Magazine article Landscape & Irrigation

Restrictive Green Building and Landscape Codes: How They Can Impact Your Business

Magazine article Landscape & Irrigation

Restrictive Green Building and Landscape Codes: How They Can Impact Your Business

Article excerpt

An emerging way government ensures that the community fosters nature is by enacting landscape codes or ordinances that specify minimum standards for promoting natural environments in the city. In recent years, city after city nationwide has turned to this type of legislation.

Landscape ordinances typically provide for the preservation of natural features such as wetlands, erodible slopes, special native habitats, and specimen trees. In some communities, ordinances focus on the protection of the public water supply, while in others, preservation of the tree canopy is the focus. Many communities formerly enacted ordinances for aesthetic reasons or to serve economic development, but now they have ordinances that include water conservation.

There are generally three categories of landscape ordinances:

1. Tree ordinances are the oldest, and are single issue laws that focus on municipal tree care. These were originally drafted to set up city forestry departments, care for public trees, and regulate the tree care industry. Modem descendants of this type of ordinance focus on urban forestry and tree management practices.

2. Post-construction landscaping ordinances are being drafted by U.S. cities, suburbs, towns, and villages to regulate landscape design, maintenance, plant material selection, and installation practices. This type of ordinance regulates planting of building sites following construction and typically consists of a series of "design components" and "technical standards." Design components are sections of a landscape ordinance that make reference to specific parts of a site, building lot, or development property that must be designed using "minimum" standards, specifications, or technical requirements. These ordinances often require the signature of a licensed landscape architect.

3. Comprehensive landscape ordinances, sometimes referred to as "land alteration ordinances" or "land development codes," are the newest type of ordinance. They regulate site clearing and habitat destruction, and set standards as to what natural resource can or cannot be disturbed. These can be very sophisticated and highly regulatory ordinances that control not only landscaping, but also land clearing, tree protection, tree removal, stormwater management, erosion control, groundwater recharge, water conservation, wetland preservation, and land grading.

Building codes have long specified design standards that must be complied with for the purposes of structural durability and public safety. …

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