The City of Abbotsford takes recycling very, very seriously.
Take, for example, its very own Community Sustainability Planning Initiative (CSPI).
In the space of a week, city council salvaged the city-wide green plan that had already cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and extensive work invested by staff, residents and volunteers.
On Monday, council unanimously agreed to take drafts of two of the four components of the CSPI to the public and have staff address some council members' economic concerns.
That was following a Dec. 10 narrow vote that split council and effectively shelved the sustainability initiative, a decision that might have endangered the city's eligibility for future federal gas tax funds.
The city has already been granted $15 million in gax tax funds and was expected to receive an additional $10 million when the program agreement ends in 2014.
The city's CSPI includes four components: The Community Sustainability Strategy; Green Energy Plan; Sumas Mountain Environmental Management Study; and Green Economic Investment Study.
The project's total cost was approximately $318,000, with $287,840.38 having already been spent to date on various aspects of the initiative.
According to city estimates, three full-time staff were dedicated to the sustainability initiative and up to 200 hours of staff time was accrued from input from employees in other departments.
Advisory groups and meetings supporting the process were calculated to have taken around 300 hours.
In 2010, council unanimously voted to develop the sustainability initiative due to federal gas tax requirements that all participating communities undertake integrated community sustainability planning which addressed objectives for the environmental, cultural, social and economic sectors.
However, councillors John Smith, Henry Braun, Moe Gill, Les Barkman and Mayor Bruce Banman originally voted to shelve the plan.
Both Smith and Braun had previously expressed concerns that it wasn't clear exactly what specific economic costs for taxpayers would be associated with the plan.
Following the decision, Coun. Patricia Ross stated that the Community Sustainability Planning Initiative was not a specific policy document, but rather a map to provide the city's future direction and vision.
Council would still retain the power to accept or reject specific initiatives and projects as they presented themselves, Ross said.
"Asking the specific costs involved with [the CSPI] is an impossible task, as some initiatives might not ever happen," she said.
However, those on council originally opposed to the CSPI reconsidered their decision to shelve the plan after receiving staff assurances that council's concerns around the economic implications would be taken into account.
"There's a lot of missing information around the costs to taxpayers," said Smith, adding such things like expanding transit could result in "huge dollar figures."
However, the same councillors followed through with their resolve to kill the Sumas Mountain Environmental Management Study.
The SMEMS was controversial with some Sumas Mountain residents who believed the city was violating their property rights and looking to dictate what they could do with their land.
Residents were concerned the study was looking to restrict private land for parks or wildlife corridors, said Smith.
"Residents believed rightly or wrongly that the city has designs on their real estate and was down-zoning their property," he said.
Ross and Coun. Dave Loewen tried without success to convince their peers to send the study out for wider public input.
Ross again stressed that the study was not a policy document and did a lot of the environmental survey work developers would have to do themselves.
But following a vote, staff was directed to develop a new community-wide study and cease work on the SMEMS.
Ross objected, saying that the SMEMS was an integral component of the larger sustainability initiative.
"You can't do one without the other and qualify for the gas tax in the future," she said.
"All three components are necessary . . . it's not a complete plan, so the whole thing doesn't make sense."