Junction leaders planting idea to discourage big, thirsty lawns

DROUGHT-RESISTANT PLANTS and other forms of xeriscaping are shown in the demonstration garden at First Street and Grand Avenue in Grand Junction. This type of landscaping uses one-half to one-third less water than traditional forms.

Grand Junction city leaders are considering incentives to encourage businesses to shun large, thirsty lawns in favor of drought-resistant plants and other forms of xeriscaping.

City Council members pitched the idea last week during a review of proposed changes to landscaping requirements for commercial and industrial businesses looking to remodel or upgrade their facilities.

The move would represent a nod to the Grand Valley’s semi-arid climate and steady population growth that will place more demands on finite water supplies. Council members said it would fit in with the city’s ongoing efforts to promote energy conservation and environment-friendly practices.

“I want to be able to tell somebody that this is our first choice for you because of the cost savings, the environmental friendliness, the whole bit,” Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein said.

Council members suggested the incentives would apply initially to businesses but haven’t specified what form those incentives may take. Public Works and Planning Director Tim
Moore told council members he will provide some options in the near future.

City planners say xeriscaping has been an option for developers looking to landscape their property for years but acknowledge they haven’t actively promoted or offered information about it.

Asked if she could quantify the businesses and residential subdivisions in the city that employ xeriscaping, Neighborhood Services Manager Kathy Portner could name only a handful.

“Xeriscaping kind of gets pushed aside as not being viable, and it’s unfamiliar,” Moore said.

Planners and landscape architects say up-front installation costs can exceed those for traditional landscaping, which can act as a deterrent. But they say there are misconceptions about xeriscaping that scare off people.

“Xeriscape itself doesn’t mean no water or desert plants. It’s about smart choices, smart placement,” said Ted Ciavonne with Ciavonne, Roberts & Associates, a landscape and planning architecture firm in Grand Junction. Ciavonne noted turf can still be an option in xeriscaping, as long as it’s a variety that requires less water than Kentucky bluegrass.

In the long run, officials say, xeriscaping will save its users money on watering and maintenance.

In addition to offering incentives, Ciavonne suggested the council could look at portions of the city’s landscaping code that conflict with the goals of xeriscaping or offer more flexibility to plans that implement xeriscaping principles but may not meet the exact wording of the code.

“Whether council is giving out incentives or whether it’s an incentive to your pocketbook, I think there is going to be a lot of value in promoting xeriscape,” Ciavonne said.

The city hopes to boost xeriscaping by the recent transfer of longtime parks planner Shawn Cooper in the Parks and Recreation Department to the Public Works and Planning Department, where he is working as a landscape architect.

City officials say Cooper can collaborate with developers on landscaping options, including xeriscaping.

Portner said she believes a new law requiring landscaping plans to be stamped by a certified landscape architect could generate more interest in xeriscaping.

“Having a landscape architect that has that specific expertise in landscape design and who would certainly be familiar with xeriscape concepts might be more likely to result in more of the design incorporating those concepts,” she said.


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