SB14-017 amended: ‘No matter where you stand on this bill, you might want to contemplate what the future of Colorado is’ — Sen. Ellen Roberts #COleg

Senator Ellen Roberts
Senator Ellen Roberts

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, guaranteed that outcome [no legislative lawn limits this session] Friday when she changed her bill to limit lawn sizes into a study to be conducted this summer by the Legislature’s water committee.

Roberts had been promoting an idea by Durango water engineer Steve Harris, who proposed limiting new lawns to 15 percent of a lot if the subdivision used water converted from agricultural use. Western Slope water conservation districts got behind the idea after years of watching farms dry up when farmers sell their water rights to cities.

“No matter where you stand on this bill, you might want to contemplate what the future of Colorado is,” Roberts told senators Friday…

Roberts said she wasn’t attacking lawns, and she’s not trying to turn the Front Range into Phoenix or Las Vegas, where some lawns are not allowed. But she wants homeowners to use more water-efficient plants and create a “Colorado landscape.”

“It’s a landscape in our front yards that actually matches our topography and our climate,” Roberts said.

From the Associated Press (Kristen Wyatt) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

…Roberts ran into opposition from her own party. Other Republicans said the lawn limit idea was too heavy-handed on local governments, which control zoning and local land use. And some argued the bill improperly targeted residential water use but not agricultural water use.

“Why are we just attacking our green lawns?” asked Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.

The Senate amended the bill and decided to study the lawn problem instead, sending the question to a committee of 10 state lawmakers that reviews water policy and suggests new laws. The Colorado Water Conservation Board won’t look at the 15 percent limit, but would instead be broadly instructed to look at residential and municipal water use.

The bill awaits a more formal vote in the Senate before it heads to the House.

Even in its weaker form, it sparked a lively debate among both parties about how boldly Colorado needs to address drought, water use and population growth.

Sen. Vicki Marble, a Fort Collins Republican, said Colorado needs to build more water storage, not limits on household lawns.

“We can restrict ourselves into oblivion and the greatest Dust Bowl we’ve ever seen,” Marble said.

Roberts said the bill would have set the first statewide lawn limit of its kind anywhere in the nation. Some municipalities already limit lawns, and the water district serving San Antonio, Texas, last year offered homeowners $100 vouchers in exchange of removing at least 200 square feet of lawn.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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