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Breckenridge wrestles with energy efficiency questions

Caddie Nath
summit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Town Council gave a preliminary, though somewhat hesitant, OK on an ordinance to reward new and existing developments employing higher energy efficiency methods.

The ordinance, which applies to both small residential structures and bigger commercial, lodging and multi-family buildings, was passed on first reading by a 5-2 vote at Tuesday night’s town council meeting. Council members Eric Mamula and Jennifer McAtamney voted against the ordinance.

Some council members said they weren’t ready to take a vote on the policy, and the council as a whole made it clear the policy is still a work in progress.

“I think (today’s) discussion shows this is going to be an ongoing process,” Councilman Mark Burke said of the policy at Tuesday’s work session.

Using the Breckenridge town code’s existing point system, the ordinance aims to encourage on-site energy conservation and discourage features that require excessive energy in an effort to shrink the town’s carbon footprint.

The system awards positive points and negative points to developments in the Town of Breckenridge, based on features of the development viewed as desirable or undesirable. A development must have a score of zero points to be approved.

“This policy is another tool in our toolbox of positive points for applicants to utilize,” Breckenridge town planner Julia Puester said.

The proposed measure awards positive points to residential developments for getting and scoring well on the Home Energy Rating Survey (HERS) scale. Better ratings can earn the building up to six positive points, which can be used to offset negative points for other features.

It would also award points to commercial developments that go above and beyond the energy standards set by the International Energy Conservation Code, which is adopted in the Breckenridge town code. Commercial buildings can earn up to six positive points based on the percentage of energy saved beyond what is required in the energy conservation code. As with residential structures, the positive points can be used to offset negative points, which are assessed on features town officials want to discourage.

Standards in the energy conservation code vary based on the size and type of the building.

But commercial and multi-family developments could also be saddled with negative points under the proposed ordinance for features that consume excessive amounts of energy, such as a heated driveway or sidewalk, an outdoor gas fireplace or large outdoor water features.

The Breckenridge Planning Commission passed the measure unanimously in mid-November, but members of the town council are more hesitant.

In earlier discussions of the ordinance, which initially offered up to nine positive points, the council had a problem with the potential leeway provided to developers by the positive energy conservation points.

The positive points awarded for higher energy efficiency could be used to override negative points, enabling a building with features the town discourages to be approved.

“When you give positive points (you) mitigate something that, through the code, we feel is a detriment to the community,” Mamula said. “So is it worth allowing a developer to have a taller building, if they save half of their energy?”

The look and character of Breckenridge is carefully protected in the town code through recommended building height limitations, as well as sign and advertising restrictions.

During Tuesday’s discussions, some council members expressed concern the policy might still offer up too many positive points, others that the overall benefit of the policy to the town wasn’t clear enough.

“I don’t feel that I have enough information, personally, to pass something in our code which could potentially give you a lot of positive points without knowing what the ramifications are what the benefits to the community would be,” Mamula said of his ‘no’ vote.

At the meeting, McAtamney said she voted against the measure because she didn’t think it was ready to be put to vote at all.

The policy will be tweaked and must be passed by the council on a second reading vote before it is adopted.


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