In a move that city officials hope will encourage further development, the City of Reading received its first sustainable community award at the end of September, and will be trying for three others in an effort to compete with sustainable cities across the nation.
To be considered as a sustainable community, the city must demonstrate that it is gaining business rather than losing it, as well as ensure that its first responders are familiar with a national system which controls responses to crises such as accidents, fires, and floods. Overall, sustainability promotes a healthy environment, a strong and healthy economy, and encourages the well-being of current and future residents within a community.
Now that the city has received a sustainability award at the state level, Mayor Spencer and his special assistant, Eron Lloyd, have entered the city into the National League of Cities’ Sustainability Tools for Assessment and Rating Communities (or STAR Communities) program. Mr. Lloyd believes the city has enough points to be designated as a three-star community, and the long term goal is to be awarded the coveted five-star designation in the next five years.
The Pennsylvania Municipal League awarded Reading a Gold Certificate in its Sustainable Pennsylvania Community initiative, and now the city is striving toward receiving the highest award possible, a Platinum Certificate. Sustainability has been a goal of Mayor Spencer D. Vaughn’s since before he was elected, and since he assumed the position, his administration has been consistently working toward it.
Hopes are high for sustainability efforts to bring in foundation money along with attention from developers to the city of Reading, rather than other communities without a STAR rating. Private developers will be provided with incentives to meet sustainability standards, but will not be penalized or forced to meet them, which the Mayor and his administration hope will spur businesses and investors to stimulate further growth and development within the city. Additionally, a number of major foundations belong to the STAR Community program, and are awarding a steadily increasing amount of grants and other assistance to STAR-rated communities. The combined potential of the city’s efforts toward sustainability should prove beneficial for city officials as well as current and future residents and investors.