An innovative water conservation program in Windsor is off to a promising start, drawing attention for saving millions of gallons while creating an immediate drop in residents’ utility bills. More than 300 residential customers have enrolled in the fledgling program, which is being touted as a model that could take off in other communities.
Windsor on Wednesday witnessed a changing of the guard with the selection of a new mayor, seating of a new Town Council member and farewell speeches from the retiring city manager and city attorney.
Windsor, a town that once worried about rampant growth, has seen residential construction slow dramatically, to the point that no new homes have been built this year. But when the economy improves, that could change quickly with the backlog of 1,200 dwelling units with tentative and final approvals.
With only two candidates running for two seats on the Windsor Town Council, the Nov. 6 municipal election has been cancelled. In a special meeting Tuesday, the Windsor Town Council voted 3-1 to cancel the election and save the $27,148 cost. Councilwoman Cheryl Scholar dissented.
A surge in the number of apartments proposed in Windsor is giving pause to some Town Council members and prompting soul searching on whether the high-density projects will alter the town character. About 1,150 apartment dwellings are currently proposed, prompting questions whether Windsor can handle that many built in a short period and whether the influx of renters will create a different sense of community than comes with home ownership.
Windsor water and sewer rates are poised to rise by 9 percent in September, but the average bill will still be among the lowest for cities in Sonoma County. Windsor’s typical bill will go from the current $85.45 a month to $94.13. Only Rohnert Park, at an average $92, would be lower, according to a survey conducted by Windsor’s consultant. But some people also are going to start having to pay to irrigate with Windsor’s recycled wastewater.
Windsor this week reshuffled its budget to adjust for the loss of more than $2 million in redevelopment funds, avoiding layoffs and finding other ways to pay for some projects, such as a redesign of a key portion of Old Redwood Highway. The City Council also came up with another source of money to help fund popular events, including concerts on the Town Green, the Cinco de Mayo celebration and holiday tree lighting.
Windsor’s desire to embrace green, energy-saving practices could be tested in a controversy involving a private school’s application to install a solar array next to its campus.
Smart Growth, a philosophy that has helped define redevelopment in Windsor, Petaluma and even Rohnert Park, is being tweaked a bit. Fresh from a Smart Growth conference in Charlotte, N.C., Windsor Councilwoman Debora Fudge tweeted this week that the new guiding principle is “slow development,” given the current economy.