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GREEN CITY: Small community makes plans to be sustainable as it grows

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Cumming city planners say they have a ten year plan, and it includes going green. They're challenging the community to become a sustainable city as they grow.

The town of Cumming is a short drive from Des Moines down Interstate 35. You can also ride your bike there on the Great Western Trail. Only a few hundred people call it home. Business Owner Ted Lare with Ted Lare Design Build says, "We're a strong, proud 351, but we have big plans."

Those plans include new homes and businesses surrounding the existing city center. Planners started dreaming up the development to go along with the Iowa Department of Transportation's plans to build a new high speed interchange next year.

Architect and Urban Planner Bill Ludwig says, "There is a lot of development surrounding the area. And, it's one of the last interchanges that is kind of a blank piece of paper. And, the idea is to create an environment for families."

Ludwig says they're creating it with the environment in mind. Ludwig says the four new neighborhoods will include new green infrastructure, like bioswales and retention ponds designed to act like nature and hold back storm water. Homes will include rain gardens and rain barrels. And, a green streets program will feature storm water bumpouts and native plants to soak up and filter storm water.

Ludwig says, "We'll try to contain as much as 75 to 80 percent of the water, as an example, that comes off of the development right on site. So, very little of our water will escape and basically go into our streams and rivers."

Planners say the sustainable initiatives aren't just for the new development. They really want to make the entire community a green one. Ludwig says, "The idea is to blend some of the old with the new."

Ludwig says the first green project may replace current concrete in the downtown area with permeable pavement to help with soil erosion and storm water runoff. They'll also work to pass ordinances so future developers will build with the environment in mind. Lare says, "It's the only direction to go. It's being responsible to mother earth, giving back."

Planners say it could take up to ten years to meet the goal of being a green city. They say they hope to start building as early as next spring. Homes will start at $150,000. Planners say they also want to attract green businesses in the future.