The Frederick County Commissioners are moving forward with a plan to make the county cleaner and greener.

The commissioners adopted a framework for countywide sustainability. They also approved the creation of a Sustainability Commission, which will act in an advisory role.

Both moves represent the commissioners' desire to incorporate environmentally sound approaches into county functions. Hilari Varnadore, director of the county's new Office of Sustainability, said the goal is to link environmental policy with economic and social considerations.

"When these are combined and decisions are made that integrate all three, you can achieve a sustainable community," she said in her PowerPoint presentation to the commissioners Tuesday.

The sustainability commission ideally will have 13 members representing energy, agriculture, education, small business, health and grass roots.

The commissioners supported Varnadore's framework with a consensus vote. Commissioners Jan Gardner, David Gray and Kai Hagen voted to support the commission.

Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. opposed, saying he is against the creation of additional task forces, commissions, boards and committees.

"The voters have appointed the only task force the county should ever need," he wrote in an e-mail. "That would be us."

Commissioner Charles Jenkins attended the meeting, but was absent during the vote.

The county already emphasizes conservation strategies, Varnadore said. A county ordinance change recently expanded stream buffers from 50 feet to 100 feet, at the suggestion of Gray. The ordinance aims to prevent pollutants from flowing into streams, thus saving the county from having to clean up the local water supply.

"The 1998 comprehensive plan also has suggestions for sustainability," Varnadore said. "It just wasn't called that then."

More public transportation was one major recommendation in that report.

County office buildings have implemented some sustainable practices, she said. Two-way toilets are one, which she illustrated with a photo of the flush mechanism. Besides saving water, they save money.

Varnadore proposed the county form a sustainable action team of employees. Hagen suggested including a representative of Frederick County Public Schools. Gardner added Frederick Community College to that list.

Gardner also suggested the county discuss recycling in a joint meeting with school officials. She said the county has distributed recycling containers to schools.

"We're ready to pick it up," she said. "But they haven't collected it yet."

Jenkins cautioned the other commissioners about appointments to the sustainability commission.

"I wouldn't want to see this commission hijacked by extremists," he said.

Varnadore said commission members should have a variety of backgrounds and should look out for all residents, not just those with the most money and influence.

"We don't want to fall into the elitist category," Gray said. "I think it's our job to appoint good, motivated people."

Varnadore recommended the 13 commission members serve for three-year terms, and that it be ready to meet by July. She hopes an overall sustainability plan will be in place by 2010.

"One of the few things we did in last year's budget was create this office," Gardner said. "We took some criticism, but there are new funding sources."

She said the county will benefit from an analysis of its so-called carbon footprint.

"You can unite people of conservative and liberal persuasions," Gray said. "It's a responsibility issue."

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