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Breckenridge to increase incentives for sustainable structures

ROBERT ALLEN
summit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council is eyeing policy to further encourage sustainable homes, but without burdensome mandates.

The council Tuesday made clear that requiring an energy-efficiency rating system (costing about $1,200) for residential construction and remodels – or even at the point of sale – would be asking too much of people, especially in this economy.

“Just like with defensible space, I think the goal is right but I don’t think this is the way we do it,” Councilman Eric Mamula said at Tuesday’s work session.

The council last year struck down an ordinance it had approved to require firebreaks around homes – after residents petitioned against it.

After Tuesday’s work session, it appears likely the town will have up to $1 million available for loans to people looking to make their homes more energy efficient.

“I don’t see that there are any big obstacles to putting that into place,” Councilman Peter Joyce said Thursday.

The loans could be for weatherization of homes. For homes that are already sufficiently weatherized, the loans could be used for alternative energy such as solar power.

Communities such as Berkeley, Calif. and Boulder have similar programs to finance home energy-efficiency upgrades and renewable-energy systems. These loans are repaid over a specified amount of years through annual special taxes on property tax bills, according to a town staff memo.

“Despite having to repay principle and interest on the loans, it has been documented through some of the existing programs that most participants have a net positive cash flow because their energy upgrades save them more money on a yearly basis than they are paying on the loan,” according to the memo.

Town planner Chris Kulick said Thursday that the aim would be to roll out the loans at the same time as the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office rebates, perhaps in March or April.

Summit County government is working on a countywide loan program for homeowners to pay for improvements providing energy efficiency upgrades, but that plan initially wouldn’t include loans for alternative-energy systems.

The Breckenridge council also may make some tweaks to the town’s development code to create more disincentives toward items such as heated home driveways and outdoor gas fireplaces.

The town’s sustainable-building code already encourages new homes and certain remodels to be more efficient regarding outdoor energy use.

“This would affect the same residences but increase the disincentive,” town planner Laurie Best said.

She said rewards for efficiencies would also be part of the changes.

“The biggest carrot (incentive) is positive points for exceeding the energy conservation that’s required through code,” she said.

The town’s existing Carbon Action Plan aims for the community’s energy use to be 20 percent below 2007 levels by 2020. It also aims for the town government by 2014 to have 10 percent of all electricity use to come from renewable sources. More information on the town’s Carbon Action Plan is available in the latest council packet at http://www.townofbreckenridge.com.

“I’m basically in favor of working toward understanding our carbon footprint and having the town lead by example,” Joyce said.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.


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