As Nation’s Strictest Green Roof Law Takes Effect in Denver, Plenty of Uncertainty Swirls Around Voter-Passed Requirements

Starting Monday, it’s official: Denver will have the nation’s most stringent, far-reaching mandate for rooftop gardens — a requirement that will affect both the developers of larger new buildings and the owners of many existing structures when they undergo roof replacements.

But that doesn’t mean the dust has settled from the Denver Green Roof Initiative’s approval Nov. 7 by 54.3 percent of voters, or that the new law won’t change.

The building industry still is working to understand how plans and budgets will be affected by the new requirements — which generally apply to structures with at least 25,000 square feet of gross floor area underneath the roof. Site-plan filings for new development projects show evidence of a small, late-December rush of submissions to the Denver planning department in an attempt to beat the green roof ordinance’s Jan. 1 effective date, but the large surge expected by some observers didn’t materialize.

And starting in May, when a six-month prohibition of any meddling with voter initiatives expires, the City Council can, with a two-thirds majority, make changes to the detailed new ordinance. But council members have insisted they won’t seek to repeal it outright.

Anticipating the need for some tweaks, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment already is forming a review task force that includes initiative backers, opponents, representatives from Denver Water and Xcel Energy, and building and green-roof experts.

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