarding municipalities for their sustainable efforts.

But what does sustainable mean, Alderman Frank Smith asked Jessica LeClair, Sustainable CT’s technical specialist, who attended the aldermen’s meeting to explain the program.

“Sustainable is very broad,” Smith said, adding that in his business sustainable means recyclable material.

“What does it mean to your agency, and why does it benefit us?” Smith asked.

LeClaire said sustainable means “living within your resources to protect current and future residents.”

Sustainable CT is a new statewide, sustainability certification program for Connecticut's cities and towns. Its goal is to help municipalities become more vibrant, healthy and resilient.

“Sustainability actions, policies and investments deliver multiple benefits and help towns make efficient use of scarce resources and engage a wide cross section of residents and businesses,” according to the group’s website.

By signing a resolution to be part of Sustainable CT, Milford agreed to create a Sustainability Team, which will keep track of what the city has already done to create sustainability and what it accomplishes in the future.

LeClaire said there are nine categories, and each category lists different actions a community can take. Actions earn points, and points can earn the town a silver or bronze certificate.

For example, cities can earn points for streamlining the solar permitting process for homeowners, providing watershed education, developing an open space plan and teaching residents about invasive plant species.

They can also earn points by providing an arts and culture program for youth, inventorying historic resources, and much more.

LeClaire said Milford has a good track record as far as sustainability goes.

In recent years, the city has installed solar panels on some city buildings and plans to install them on city schools; the city’s open space manager leads groups in pulling invasive plants from local beaches, and the city has purchased land to set aside as open space.

There have also been a number of efforts aimed at conserving energy, preserving open space and getting people involved in local environmental initiatives.

Each action has a different benefit, LeClaire said, including climate resilience, cost saving, building community equity, health and wellness

“Broadly, certain actions will save you money,” she told the aldermen.

But there are other benefits, too. For one, “sustainability is sort of a cool thing,” she said, noting that it’s pretty cool among millennials, and branding the city as cool is a positive.

Mayor Ben Blake said, “It’s good for municipalities; it’s good for Connecticut.”

One of the actions focuses on affordable housing, which at least one aldermen questioned.

The action aligns with the state affordable housing law, and promises Milford points for increasing the number of affordable housing units in the city.

But the aldermen didn’t dwell on the mention of affordable housing, which has been a controversial topic in Milford. Instead they talked about the benefits of the overall program.

“The plan is fantastic and I’m glad Milford is going to be a part of it,” said Alderman Jeremy Grant.

Blake said Open Space Manager Steve Johnson will head the Sustainability Team, coordinating local efforts to identify projects the city is already doing and to expand on those.

The program launched Nov. 29, and as of Monday, seven towns had signed on to the program.

“It’s gaining steam,” LeClaire said.