County code for landscaping at odds with Colorado law |

County code for landscaping at odds with Colorado law

SUMMIT COUNTY – Part of Summit County’s code is at odds with state law, and County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom thinks it’s time that changes.

County code requires homeowners to landscape their houses, which means they must water that vegetation. But state law prohibits homeowners with exempt well permits from using water outside their homes. That means not only no lawn irrigation, but also no watering of flower boxes or washing of cars. About 1,000 county homeowners are now subject to that state regulation.

The state hasn’t had enough staff to enforce that law, and county officials have been working to find a legal way for those homeowners to use water outside their houses. Meanwhile, the county code flies in the face of that law, Lindstrom said.

“It’s stupid to require outside landscaping when there’s no legal water out there,” Lindstrom said. “Why don’t we just eliminate any requirement for outside landscaping?”

The commissioners weren’t in complete agreement on the issue, however. Commissioner Bill Wallace said he’s worried the lack of landscaping will make it easier for noxious weeds to invade. But Lindstrom brushed that concern aside.

“Then they need to buy some herbicide and go out and kill them,” he said.

While Commissioner Tom Long was not as outspoken as his comrades, he suggested the county adopt a xeriscape ordinance – one requiring landscaping that doesn’t need water.

Assistant County Manager Steve Hill said he’ll look into ways to alter the code to address illegal watering issues.

Scott Hummer, the state-employed Blue River Basin water commissioner, said he’s aware of the conflict between county code and state law, but it’s not high on his list of concerns.

“It’s definitely a problem,’ he said. “But dealing with water isn’t an exact science. You can’t be on top of every issue all the time. There isn’t enough human power to go around and look in every nook and cranny and come up with a viable solution to every problem.”

Lindstrom aired his concerns during a Monday morning discussion on proposed changes in county operations to conserve water in the face of what many predict will be a lengthy drought.

While Summit County’s snowpack is now above normal for this time of year – at 105 percent of average – years of drought or near-drought conditions have taken a toll on water storage. That means it will take years of normal snowpack and precipitation to call the drought over.

Those changes could mean everything from giving the Blue River ballfields a bare minimum of water to reducing the numbers of times Summit Stage buses get washed.

While bus washing may sound like a trivial concern, it’s anything but. The Summit Stage uses an estimated 57,000 gallons of water each month to keep its buses clean, Hill told the commissioners. It takes about 300 gallons of water to wash one bus.

County officials suggested the Stage drivers conserve water by driving the buses to the county-owned Snake River Sewage Treatment Plant and using treated, effluent water to scrub down their vehicles. The current Stage bus barn near the County Commons includes an automatic bus wash system.

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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