Bay Harbor Islands is trying to go green.
The new year will bring new options to environmentally conscious residents of the town of Bay Harbor Islands, including public bike-sharing, an electric car-charging station and a program allowing residents to finance eco-friendly upgrades on their homes.
“We are initiating programs. That in essence is what going green for government is, approving programs and projects that are green initiatives,” said Vice Mayor Jordan Leonard.
The first change residents in town can look forward to seeing is the arrival of DecoBikes. The Miami-based company currently already has bikes in neighboring Surfside, as well as in Miami Beach, where the company debuted the public bike-sharing program in South Beach in March 2011.
“DecoBikes, it just makes perfect sense,” said Leonard. “When Surfside brought them, it made sense for us to join in.”
Using the same bike program as neighboring Surfside and even Miami Beach allows for residents and tourists to travel back and forth.
In fact, residents who rent a bike at one of the four stations in Bay Harbor Islands could then, for example, take a ride to the beach or Publix, where they can return the bike and then rent another when they are ready to head home.
The bike stations are planned for 103rd Street next to municipal parking, between 96th and 97th on West Bay Harbor Drive, and on 95th and 92nd streets.
“It takes a little bit of time to educate people that it is not just healthy for the environment but [also] their health,” Leonard said.
Soon, residents and visitors will also have access to an electric car station in town. Bay Harbor Islands has signed a contract to allow Car Charging Inc. to install one of their stations in the town parking garage.
Officials hope that by installing the station, it will encourage residents to purchase electric vehicles or attract visitors who already own them.
Bay Harbor Islands will be the second municipality in Miami-Dade to boast an electric car station, following Miami Beach.
“Both have a positive fiscal impact on the town,” said Leonard. “The reason that it is positive is not only does it not cost the town anything, but a small percentage of the profits go back to the town.”
Leonard is responsible for introducing both programs to the town council.
Both new additions will be at no cost to the city. Car Charging Inc. and DecoBikes will both absorb the costs of installation, and the only costs to residents will be the rental costs.
Officials expect the bikes and charging station to be installed and operational by the end of January.
Bay Harbor Islands is looking to make other changes in an effort to go green.
The town is also considering a Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which would require a vote by the council.
A PACE program allows municipalities and residents to finance improvements to make homes and businesses more energy-efficient. These improvements are then paid back through assessments to their individual property taxes.
“This is an opportunity to use this funding to improve your home and make it more green,” said Leonard, who introduced the PACE program to the town council, which has yet to vote on it.
Generally, municipalities form districts and the funding is provided by an outside source. Bay Harbor Islands has chosen to go with Y Green, a firm that organizes and finances such projects. The program is voluntary.
“It is the natural course of action for the town. We are surrounded by nature,” said Leonard. “It is perfectly natural to try to be green and nature-friendly.”