Telluride Town digs deeper into landscaping ordinance: Proposal allows non-native plants, excludes invasive species
Via Telluride News By Ashley Bunton Associate Editor
The Town of Telluride suggests that no more than 100 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass sod (except in public spaces) should be used in landscaping. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
As the snow showers switch to rain and spring buds begin to take shape and bloom, landscapers will want to start work outside as soon as possible.
This year, Telluride Town Council is considering new revisions to the Water Conservation Code regarding landscaping. Councilors and city staff met on April 18 during the regular town council meeting for the first reading of the draft changes.
New lawns, gardens and outside areas requiring water (including sprinklers and irrigation) will have to comply with the amended changes to the code if municipal water is being used.
Telluride Deputy Town Manager Zoe Dohnal said non-native plants are allowed to be included in landscaping, as long as they are micro-climate appropriate, since plants that will “thrive moving into the future may differ from the native species.”
Invasive species would not be allowed and could potentially be a punishable offense.
Water for landscaping would have a maximum of eight gallons per square foot each season. New trees and designated public spaces are the exceptions.
Landscaping that is new, or remodeled landscapes, will be required to have an irrigation plan prepared by an irrigation specialist. The plan should include how much water is required for the health and survival of the landscaping and be submitted to the Planning and Building Department. Additionally, once the new or remodeled irrigation and landscaping installation is complete, a water audit would need to be sent to the Planning and Building Department.
The proposed changes to amend the ordinance are being made after years of collaborative work. The Ecology Commission began looking in 2020 at ways to modify the landscaping section of the conservation code. Information and materials shared during the town council meeting provided more details about the process.
“More recently, on March 14, after sending the proposed changes to all landscaping and irrigation professionals that currently have business licenses, staff met with interested parties to understand concerns with the proposed ordinance changes and the proposed guidelines,” a town council memo states. “No one expressed any concern over the proposed ordinance changes. Feedback on the draft guidelines is currently being researched and is not currently included in the draft guidelines that are attached.”
The suggested changes aim to align the conservation code with Telluride’s Water Efficiency Plan (2020-2027) and Telluride Climate Action Plan, the memo said. The Telluride Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2022, includes taking action to “update landscaping standards to improve irrigation efficiency.”
Landscaping would need to be designed so that plants with similar watering needs are grouped in the same irrigation zones, according to the proposed landscaping amendment.
There are also some minimum irrigation standards and best practices outlined in the draft of the proposed changes.
An onsite weather sensor or an “internet-based, weather-monitoring control technology” should be added to all automatic systems, along with an exterior shutoff valve, a master valve and pressure regulating heads. Sprinkler systems would need to be equipped with sprinkler heads that spray with uniform coverage and “maximum feasible droplets sized to reduce evaporation and wind disturbance of the coverage.”
While still no more than 100 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass sod would be allowed, except in public spaces, there would be no limit on native wildflower seed plantings, the draft ordinance says. Additionally, xeriscaping is encouraged for all landscape plans.
Council discussed whether five landscaping issues should be defined in the ordinance as nonpunishable offenses. In conclusion, council voted to approve the first reading of the draft ordinance with changes to the language to only define three of the five issues as nonpunishable offenses.
Not taking into account “appropriate site selection, topography, and micro-climates,” would not be punishable. Not grouping “plants with similar water needs into the same irrigation zones” would also not be a punishable offense. And, using more than 100 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass sod (except in public spaces) would not be punishable.
Not excluding invasive species from landscapes or using more than eight gallons of water per square foot per season (except with new trees and in public spaces) would no longer fall under “nonpunishable offense” in the ordinance. A second reading of the ordinance will be heard at a later council meeting.
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