Landscaping code now more flexible

A recent series of changes to Mesa County’s land-development code will provide more landscaping options for new development in the county, a welcome change for builders who have long complained that the county’s standards were too rigid.

The highlight of the changes to the code is the introduction of a point system that offers a variety of landscaping choices and rewards developers for conserving water.

The old code required developers to plant grass in a landscaping strip and a certain number of trees and shrubs in an across-the-board mandate that didn’t acknowledge unique circumstances.

“It seems to ignore the reality that we live in a desert,” said senior county planner Jo Carole Haxel.

County officials spent two years researching landscaping codes in communities across the U.S. and asked a technical review committee consisting of landscape architects, gardeners and builders to help craft the code.

The point system rewards new developments for site design and high-quality elements such as art, water conservation and sustainability.

Haxel said the focus of the new code system primarily is water conservation, but points that landscape projects receive really vary depending on the site and its overall use.

For the most part, she said points are based on the best functionality of a site not only for the property owner, but the public as well.

For example, a commercial developer who places half of a building’s parking spaces to the rear or side of the building will receive 10 points.

If, however, all of the parking is between the street and the building, the developer loses 10 points.

In regards to landscaping, a developer who uses no turf in a 10-foot landscaping strip is rewarded with 15 points.

He or she loses 20 points, though, if more than 40 percent of the landscaping strip consists of grass that consumes a high amount of water.

“It’s a great improvement,” said Ted Ciavonne with Ciavonne, Roberts and Associates, a Grand Junction landscape-design firm that was asked to review and test the new code.


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