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Our Opinion: It's time for green building designs

A proposed plan for a new office building in Baxter offers a unique opportunity to test the feasibility of eco-friendly design in the lakes area.

A sketch plan for an addition at Baxter Village, presented recently to Baxter's Planning and Zoning Commission, incorporates environmentally friendly concepts such as a green roof topped with plants and a water filtration system, a porous parking lot that allows water to pass through it, rain barrels, high efficiency lights and roofs with solar panels.

The champion behind the effort is dentist Jeanni Foss, who wants to build a 16,355-square-foot, multi-tenant building that would include her dental practice among other businesses.

Foss said her goal was to be a good environmental steward by incorporating the green design concepts and potentially offer them as an example of what can be used here.

"Because this technology is so new sometimes you have to be the person who does the trial for that," Foss said.

We applaud Foss for the effort and her willingness to drive it. In fact, going green in this case could prove cost effective not just for Foss but ultimately for the city. The company that makes the permeable parking lot pavers reports the pavers absorb water, are less expensive than concrete and last longer, allow innovation in design and reduce or eliminate the need for retention ponds, saving land and trees.

We understand there will be concerns by Baxter officials any time a new, unfamiliar concept is proposed. Perhaps the city could look into stipulations or some other form of compromise with Foss, or any other developer offering such a proposal, in order to mitigate problems that could arise.

Yes, Foss' ideas can be called cutting-edge but it's not new technology, it's just not here. Yet. We're hoping that will change. If green development proves a success, it could benefit not only Baxter but any city looking at cost-effective, alternative ways to redevelop properties.

Yes, the will be questions from the city, as there should be. But it was nice to see city officials support the idea of green practices in general, even if they don't yet have all the answers. As planning commission member Steve Lund put it, such applications will be a challenge for the city but ultimately one worth taking up.

"... You have a great project in a progressive city with a talented staff that's going to help you. ... I think it is going through a great process to gather that feedback to make it the best application we can when it does present itself," Lund told Foss at a recent planning commission meeting.

Green designs are definitely an idea worth exploring, and we'd urge the city of Baxter, from its commissions to the city council, to keep moving forward on their implementation.