Belle Alert – Will you be able to have a new lawn under the new Landscape Ordinance?

March 8, 2010

Cow’s that like their grass and some other types of landscape should weigh in at tomorrow’s COWncil meeting. Under the requirement of AB 1881 all cities were required to establish a Landscape Ordinance that meets or exceeds the requirements of the California Department of Water Resources by January 2010. If a city fails to adopt an ordinance, AB 1881 requires local officials to enforce State’s model ordinance as if it had been adopted by the county or city. Therefore, unless and until, Woodside adopts its own ordinance, the State model applies.

The rules apply to the following types of residential landscaping projects that require a building or landscape permit, plan check or design review: (a.) all new and rehabilitated landscapes for private development projects with a landscape area equal or greater than 2,500 square feet; (b.) developer-installed new and rehabilitated landscapes for single and multi-family projects with a landscape area equal or greater than 2,500 square feet; and (c.) homeowner-installed new construction of single and multi-family residences with landscape areas greater than 5,000 square feet.

Basically, the Model Ordinance requires a Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet submitted with permit application materials, prior to construction, which includes water budget calculations and a hydrozone information table. Landscape and Irrigation Design Plans must be prepared by a certified professional and include: an Irrigation Schedule, a Schedule of Landscape and Irrigation Maintenance, a Landscape Irrigation Audit Report and a soil Management Report. Dedicated irrigation meters are required for landscapes greater than 5,000 square feet and all automated irrigation systems must be controlled by a weather-based, or evapotranspiration (ET) controller.

Existing landscapes and irrigation systems will not need to be retrofitted unless there is a planned landscape renovation that requires a permit, plan check or design review. The state’s Model Ordinance does not prohibit the use of certain plants, such as turf grass. It does, however, require project applicants to develop a water budget showing how much water is allowed to be applied to those plants. The law also requires the use of drip irrigation or other low volume irrigation on slopes greater than 25%. Planting designs must show that plants are grouped by the hydrozones of plant water needs. See here.

Agenda item 6 on the March 9th COWncil meeting calls for the Review and Discussion of State-mandated Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and Potential Alternative Ordinance Language (Please note that is a discussion item and no adopted on an ordinance is proposed at this time). See here (page 39).

The state’s Model Ordinance is aimed at eliminating inefficient irrigation systems and practices, and it reduce the overall maximum water demand goal from 80% to 70% of reference evapotranspiration. Landscape design, installation, maintenance, and management can and should be water efficient. However, the regulation should be flexible and should be done in as non-burdensome a way as possible. Some cities have mandated minimal lawn area, fewer allowed sprinkler heads etc. We hope our Town will think outside of the box and help citizens to implement water retaining ideas such as catching and storing rain water for reuse (rain barrel’s are very rural). Times are changing, don’t be left out of the decision making, head on out and speak your mind at the March 9th COWncil meeting.

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