GreenStep City resolution: Click here to view the file.
GreenStep City status and date: STEP 5(
City Assessment Files and City Performance Metrics
City councils pass a resolution to join the GreenStep program and are recognized at Step 1. Step 2 and Step 3 recognition levels reflect completed city actions, reported and rated below with stars (1 star = good, 2 stars = better, 3 stars = best). The Assessment File below summarizes completed city actions in a short Word file. Step 4 recognition is awarded to cities who report a minimum number of core metrics for the previous calendar year. These metrics aim to show the aggregate, quantitative results of taking multiple GreenStep actions. Step 5 cities show improvement in the Step 4 metrics. See yearly data for Steps 4&5. Additional city data can be found by reviewing information on B3 Benchmarking and Regional Indicators Initiative.
The City of Elk River has made many changes and upgrades to city-owned buildings over the last few years. At the city owned Northbound Liquor upgrades were made to change all metal halide lighting to induction lighting and all parking lot lighting and refrigerator lighting were changed to LED. The City applied for and received an $87,000 grant from the Federal Stimulus package (ARRA) to upgrade lighting and heating systems in the Elk River Ice Arena in 2010. In 2012, the Elk River City Hall was retro commissioned and staff are currently working on implementing recommended changes. Maintenance staff have also upgraded track and recessed lighting in conference rooms to LED, lighting systems in the garage from T-12 to T-8 and added motion sensors, and installed new door sweeps on all exterior doors to the building. Recently, maintenance staff have been installing automated paper towel and soap dispensers and switched to coreless toilet paper to reduce waste. Similar upgrades are also being done on the City’s Public Safety Building. The City replaced the City Council dais monitors last month which reduced power consumption from 3.2 amps per monitor to 0.5 amps per monitor
"Cycled AC" - A program where the consumer is paid $45 each year to allow the utility to cycle their AC in the summer at times of peak demand. This kicks in during the hottest times of the year, thus preventing Elk River Utilites from having to activate its 10.3MW Peaking Station. The program is marketed via fliers and information in the utility newsletter.
"Wait Till 8" - A voluntary program that encourages citizens to postpone their use of major appliances until after 8pm. This is also marketed via fliers and information in the utility newsletter.
1 star - Action 5: Conserve/protect drinking/groundwater resources by creating a water-wise landscaping ordinance/guidance, WaterSense purchasing program, or guidance on rainwater harvesting and home water softener use.
The city has enacted such an ordinance with the support of Elk River Utilities. No sprinkling is allowed between 10am and 6pm. Even numbered addresses may water on even days of the month and odd numbered addresses may water on odd numbered days. This has been very successful despite limited enforcement abilities.
The City also maintains a water rate structure as follows: $1.50 per 1000 gallons up to 9000 gallons, $3.50 per 1000 gallons from 9000-15000 gallons, and $4.00 per 1000 gallons after 15000 gallons.
The intersection of the Great Northern Trail and 221st Avenue has been enhanced with solar powered
street lights and flashing warning devices to warn the oncoming vehicle traffic of the presence of trail users. This intersection is also actuated by approaching trail users through the use of motion sensors on both
sides of the trail.
With the help of our economic development team, the River's Edge Business Association joined Minnesota Main Street as an associate member on July 7th, 2010. The River's Edge Business Association is an organization formed by the business owners in Elk River's downtown district.
The city's latest Comprehensive Plan was approved in May of 2014. The vision consists of maintaining a distinct identity for Elk River, creating and maintaining strong neighborhoods, keeping Elk River a safe place, preserving and maintaining the environment, making Elk River a complete place, and working to achieve the vision.
Chapter 9 includes Environmental Resources as the city seeks a sustainable balance between manmade and natural systems. The city has identified a number of trail and sidewalks improvements, continues to plan sustainable neighborhoods, works with the Elk River Municipal Utilities on conservation education, has implemented an updated SWPPP and developed a surface water management plan among others.
1 star - Action 2: Demonstrate that regulatory ordinances comply with the comprehensive plan including but not limited to having the zoning ordinance explicitly reference the comprehensive plan as the foundational document for decision making.
This is a requirement for our city government and is implied with the adoption of the comprehensive plan. It is specifically stated in the Citys Municipal Code: Sec. 30-654. Standards for issuance, Sec. 30-658. Interim uses, Sec. 30-1564. PUD planned unit development district, Sec. 30-1583. CRT commercial reserve transitional district, Sec. 30-1837. AT antenna tower overlay district, Sec. 30-1914. Conditional uses, etc.
