Maplewood Sustainability Report

The Maplewood Sustainability Commission handles all sorts of topics, from architectural guidelines to native plants to inclusion and diversity. I presented this summary report to the City Council on February 23, 2021, but in the interest of openness, I wanted to share our accomplishments and goals with the 40 South News readership.

The Sustainability Commission meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:00 pm. We currently use Zoom for video conferencing, and connection information is posted before each meeting at https://www.cityofmaplewood.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=486. We would love to have you join.

Major Topics

Library Roof Solar Panels

A member from the Library Board notified us of a leak in the library’s roof and potential roof replacement. We recommended that, as part of the replacement project, the City evaluate the feasibility of installing solar panels, using a light-colored roof material for replacement, and increasing the roof insulation to above the minimum code requirement limits. Upon later inspection of the roof, we learned that the leak was not such that replacement was necessary. We also learned that there was no funding mechanism for a project such as we had recommended; we suggest that the City make it a priority to establish such a mechanism.

EV Charging Station

The Commission would like the City to install a public electric vehicle (EV) charging station at the Marietta parking lot. This would both attract visitors to the Special Business District and help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Adding a solar canopy in conjunction with the charger would further reduce GHG emissions. Ameren typically offers rebates to help defray costs of these installations.

Garage Forward Design

A Commission member gave a presentation about the negative societal impact of garage forward design. Though this style might be popular with suburban developers, replacing front porches with garages prevents spontaneous conversations among neighbors. We recommend Design & Review put community first when considering new development proposals.

Rainscaping/Native Plants

The Commission has been spreading the word about the benefits of native plants and stormwater mitigation through rainscaping. Stacy Arnold with the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance educated us about this and a cost-sharing program from the Missouri Botanical Garden for Maplewood landowners. One of our members also participated in Metropolitan Sewer District’s similar grant program. Using native plants instead of exotics in landscaping restores the function of local ecosystems, providing services such as stormwater reduction to save money on infrastructure repairs.

Mosquito Spraying

Commission members have made connections with local conservation efforts to address mosquitos in the city. Mosquito dunks seem to be the best option and are available at the hardware store. Bats and purple martins are both effective at removing mosquitos, and houses are available online to encourage both to take up residence. Spraying has been found less effective in recent studies than other methods and is particularly concerning for local beekeepers and chicken farmers; calling St. Louis County to opt out does not seem to work.

Diversity

The Sustainability Commission recognizes its lack of diversity and supports the Council’s efforts to remedy this. The Commission also recommended that the City recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day. Maplewood is located on land formerly inhabited by the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage), Myaamia (Miami), and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Great Sioux Nation).

Year Ahead

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program

The Commission worked with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center to draft an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program. Former City Manager Corcoran requested that we wait until a new manager was hired to bring this forward.

Climate Action Plan

The City of St. Louis recently adopted a Climate Action Plan. We suggest Maplewood do the same.

Updating City Building Codes

New building codes have more energy efficient guidelines. We encourage Maplewood to adopt the 2021 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) when available.

Partnering With The Library

The Commission is looking forward to working with the Library to develop a sustainability series bringing in local experts to talk about topics such as urban biodiversity, composting, financial management, endangered species, household efficiency, and more.

Synching with St. Louis

The City of St. Louis has a Solar Ready program that requires new construction to be “solar ready.” They also have an electric vehicle ordinance for residential buildings stating that new residences have rough-ins for EV charging stations. A benchmarking ordinance for buildings 50,000 sq ft and greater requires energy efficiency benchmarking and buildance performance reporting.

What Would You Like to See?

At every meeting, we have time for public comment. We love to have community members drop in and share their ideas or concerns. We only know what is important to you if you tell us. Please consider joining us as you are able. Also, please consider joining a board. We are all volunteers from the community, just like you. The City maintains a list of openings and application instructions at https://www.cityofmaplewood.com/107/Boards-Commissions.

A great place to learn more about how the City functions in general and ways to get involved is the Citizens’ Academy; more information about Citizens’ Academy is available at https://www.cityofmaplewood.com/667/Citizens-Academy.

11 thoughts on “Maplewood Sustainability Report

  1. Jonathan, I see that Maplewood installed solar panels on City Hall about five years ago. I wonder how they financed them? Or does the library require a different solution because it’s a financially independent entity? We financed our home’s panels with a loan from the Clean Energy Credit Union, secured only with the panels themselves, but that may be geared more toward residential installations. I see there are a couple other city buildings with flat roofs that may be able to accommodate panels, namely the pool and the new fire department. The school has them already.

    • Hey Kevin,
      I brought up your question at tonight’s Sustainability Commission meeting and received the following answers:
      * City hall had a performance contract that included upgrading street lights and various other energy efficiency improvements. This included the solar panel installation. This same approach could possibly be followed for the library, but there is not currently such a program in place for the library.
      * School district funding would have provided for the school’s panels. The MRH school district manages this, not the City of Maplewood.

      I’m with you, and I would love to see more panels installed where it makes sense to do so.

  2. Great thoughts and so glad there is a group focused on these important issues for our community! I would love less mosquitos in our community and would prefer natural controls. However, there needs to be some additional research in regards to the actual impacts purple martins and/or bats could have on this issues. Research indicates that while both eat mosquitos, the percentages are not that great. In addition, getting bats to move into a bat house is not a simple “if you build it, they will come”.

    Keep thinking on this issue!

    • Hey Susan, Thanks for your comments. True, purple martins and bats cannot totally eradicate mosquito populations, but they should definitely be considered in the overall approach. The most effective measure seems to be making sure that you have no standing water on your property; common culprits include rain gutters, bird baths, and children’s toys. When you can, please empty these; when you cannot, you can put submersible tablets (commonly called “mosquito dunks” and available at Scheidt Hardware) in these water sources that will disrupt the reproductive cycle of mosquitos. I have also heard that the St. Louis County Vector Control group will do property assessments of your (and your neighbor’s) yard to help identify mosquito breeding hotspots.

  3. Thanks, this is helpful. One question I have is if there is good information on the cost in residential construction of roughing in EV charging stations and making a home “solar ready”. So far I can only find info on the total cost of installing the full systems.

    • Hey Robin, Thank you for your comment. As I noted in my comment to Susan above, mosquito control is a complicated endeavor, as is disrupting any complex ecosystem function. If you have the ability to support birds, bats, dragonflies, or other mosquito predators at your home or business, we would love to have your help. I will take note of your support for alternate approaches and relay that back to the Commission.