MERRILLVILLE | The town's Environmental Resource Committee serves multiple roles to ensure proper vegetation is being used at developments and town-owned property.
The panel reviews landscaping plans for new developments and redeveloped properties to confirm they comply with town standards, said Matt Lake, the technical adviser for the committee.
The panel of five volunteer members has a checklist that developments must follow before building permits are issued. The committee reviews plant species and the location of vegetation, Lake said.
The panel checks the location of underground and hanging utilities to ensure they won't be affected by vegetation planted at sites.
Because of the committee, some developers have started approaching the town earlier about landscaping plans, Lake said.
There have been multiple occasions in which there have been preliminary meetings to discuss landscaping ideas before final plans are submitted to the Environmental Resource Committee, he said.
Engineers typically have handled landscaping plans for developments, Lake said. If the engineers aren't plant experts, the committee has guided them through the process of selecting which vegetation would be suitable for developments.
The committee also has sought features, such as rain gardens, for developments. If done properly, a rain garden can provide several benefits, including serving as an aesthetic feature, Lake said.
Lake said rain gardens can be used as a "mini detention area" because they can serve as storage areas for stormwater. They also can help remove pollutants from water, he said.
The Environmental Resource Committee also assists Merrillville with selecting, installing and maintaining trees and shrubs on town-owned property, according to a town ordinance.
Providing that assistance has helped Merrillville obtain the designation as a Tree City USA community, Lake said.