Berthoud updates water policy to streamline development process

By Rudy Hemmann
The Surveyor

At the July 28 town board meeting, trustees took a stab at coming up with a raw water policy for developments that would keep area developers happy.

Town Administrator Mike Hart explained that questions came up regarding how to interpret the town’s development code in light of the revised raw water policy adopted earlier this year. According to Hart, staff had difficulties reconciling portions of the water policy dealing with natural or native areas within a proposed development, which the developer maintained would not require irrigation.

“We thought when we went through all of the changes to the water policy, raw water dedication, and the pricing for raw water that we had come up with a really simple concept that would make it easy for us and the developers [to calculate the raw water dedication requirements],” said Hart

Deanne Frederickson, a landscape architect with AGPROfessionals, a water and agricultural landscape firm located in Greeley, detailed her recommendations for the amount of irrigation water needed for sections of a development to be reseeded with non-turf grass natural or native grasses.

According to an executive summary of the report, “One approach the town may want to consider is to define all land dedicated for purposes other than residential, commercial and industrial as ‘common areas.’” Those common areas include parks, rights-of-way, entry ways, (storm water) detention areas and “natural areas.”

“The town could then define the amount of water dedication for the common areas and there would be less confusion as to the purpose for which the land is dedicated and the amount of water required for irrigation,” the report stated.

The summary also notes the “town’s current development code requires three acre-feet per acre for areas with lawn grass, which include, but are not limited to, playing fields, parks, turf areas within golf courses and similar situations.”

The summary goes on to state: “The (town’s) development code requires 1.33 acre-feet (per acre) for ‘native vegetation’ which includes ‘open space and other areas with non-turf native vegetation … including areas without lawn grass turf … planted with native grasses, trees, shrubs, flower beds and low water-use ground cover.”

In addition, Frederickson suggested the town consider two additional categories, areas that are not disturbed by development, such as river corridors and wetlands which are truly “natural areas,” and areas to be reseeded with a native seed mix which “should require 0.8 acre feet per acre for irrigation because most native seed mix areas need to be irrigated to some extent to keep them in a live and seed-free condition.”

Following Frederickson’s report, trustees took comments concerning the issue from six area developers. All of the developers who spoke stated they were not in favor of having the code dictate the amount of raw water to be dedicated for natural/native areas, but rather have the developer show that a desirable result can be achieved through temporary irrigation of the natural or native areas.

After lengthy deliberations, Mayor David Gregg summed up the issue by stating, “We have been striving to achieve some simplicity in the code. We asked staff to find a consultant to make a recommendation to us.”

Gregg said the consultant came with a recommendation of .8 acre-feet per acre for “common areas,” which is lower than the 1.33 acre-feet required by the current development code for “natural or native areas.”

This is a sizeable per-acre reduction in the amount of raw water which needs to be dedicated, stated Town Water Attorney Paul Zilis.

“I believe there are other natural areas that perhaps could be considered (as native areas) even after having been touched by a bulldozer – a perfect example of this is the floor of a (storm water) retention pond,” Gregg said.

Gregg said he has the trust in town staff to make the correct decisions with regard to whether a natural area does or does not need to be irrigated. He stressed that “special cases” may have to be brought before the board for consideration.

“One thing I would caution, a couple of the speakers this evening suggested that we would be far better off to not try to do the math and collect the water we need to run down the pipe to a sprinkler head,” Gregg said. “They suggest we would be better off if we had language (in the code) that says town staff will monitor that the native plantings are established … However, I do not want to be in the business of arguing with a developer whether or not his landscape is established.

“What I would rather do is protect the town’s interest by collecting a reasonable amount of water to ensure the landscaping looks reasonably good during a dry year,” Gregg said, “Which is what I think we have with the 0.8 dedication.”

A motion to adopt an ordinance amending the previous ordinance governing raw water policy and incorporating changes reported above, as well as other changes to the water policy, was made, seconded and passed unanimously.

A motion giving town staff discretion to implement the changes brought about by the above ordinance was also made, seconded and passed unanimously.