A) The City has established a PUD process that provides flexibility from strict zoning requirements in an effort to more efficiently use city services and infrastructure.
C) The City has also established a cluster development process which is intended to cluster rural residential in an area to preserve natural resources. Windsor Park, Meadow Woods Village, and Ridges of Rice Lake are examples of our cluster developments. This is mentioned in various sections of the Comprehensive Plan.
The City allowed, under a Conditional Use Permit, for Spectrum High School to locate their classrooms within an industrial circle adjacent to existing employment and near high density housing. The school is just one mile from the Elk River Train Station with sidewalks along the way.
Spectrum has nearly doubled in size since moving to this location.
This is described in Section 30-1584 in the Municipal City Code. The purpose of the mixed use Elk River Plaza district is to codify the planned unit development into a single zoning district with three subsections: Commercial, single-family, and multiple-family.
Sec 30 1026 of the municipal code allows for multiple-family dwellings provided that business commercial uses at street level occupy the floor. Traditional and single family dwellings are also permitted provided that they have appropriate exterior building finishes and follow architectural standards and guidelines set for the downtown area.
In the downtown area, the City provided tax-increment financing for condominium and apartment projects where businesses were housed on the street level. In addition, the City has identified other areas where multi-level housing and services are appropriate, particularly near the Elk River Train Station.
The City of Elk River has adopted a highway commercial district. It is described in section 30-1024 of the city code. The purpose of the C-3 highway commercial district is to recognize the need for commercial establishments on or serving with immediate access to major highways. Permitted land uses should take advantage of the highway access in a manner which other business districts are not afforded. It closely follows D-F of the model ordinance.
1 star - Action 1: Conduct a Natural Resource Inventory or Assessment (NRI or NRA); incorporate protection of priority natural systems or resources such as groundwater through the subdivision or development process.
1 star - Action 5: Preserve environmentally sensitive, community-valued land by placing a conservation easement on city lands, and by encouraging/funding private landowners to place land in conservation easements.
The William H. Houlton Conservation Area is a 347-acre property and has been restored into high-quality wildlife habitat. The city owns the property through a partnership with the Friends of the Mississippi River, Trust for Public Land and Outdoor Heritage Fund and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A Natural Resources Management Plan was created to return farmfields to prairie habitat, restore floodplain forest and allow for public hunting and fishing.
The City’s Comprehensive Plan states that a transportation system that supports non-vehicular movement is an important element in the future vision of Elk River. Sidewalk, trails, bike lanes and other improvements that provide for non-vehicular movement should be viewed as integral components of the transportation system. The plan promotes these improvements in several ways:
• Developers are encouraged to provide sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes in new subdivisions
• Sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes should be included in the plans for improvements to collector and arterial streets in Elk River
• Other street improvement projects consider options for enhancing non-vehicular movement
The Plan also outlines a well-defined system of sidewalks and trails to encourage pedestrian and other non-vehicular movement within the Old Town area of Elk River. These connections are designed to link downtown, the school campus, Loin’s Park, the River, Handke School and the Library.
More recently, in 2010, the City Council adopted a Focused Area Study (FAST) on the 171st Avenue area of Elk River. The FAST outlines a course for change responding to both the near and long term development and transportation realities impacting the site. The area of which the study focuses on encompasses land surrounding major routes of transportation including HWY 10/169 and the Northstar Commuter Rail Station. The FAST stresses that creating a pedestrian environment and trail/sidewalk links will be critical for development of this area. The attached maps diagram planned transportation and green infrastructure including trees and stormwater for the area.
Focused Area Study- 171st Ave
1 star - Action 4: Identify, prioritize and remedy complete streets gaps and lack of connectivity/safety within your road network by, for example, adding a bike route/lane, truck route, sidewalk or mid-block alley.
The City is currently working on the Eastern Area Trail and Mobility Improvement project. The City is adding trail segments to complete missing gaps and adding pedestrian facilities to better serve the commuter rail station, this will increase residential connectivity to the Northstar Rail.
Traffic calming in the Trott Brook Parkway redevelopment was completed by narrowing the driving lanes in 2008. The driving lanes were narrowed from 20 feet to 12 feet by striping along the side of the road to clearly mark an 8 foot side lane for parking/biking. The City is currently drafting a traffic calming policy to be adopted by the city council.
