Commentary: Green Economic Revitalization

Commentary: Green Economic Revitalization

One of my top priorities in the 2018 legislative session will be to continue to enhance efforts for the economic revitalization of the Richmond Highway Corridor in an environmentally sustainable way. As the Embark Richmond Highway project moves forward, we have an excellent opportunity to reshape our community to become a hub of 21st century commerce and culture with not just green spaces but green buildings and homes.

An idea Sen. Scott Surovell and I are considering is to expand upon the current law (2017 legislation from Republican Del. Michael Webert) that allows localities like Fairfax County to create “green development zones” in areas slated for economic revitalization. The 2017 legislation focused on commercial zones with tax relief, and we are considering building on that with grant incentives to residential and possibly mixed-use development. This would provide the county with a good opportunity to be proactive in its environmental stewardship with respect to the corridor.

I am sure that the county is looking at the new “Green Development Zones” law and already it has implemented environmental and energy goals for county facilities and made significant efforts to reduce the county’s operational demand for energy through efficiency, conservation and education.

Our legislation is to especially help with those communities that live in older homes lacking modern energy efficient construction and allow the county, by ordinance, to designate Certified Virginia Green Districts in these residential and possibly mixed-development areas. It would require a residence to have been issued a certificate of occupancy before Jan. 1, 1975 and would provide grants of between $10,000 and $50,000 for up to 50 percent of the improvement cost, and the families would need to reside in their homes for another five years to qualify for the grant.

There is a hunger to promote environmental sustainability and responsible environmental growth. Not just from the residents, but from the businesses themselves.

Last week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Facebook will invest $1 billion to create a data center in Henrico County. In addition to the center, hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested to build solar facilities to power it with 100 percent renewable energy. The deal will also bring 100 permanent jobs and thousands of construction jobs to the region.

Multiple localities in Virginia are also competing for Amazon’s East Coast headquarters (HQ2), which will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy and bring 50,000 jobs to the surrounding community.

These companies don’t locate in jurisdictions that are not good stewards of the environment.

Commercial infrastructure is only part of the solution. Through extending green development zones to include mixed use and residential, people can live, work, eat, shop and be entertained without leaving their community. The Metro access that the Embark Richmond Highway process will bring is vital to these efforts because we must have top-quality public transportation to ensure the cars stay off the road, improving traffic conditions in the region and lessening air pollution.