Whitefish poised to adopt climate-action plan

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A plan that offers tangible ways to strengthen the community’s resilience to future climate-change impacts is the focus of a Whitefish City Council public hearing on Monday, April 16.

The city of Whitefish, Whitefish schools and the nonprofit Climate Smart Glacier Country collaborated to dovetail with a national effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare for climate change, according to the plan’s executive summary.

In June 2017 Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld joined 391 other mayors in the United States by committing Whitefish to do its part in upholding the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a pact in which the U.S. committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. The 26-percent reduction target within seven years was adopted by the city as its initial goal.

Muhlfeld appointed a volunteer committee that spent hundreds of hours researching and consulting with local and regional experts on the topic of climate change and its potential effects on Northwest Montana.

To meet the 2025 emissions reduction target, the committee identified four initial energy-saving actions as top priorities:

• Change all streetlights to LED bulbs.

• Upgrade energy efficiency at the Whitefish Emergency Services Center

• Improve gas mileage of the city’s vehicle fleet and transition to electric vehicles.

• Construct a solar farm at the new sewer treatment plant.

The plan envisions the Whitefish school district’s new Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship as an innovation hub for students and adults in creating sustainable systems.

The proposed climate-action plan comes with a recommendation of creating a sustainability committee and the hiring of an energy-efficiency/sustainability coordinator.

In other business, the council will hold public hearings on two conditional-use permit requests for accessory apartments, one from Robert Marney at 104 Columbia Ave. and the other from Todd and Lindsey Burris at 829 E. Second St.

A public hearing on an update of the city’s Extension of Services Plan is being continued from the March 18 council meeting. City staff members have considered public comments and are offering a revamped update that includes a number of additions and language modifications. The plan is a guide for how the city will provide services to areas that are not currently served and for tracts that eventually may be annexed.

During a work session at 5:30 p.m. the council will hear an impact-fee study presentation. The regular council meeting begins at 7:10 p.m. Both the work session and council meeting will be held at Whitefish City Hall.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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