The Trott Brook Pkwy redevelopment succeeded in lowering the average speed by 6mph without reducing the speed limit.
The City promotes carpooling/ride sharing through its Project Conserve Program. Residents receive information about carpooling during our fall workshop and were encouraged to join a ride share program in our May Project Conserve Newsletter to promote environmentally friendly actions in the workplace.
2 star - Action 2: Purchase energy used by city government - via the municipal utility, green tags, community solar garden, 3rd party - with a higher renewable percentage than required by Minnesota law.
The city government receives its power from our Municipal Utility. 11% comes from our landfill gas plant, 1.5% comes from wind, and the remaining renewables come from hydropower in Manitoba and GRE's refuse-derived-fuel facility. Altogether, renewables account for about 20% of our energy needs.
We distribute educational materials with energy-saving tips at our annual Energy Expo. Each year we distribute reusable compostable bags at Fright Night around Halloween with information about reducing solid waste.
The City’s downtown redevelopment plan identifies street embellishments, including planting containers, trees, benches, lights and banners along its main street and major downtown corridors.
The City has developed a plan to improve the major boulevards throughout the city with the introduction of trees. The first of these improvements was completed in 2012, with the planting of Orono Parkway, in front of the civic campus, where over story and ornamental trees were added to the existing prairie grasses, and wildflowers. Groupings of 2-3 trees linearly spaced were planted approximately 50 feet apart along the median totaling around 40 trees.
The City has developed a plan to improve the appearance of major intersections throughout the community. The first intersection was completed in 2012, with the improvements to the Highway 169 and Main Street intersection.
The City has an ordinance on the preservation of trees and other vegetation for new subdivisions. It requires existing healthy trees and native vegetation on the site to be preserved to the maximum extent feasible and be protected by adequate means during construction. For new construction or expansion of an existing use a tree preservation plan should be submitted to the city prior to removing trees or commencing construction. Landscaping requirements for multifamily districts and nonresidential uses in residential districts state that the number of trees on the lot, tract, or parcel shall not be less than three plus the perimeter of the described area as measured in feet divided by 40. The total number of required trees may be offset by the provision of native grasses and wildflowers. Planting or preservation of native planting communities will receive credit for one tree per 500 square feet of native grass area.
Sec. 30-415. - Preservation of trees and other vegetation; tree planting requirements
Sec. 30-934. - Landscaping
Sec. 30-936. - Tree preservation plan
There are variable impact fees which must be paid by contractors for developing certain areas. The fees vary depending upon the area and impact. These fees, along with property taxes, fund stormwater maintenance, public education, as well as provide $30,000 to install rain gardens.
Based on the existence of sandy and gravel soils in Elk River, the city requires infiltration practices when deemed appropriate. These design standards are evaluated case by case given the area and project. The City's Stormwater Coordinator reviews such projects.
Any newly created lot (residential, commercial or industrial) is subject to park dedication as part of the city's Park & Recreation Master Plan. The amount of land/money to be dedicated for parks is dependent on where in the city the land is located (either more dense urban or larger properties in the rural areas). This land or funding is then used to create trails, parks, green space and other recreation areas for the entire city.
The City of Elk River is the proud home of 44 parks totaling almost 900 acres. We are well known for our parks regionally. With a population of around 23,000 residents, this amounts to 39 acres of park land per 1000 residents.
City staff has adopted management standards to reduce the amount of mowing in city parks including low mow areas, native plants and turf management strategies to reduce the amount of fuel and time required for management. The majority of city parks also have recycling collection including larger athletic complexes and smaller neighborhood parks.
The City has an Adopt a Park volunteer program that enables groups and individuals to assist in the general care and maintenance of neighborhood parks, green spaces, trails and athletic fields. Elk River Parks and Recreation welcomes many different organizations, including neighborhood associations, school groups, community groups, seniors, religious groups, businesses, youth groups and individuals to join our efforts to clean up and maintain our Elk River Parks system.
The Lake Orono Improvement Association actively works to improve water quality, manage vegetation and educate the community about water quality concerns on Lake Orono. They have completed a Lake Orono Management Plan for long term improvements and actively seek grant funding. They meet monthly with other homeowners, city and county staff, elected officials and the broader public.
1 star - Action 3: Adopt and report on measurable, publicly announced surface water improvement targets for water bodies, including the percent of lake, river, wetland and ditch shoreline with at least a 50-foot vegetation buffer.
