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UMore planners talk sustainability

UMore's Carla Carlson addresses the crowd at a public meeting held last week to discuss sustainability in the project.

Sustainability has become a buzzword these days in reference to a green lifestyle, but the term means different things to different people. As the University of Minnesota continues to plan for a sustainable community in Empire Township and Rosemount the word had to be better defined.

More than 80 people participated in two full-day work sessions April 6-7 to help create that definition for a project that could result in a community of up to 30,000 people on 5,000 acres that straddle the border of Rosemount and Empire Township.

After two full days of gathering ideas, UMore executive director Carla Carlson was tired but in good spirits about the process. Carlson said they went into the process looking to get "the best thinking of many."

The individuals who took part in the process represented several organizations including the city of Rosemount, Dakota County, Metropolitan Council, Dakota County Technical College, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, School District 196 and private businesses.

BioRegional, a non-profit organization the university has teamed up with, led the sessions. BioRegional has helped create sustainable communities all over the world.

The company has a concept called One Planet Community, in which communities only use as much as the planet can provide. According to the UMore web site, globally, communities and individuals consume resources and pollute the planet at a level 50 percent greater than the earth can renew or absorb.

BioRegional has a list of 10 principles they incorporate into each project that will be designated a One Planet Community. Those principles include eliminating carbon emissions and waste; providing sustainable transportation systems; using sustainable building materials; promoting local and sustainable food sources and sustainable water; preserving natural areas; celebrating culture, heritage and equity; stimulating local economy; and promoting health and happiness.

At the work sessions participants talked about the 10 principles and generated ideas about how to put those into action at UMore Park.

Hundreds of ideas were generated through the process. Colorful papers with ideas were scattered on 10 boards in the banquet room of the Rosemount Community Center.

The colorful boards of ideas welcomed public forumgoers Thursday night. More than 145 people attended the public forum, which aimed to get the public's input on the topic.

"All of us from the UMore Park team are gratified that people would come and spend a few hours with us," said Carlson.

During the forum Carlson gave a brief presentation on the project, as did BioRegional representative Greg Searle, who said there are already a lot positive sustainability projects going on in Minnesota. Examples he cited included the HourCar car-sharing program in Minneapolis and St. Paul District Energy, which uses urban wood waste to heat and cool building in St. Paul.

Searle said the goal of BioRegional is to reduce waste while maintaining the lifestyle North Americans have. He said the idea is to take existing technologies and ideas such as HourCar and put them together to create a sustainable community at UMore Park.

"There's know how here ... and drive," said Searle.

After the presentations, attendees had a chance to talk with UMore representatives and offer their own ideas. Carlson said residents offered a lot of good ideas and stayed well past the event's scheduled 7:30 p.m. end time to talk.

"People are just so smart," said Carlson.

Some of the people who attended the work sessions have agreed to help turn what came out of the meeting into an action plan.

On another front, UMore is looking to partner with a developer to build the community. Carlson said they hope put out a request for qualifications for a master developer nationally sometime later this year.

While there are a lot of good developers in Minnesota, Carlson said the UMore team feels the project should be put out nationally.

If everything goes as planned, Carlson said, building could start as soon as 2013. The project's progress depends upon the results of an environmental assessment and an agreement with a development partner. The real estate market needs to improve as well, said Carlson.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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