Lenexa discusses Climate Action Playbook, citywide approaches to combating climate change

Lenexa city leaders reviewed areas where the city does well in climate action, such as its Rain to Recreation stormwater management program. Photo courtesy city of Lenexa.

While Lenexa already supports portions of a regional playbook on mitigating climate change, the city has room for improvement.

That was a summary of a discussion Tuesday evening among Lenexa city leaders at a committee meeting to discuss the Climate Action Playbook, a compilation of approaches and resources for cities in the Kansas City metro area to consider in efforts to reduce or reverse the effects of climate change.

In a presentation to the Lenexa City Council, Community Development Director Scott McCullough said the playbook would act as a guide, similar to Lenexa’s Complete Streets policy, to inform decision-making across a range of areas of city government.

“If accepted, the playbook will provide staff and the council a menu of possible ways to mitigate climate change when opportunities to do so arise,” McCullough said. “We believe we lead in many climate solution categories, but there will always be room to do more.”

Scott McCullough, Lenexa community development director, presented some ways Lenexa can improve city policy on combating climate.

Published in December 2019, the playbook is the culmination of a joint effort by the Mid-America Regional Council and Climate Action KC (previously Metro KC Climate Action Coalition), a cohort of metro area leaders working toward actionable solutions to climate change.

The playbook covers ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in terms of energy consumption related to buildings, transportation and waste. The document also guides cities on ways to lead by example, encourage action from the private sector and enact policies to ensure participation from the private sector.

Planning for 2030 and 2040, community members want healthy, resilient, walkable, bikeable communities, and this, I think, leans right into that value,” said Councilmember Julie Sayers.

McCullough highlighted areas where the city is already doing well in terms of climate action as well as areas that can be improved. Lenexa would provide public engagement opportunities before acting on these areas, he added. Though not comprehensive, below is a brief summary of highlighted items.

Buildings and Cities

What Lenexa does well:

  • Switching to LED street and facility lighting, and participating in Evergy’s renewable energy program
  • Recycling, and educating residents on green initiatives such as recycling, stormwater management (Rain to Recreation), native planting, etc.
  • Wildlife and cleanup program such as Adopt-A-Spot to keep parks, streets and streams clean

Strategies Lenexa could improve:

  • Enhance staff training on energy efficiency
  • Adopt solar-friendly measures and put solar panels on city buildings
  • Require green building standards for private development

Land Use

Rosehill Elementary students painted rain barrels for Lenexa’s Rain to Recreation program in 2016. Photo courtesy city of Lenexa.

What Lenexa does well:

  • Requires planting street trees, encourages native planting
  • Stormwater cost share program
  • Community garden program

Strategies Lenexa could improve:

  • Denser development for walkable neighborhoods (i.e. Lenexa City Center)
  • Allow/promote urban agriculture
  • Participate in regional climate action efforts

Transportation

What Lenexa does well:

  • Complete Streets policy to enhance bikeability, walkability
  • Extensive trail system
  • Replacing current fleet with high-efficiency vehicles

Strategies Lenexa could improve:

  • Enhance parking for bicycles and electric vehicles
  • Improve sidewalks and bike connectivity citywide
  • Launch a Safe Routes to School program with school districts

Councilmembers shared their support for following elements of the playbook and appreciation for the areas where Lenexa is already engaged.

“We do have this history of being on the forefront of some of the initiatives that have been happening like recycling,” added Councilmember Courtney Eiterich. “I think we really have an opportunity in adopting this and adopting the programs to be on the forefront of several other initiatives… and lead by example in doing that.”

While supportive of the playbook, Mayor Mike Boehm said he has some reservations and would want to ensure that Lenexa maintains flexibility when applying those guidelines to city policy.

“I’m excited to move it forward,” he said. “I think we’re already a leader, whether we’ve adopted it or not.”

The city council may consider accepting the playbook at a future public meeting.