The City of Elk River works extensively with the Lake Orono Improvement Association on events, shoreland and water management, and citizen education. Elk River's "Environment Bound" television show has featured episodes about improving Lake Orono's water quality.
The City of Elk River has an extensive ordinance that covers the use of land within 1,000 feet of public waters within city limits. It includes size and shape of lots; the use, size, type and location of structures on lots; the installation and maintenance of water supply and waste treatment systems; the grading and filling of any shoreland area; the cutting of shoreland vegetation; and the subdivision of land. It is outlined in section 30-1963 of the city code.
The wastewater treatment plant employees undertake an extensive maintenance and upgrade program to ensure that the facility is running smoothly and efficiently at all times. Some of the parts and machinery even have weekly maintenance requirements while others are checked bi-weekly or monthly.
2 star - Action 1: Report to landowners suspected noncompliant or failing septic systems as part of an educational, informational and financial assistance and outreach program designed to trigger voluntary landowner action to improve septic systems.
The citys quarterly newsletter, The Current, and Sherburne Countys Environmental Educator frequently features articles about septic maintenance and other septic-related issues, the purpose of which is to trigger landowner action to improve their systems. When properties are being sold the County requires septic compliance inspections. If systems are failing, they must be brought into compliance. In the city, if a permit is pulled along a shoreland area, a septic system compliance inspection is required and if the system is failing, it must be brought into compliance.
1 star - Action 6: Work with homeowners and businesses in environmentally sensitive areas and areas where standard septic systems are not the least-cost option to promote innovative waste water systems, including central sewer extensions.
In Elk River there are several homes along the shores of Lake Orono and near wetlands where property owners have been required to install special systems such as mounds, at-grade systems, and pressure beds. There are also some developments in the City with cluster systems. The City requires yearly monitoring reports on the effectiveness of the septic systems. Most cities rely on the County to manage the septic systems but due to the size of Elk River, the city chose to administer the MPCA Individual Sewage Treatment System program.
The City of Elk River's website features an updated disposal/recycling guide as well as a link to Earth911.com which provides further information for recycling.
The City of Elk River hosted their first Fix-It Clinic in the fall of 2014 and plan to host two clinics annually.
The Fix-It Clinic had a wildly successful inaugural event with a 92% success rate by weight, or 325.8 pounds saved from the landfill.
Randys Environmental Services offers residential organics collection. This program is extensively promoted by the City of Elk River Environmental Division and by Elk River Municipal Utilities. Despite the fact that we have two waste haulers that share Elk River, Randys Environmental Services is allowed to conduct organics pick-ups citywide.
There are currently 471 households participating in residential organics collection. Last year, participating homes diverted almost 90 tons of organic material from the waste stream. The material is taken to the composting facility in Rosemount.
The City contracts with both Allied Waste and Randys in order to: decrease the number of garbage trucks on the roads, ensure waste is being processed at the RDF facility, to save the residents money the city enters into five-year agreements, and the city stipulates recycling opportunities such as single-stream and organics.
Improve/organize residential trash, recycling and organics collection by private and/or public operations and offer significant volume-based pricing on residential garbage and/or incentives for recycling.
Residents can save $19 a year by switching from a 90 gallon trash can to a 60 gallon can plus a 32 gallon organics collection can. Thus, they receive more waste producing potential at a cheaper price provided they join the organics program. The City also offers a $25 yearly rebate for normal recycling and a $40 yearly rebate for normal & organics recycling.
Elk River Municipal Utilities installed two public charging stations in Elk River on two different major corridors in the city. One charger is a level 2 in our downtown area and the other is a DC fast charger in a Coborn's parking lot. The City helped promote the use of these chargers and assisted with the ERMU's kick off event at the downtown charging locations.
Our Elk River Municipal Utilities continues to monitor the use of both charging stations.
The City produces an annual report detailing the events and progess of the past year. The 2011 report contains information on the implementation of GreenStep City best practices and is posted on the City's website for residents to view.
The City creates a report detailing its goals for the upcoming year. Staff from all departments are assigned tasks and the report is updated regularly to reflect current progress towards accomplishing these goals. This report is available to residents by visiting our website and viewing the Powered by our Vision and Goals
Project Conserve was started last year as a pilot and has won numerous awards. This year, the program has been opened to all homeowners and currently has over 300 participants. Project Conserve teaches homeowners that they can reduce their carbon footprint and save money through utilizing simple methods and gaining knowledge.
