Lawns bill to go before ag committee

DENVER – Cities and developers have a message for senators: Keep off the grass.

Today is the day of reckoning for Sen. Ellen Roberts’ bill to limit the size of suburban lawns in order to conserve water. The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to take up the bill at 1:30 p.m.

The idea behind Roberts’ Senate Bill 17 was hatched by Durango water engineer Steve Harris. He was looking for a way to keep cities from buying up agricultural water and drying up rural communities, and he zeroed in on suburban lawns.

Under SB 17, any new development after 2016 that uses agricultural water could not allow lawns to cover more than 15 percent of the lots in the subdivision.

The hearing will be a collision of powerful interests.

The bill tells cities to handle the enforcement, and that has earned the opposition of the Colorado Municipal League.

“Infringement on local control is rarely this obvious,” CML Deputy Director Kevin Bommer said in a position paper he wrote against the bill.

Housing developers are also opposed. Roberts has support from the Colorado Farm Bureau and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, two groups that hold sway with members of the agriculture committee.

Roberts, R-Durango, has Democratic Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton on her side as a fellow sponsor.

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