What is Colorado’s Xeriscape Law?
Have you considered xeriscaping your Colorado property? If so, what are the laws pertaining to xeriscape concepts in Colorado?
Last year (2021), Colorado House Bill 21-1229 passed, increasing protections for property owners living in communities with a Homeowner's Association. This bill keeps the HOA's from prohibiting xeriscape, nonvegetative turf grass, and renewable energy devices.
Definition of Xeriscape
We toss that term around all the time in Colorado. Sometimes, it seems as though many use the term inaccurately. According to Merriam-Webster:
xeriscape (sometimes capitalized)
a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilize water-conserving techniques (such as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation)
Being a Homeowner in Colorado
Last year, I implemented a xeriscape concept at an income property I own in the downtown Grand Junction area. The property now looks sharp, stays clean, and requires only minimal watering in specific areas.
I'm at work right now with a xeriscape landscaping project at my home. It just so happens my personal home is in an area that prohibits, I say again, prohibits, homeowners from having lawns or non-indigenous vegetation. My area does not have an HOA, but when purchasing our lots, residents agreed to a number of conditions requiring use to develop their properties while honoring "natural terrain."
In my case, my lot was purchased in 1983. Having a lawn in the area is not only prohibited, but it's also completely impractical. The region is sloped, consists of horrible soil, and would make for an inhospitable environment for any kind of turf.
Colorado House Bill 21-1229
Colorado House Bill 21-1229 reads pretty much like a home appliance warranty. It's about the most sterile verbiage you'll ever read.
According to the information from the Colorado General Assembly, Section 1 of the bill "specifically includes nonvegetative turf grass (also known as artificial turf) among the types of drought-tolerant landscaping materials that the HOA may regulate but not prohibit in the backyard area of a unit."
Section 2 adds specificity to the requirement that "HOAs allow installation of renewable energy generation devices (e.g., solar panels) subject to reasonable aesthetic guidelines by requiring approval or denial of a completed application within 60 days and requiring approval if imposition of the aesthetic guidelines would result in more than a 10% reduction in efficiency or a 10% increase in price."
I don't know about you, but reading the two paragraphs above gave me a headache.
Why Xeriscape in Colorado?
According to CU Denver News, the paper “The Thirsty Urban Landscape,” a study presented at the 2017 Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference, analyzed outdoor residential water-consumption patterns in Denver. The paper states “Our results show that homes that are part of an HOA use a staggering 10,493 more gallons on average than those not in HOAs.”