New homes in Castle Rock will no longer be able to sport a turf front yard under a recently approved ordinance aimed at conserving water.
Town council unanimously approved new requirements for developers of single-family homes to Coloradoscape front yards and incentivizes similar conservation-friendly landscaping in back yards at the Sept. 20 meeting. Coloradoscape is a type of xeriscape that utilizes native low-water plants and landscaping.
The proposal comes from the town’s goal of reducing per capita water usage to 100 gallons per day and reducing peak water demands.
“This, at least in my opinion, is one of the most important things we will do with respect to our long-term water plans this year for sure, but maybe even in the next 10 years,” said Mark Marlowe, director of Castle Rock Water.
Under the new ordinance, the town requires developers to install Coloradoscape front yards and will offer developers lower system development fees and prorated water rates in exchange for installing Coloradoscape back yards with a maximum of 500 square feet of turf. Castle Rock defines Coloradoscape as having 75% plant coverage.
Developers that don’t install the back yard will not get discounted system development fees or prorated water rates. Developers are still required to design the back yard, though homeowners are not required to implement those designs.
Developers at the meeting pushed back against the incentive structure for being too punitive.
“Our homebuilders do have concerns on Castle Rock’s insistence on homebuilders being responsible for installing back yard landscaping features for new homes,” said Morgan Cullen, of the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver. “Builders in Colorado do not typically install back yard landscaping. They leave this to the homeowners.”
Marlowe responded to concerns by noting that 42% of homes in Castle Rock last year had both yards installed so that developers could take advantage of the lowered fees offered at the time, resulting in lower water usage.
“It’s certainly not unprecedented and can certainly be done and it’s done here in Castle Rock all the time,” he said.
Marlowe said the cost for Coloradoscape is competitive with turf landscaping and noted that the Coloradoscape yards would result in lowered water rates for homeowners since Castle Rock Water uses a rate structure based on usage.
“We’re trying to change the look and feel going forward so that people don’t want grass necessarily in Castle Rock because, again, it’s a very challenging thing to grow here and handle from a water resource point,” he said.
The ordinance also removes the town’s requirement that developers submit a water efficiency plan, discontinues the previous developer incentive for reduced water usage, and commercial developments will not be allowed non-functional turf.
The town council will vote on a second reading of the ordinance at the Oct. 18 meeting and, if approved, the requirements will apply to homes permitted Jan. 1, 2023 and after.