In the first year, some members reduced their energy usage by 25% and saved up to $500 a year in expenses.
Cymbet developed a thin-film battery that is infinitely rechargeable and also can be used in solar systems. The Elk River economic development division offered the company low cost business financing to assist in the development of new technology, product research, and building construction
Today, Cymbet still operates out of Elk River and is a terrific success.
The City of Elk River is known as "Energy City," a designation given by the state of Minnesota in 1996 to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy and act as a demonstration site for the state. As a part of this, city and Elk River Municipal Utilities staff host on average 20 tours a year to students, organizations, businesses, politicians, and even international participants. The tours include area businesses, power plants, etc.
In 2014 alone, over 500 participants took part in Energy City Tours.
The Economic Development division conducts business retention and expansion visits with Supermats, a company that creates mats out of recycled tires. In addition, the City partners with Great River Energy to use their refuse-derived fuel facility for all residential and municipal waste. GRE is also a partner on the Energy City Commission.
The City has had the Energy City High Five award program in place for over a year. Businesses that win these High Fives are promoted by the city on websites and at various events. We are planning on offering new, more exclusive High Five program to local businesses with even better rewards and recognition.
The first generation Energy City High Five has currently been awarded to 41 individuals and businesses. They were recognized for attending Energy City Events, participating in Recycle Your Holidays, or for other unique accomplishments.
The Elk River economic development team actively works with the Chamber of Conference and Two Rivers Referral Networking group to promote local businesses; the buy local campaign is one of their goals. Economic Development is actively involved with the Downtown River's Edge group and business education series events and sends special mailings to businesses, lenders, brokers, and realtors on new local businesses. They also work with the U of M Extension Service. When a new business opens, it is actively promoted by the Elk River economic development team via informational campaigns through Facebook, Twitter, bi-yearly newsletters and through Business Retention Expansion visits. The Farmers market is actively promoted on the city website and located at the Westbound Liquor Store parking lot which is a city building. There is no charge for the use of the parking lot.
A list of locally owned businesses is provided by the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce and promoted by the City of Elk River EDA.
The Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce has created a local currency called "Chamber Bucks" to use at any Chamber member business - There are hundreds to choose from! The City of Elk River and Elk River Municipal Utilities actively uses the Chamber Bucks as incentive to community residents and businesses in various programs.
The City Code allows for solar panels to be integrated into any building system for renewable energy generation. The ordinance includes design standards to ensure proper installation and function. Wind turbines are also allowed via conditional use permits throughout the city.
Elk River Municipal utilities has a Wind Power purchasing program where residents may purchase blocks of 100kwhs of wind power by adding $1 per block to their utility bills each month. It is currently promoted via fliers, through the ERMU newsletter, and via Project Conserve.
The most recent data shows that 269 customers purchased 632,000 kWhs of wind power in 2009.
The City has installed a Vestas 660kW wind turbine on the outskirts of town. It is used both as a power source and as a demonstration site for Energy City.
Elk River Municipal Utilities also owns and operates a Landfill Gas-to-Electricity Power Plant at the Elk River Landfill. The facility harvests the methane produced by the decomposing waste to produce 3.2 MegaWatts of electricity, or enough power for over 2000 Elk River homes.
The Vestas wind generator puts out about 950,000 kWhs per year, or about 0.38% of Elk River's energy usage.
The Landfill Gas Power Plant puts out about 27,000,000 kWhs power year, or about 11% of Elk River's energy usage.
The Elk River Utilities and Waste Management Landfill Gas-to-Energy plant creates 3.2MW of electricity using landfill generated methane gas. The plant uses the methane created by the trash at the Waste Management Landfill outside of Elk River to create electricity.
The Landfill gas-to-Energy Plant creates enough energy to power 2,400 Elk River homes annually. Plans are being discussed to double the plant.
The City of Elk River farmer's market was created in 2007 and is held every Thursday from late June until the end of September. This farmer's market was moved to a city-owned parking lot in Downtown Elk River to coincide with the Downtown concert series which promotes shopping at the Farmer's Market.
The Northstar Business Park features shared parking and driveway access, a location within walking distance to Northstar Rail, and is within walking distance of Elk River Station and Trout Brook Crossing. In addition, the old public library was turned into a senior activity center. The city facilitated the building of Metal Crafts new energy efficient work facility and the environmental learning center by ERMU. The city offers additional financing incentives for green manufacturing or for projects that utilize energy efficient design or materials.