Building community power center of Ypsilanti Sustainability Commission

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On Tuesday, Aug. 12, the Ypsilanti Sustainability Commission met at Ypsilanti City Town Hall, where Commissioners heard from three community members.

First, Dave Strenski, a representative of the group “SolarYpsi” asked the Commission for help in crafting grant proposals for solar power initiates in the city.

The groups’ goal is to help the public access knowledge on solar power and offers a community focused on helping people generate solar power in their home and community centers, while advocating for utilities to push for a quick switch to renewable energy.

“Solar Ypsi is nothing more than a website and friends, no nonprofit status,” Strenski said.

One project SolarYpsi is proposing is to build a solar array on an abandoned City-owned landfill along I-94 near Huron Street. The location, Strenski said, would make use of the absconded landfill that wouldn’t currently serves no benefit. There are solar array designs that wouldn’t disturb the content of the landfill.

The other project is to install solar panels on one hundred low-income houses in the area.

SolarYpsi is asking the Commission for general proposal ideas, a list of foundations to reach out to for funding, and to help shepherd solar projects through the City Council.

Commissioners Beth Gibbons, Katherine Greenwald and Christian Cannon all offered to assist SolarYpsi in their endeavors such as grant writing.

The next presenter was Bob Krzewinski, Chair of the the City’s Non-Motorized Advisory Committee (a part of the City Planning Commission) to present its budget plans.

Among the main points Krzewinski addressed were improving the river trail along Frog Island Park, including plans to add a dyke to make a new trail that’s closer to the water.

Bike lanes will be added to some city streets where traffic is found to pose the greatest threat to cyclists.

A goal for the Non-Motorized Committee is to build throughout Ypsi a trail connecting Depot Town to other places in the city to make it more easily traversable without a vehicle.

Bonnie Wessler, City Planner in the city’s Economic & Community Development, talked about the potential for Opportunity Zones in Ypsi.

Opportunity Zones are IRS-certified incentivized community investment strategy established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, with the purpose to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.

Committee Commissioner Beth Gibbons asked Wessler to clarify what was needed by the  Committee to help with Opportunity Zones.

“Are we writing a chapter or a plan? I don’t understand what the goal is for what we’re trying to create,” Gibbons said.

Wessler said she wants to develop a plan that won’t sit on a shelf, and that the goal of the Economic & Community Development was to design a plan for suitability that would stand on its own, she said, citing the Ypsi community’s embracing of sustainability programs.

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