Saturday, December 2, 2023

Here’s how localities are maintaining sustainable practices and saving taxpayer dollars

The Stryker Center is just one of the structures in the loacl area that has been created with goals of sustainable practices in mind. (WYDaily/Courtesy City of Williamsburg)
The Stryker Center is just one of the structures in the loacl area that has been created with goals of sustainable practices in mind. (WYDaily/Courtesy City of Williamsburg)

While many people are taking stock of how their daily lives can be more environmentally friendly, localities have been creating sustainability plans for years.

James City County started in 2007 a more direct approach to becoming a sustainable locality by passing the Cool Counties declaration, which required the county to keep track of its carbon footprint, said Dawn Olesky, the county’s environmental sustainability coordinator.

The county then passed a sustainable building policy in 2009 that established new procedures to ensure their buildings would feature environmentally-friendly practices, Olesky said.

That means any new building constructed after that time that was more than 5,000 square feet had to be a LEED silver-certified structure and meet energy star requirements.

The LEED program rates cities and their structures on a number of categories from water consumption, energy use, waste, transportation and human experience, according to the LEED website. 

Energy Star Certifications require structures to earn a score of 75 or higher, which indicates it performs its energy processes more environmentally conscious and efficiently than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide, according to the Energy Star website. 

Olesky said there have been a number of structures in the county since the new policy was passed more than a decade ago that have met the requirements including the new Law Enforcement Center, Fire Station One and Four and building D of the county’s administration building.  

The county also passed an energy conservation and building management administrative regulation in 2012 that requires the locality to monitor all energy use in their buildings. Olesky said as Energy Star partners, the county has pledged to reduce energy by 10 percent.

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So far the county has met that goal and continues to reduce energy use.

The city of Williamsburg has also taken steps to create more sustainable practices.

For example, the city’s Public Works Shop complex has even maintained a superior environmental status from the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program for a number of years and the Stryker Building, which was constructed in 2016, has also received a LEED silver certification, according to the city’s website.

The city’s Municipal Building also underwent a retrofit project in 2009 that expanded it and included sustainable features such as high efficiency lighting that could be individually controlled through the building.

Lee Ann Hartmann, the city’s former spokeswoman, said in March the new fire station on Capitol Landing Road will be constructed and designed with sustainability in mind. Hartmann retired from the city in May.

There are also initiatives to create more sustainable facilities in York County, said Mark Bellamy, deputy county administrator. Bellamy said the county in the past five years has worked to create Energy Star certified buildings, such as the public works building and the county’s administration building.

Environmental sustainability is part of the county’s six strategic priorities, he said. In the 2035 comprehensive plan passed by the Board of Supervisors, Bellamy said planning sustainable, long-term practices are incorporated into all seven goals, such as county appearance, economic viability and exceptional public services.

But local programs and projects have already started to adapt to meet those goals, not only for the benefit of local environmental health but also because it has positive financial impacts.

“In most cases, these projects that we’ve done have a financial incentive to it,” he said. “Being green has a payback and that helps us to be good stewards of the county funds.”

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Olesky agreed James City County has also benefited financially from the new changes to a sustainable locality. She said the county has saved approximately $4 million on energy spending since implementing new practices in 2007

Olesky said the hope is that area residents will also try to do the same.

“It’s leading by example,” she said. “It’s definitely saving tax-payer dollars everywhere we can and I see sustainability as part of long-term planning. It’s our goal as a local government to make sure our environment, physical health, and economic health is setting an example of sustainability in terms of impact.”


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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