Simsbury will be receiving Environmental Protection Agency technical assistance through the “Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities” program.
The technical assistance will come in the form of an EPA-funded private-sector expert. "The EPA is going to send in a private firm to assess things like walkability, such as sidewalks, street crossings and parking," said Hiram Peck, Simsbury's Town Planner, who wrote and submitted the grant application. "They will also evaluate existing parking in town to see whether they think it is adequate and maybe even our parking regulations."
Peck went on to explain what true sustainability entails.
"Sustainability is environment, society and economics," he said. "Sometimes called people, places and profit."Unlike many people think, Peck says that sustainability is not limited to the environment only. "You can't just look at the environment and say we're just going to preserve the whole town as open space. That's not sustainable," said Peck.
Generally speaking, the technical experts will work with the communities on actions they can take to improve the economy, the environment, and quality of life. Some examples may include improving pedestrian access and safety, incorporating green infrastructure, or conducting an economic and fiscal health assessment.
“EPA is very pleased to be part of a coordinated effort to help these six New England communities develop practical and sustainable approaches that can lead to quality of life improvements for citizens, and which can help bolster our economy,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.
Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities among EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The interagency collaboration coordinates federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services to get better results for communities and use taxpayer money more efficiently. The partnership is helping communities across the country create more housing choices, make transportation more efficient and reliable, reinforce existing investments, and support vibrant and healthy neighborhoods that attract businesses.
"They are going to come to town to provide the assistance and provide it at no cost to the town," said Peck. He expect to find out the name of the firm by April of 2012.
Also receiving assistance in New England are: Fall River, Holyoke, Northampton and Roxbury, Mass., and Burlington, Vt. There are 56 communities in 26 states that will receive technical assistance under this program.
For more information on the grants, go to the EPA website.