Hot Sheet

Councilwoman: Green roof proponents didn’t do their homework; now, Denver is left to do it

Author: Adam McCoy - January 8, 2018 - Updated: January 8, 2018

The activists behind Denver’s green roof mandate didn’t do their homework, and now the city is left “to do the work that should have been done by the proponents before putting it on the ballot.” That’s the sentiment behind an op-ed authored by Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black in the Denver Post last week.

Vocal in the runup to the fall election about the unintended consequences of the green roof mandate, Black argues green roofs were an easy sell considering the warming climate and “the image of mini-parks and solar panels atop all of Denver’s buildings.” Proponents weren’t required to engage stakeholders or the city agencies that are now tasked with implementing the mandate. Nor did the proponents communicate environmental and fiscal impacts to voters.

“Without fully knowing how the law will impact city agencies, water usage, our electrical grid, construction costs or our housing efforts, Denver’s city attorneys rushed to create the rules to begin implementing the law in January,” Black said. “Our already overburdened building department is having to carve out resources in its budget and find staff to review plans and enforce the law.”

“So, if you’re frustrated with the time it takes to get a building permit, just wait. It will now take longer,” Black writes.

The green roof initiative was approved by voters in November with nearly 55 percent of the vote. The ordinance mandates newly-built buildings larger than 25,000 square feet dedicate a portion (the portion will vary depending on building size) of their rooftops to vegetation or solar panels. The green roofs would help reduce Denver’s urban heat island effect.

Black writes the city will meet with stakeholders including sustainability experts, Xcel Energy, Denver Water, architects, economists and others to flush out the implications of the new law and make recommendations to the City Council.

The Denver City Council can modify or repeal the green roof ordinance after six months but would require a two-thirds majority vote.

“Once the facts are known and analysis done, I know that our team of expert stakeholders will come up with reasonable compromises that will respect the voters’ will to reduce our ‘heat island’ while allowing for realistic and creative solutions that are appropriate for our climate and won’t negatively impact our affordable housing efforts and our economy or increase the cost of public and nonprofit projects,” Black writes.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.