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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 9:11 am | Fair 55º


Goleta Council Votes to Adhere to California’s New Water Landscaping Rules

Mandates require cities and water districts to better monitor and report landscaping development, but local officials express concern about who pays

The Goleta City Council has approved an ordinance to stay in line with new state requirements for landscape development projects. The mandate could have an impact on the lawns and landscaping of future residential or commercial developments, similar to this open space at Hollister Village. Click to view larger
The Goleta City Council has approved an ordinance to stay in line with new state requirements for landscape development projects. The mandate could have an impact on the lawns and landscaping of future residential or commercial developments, similar to this open space at Hollister Village.                      (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Goleta officials weren’t happy with new drought-related state mandates, but they ultimately decided last week to approve an ordinance to better monitor and report landscape development projects inside city limits.

While the City Council did unanimously move the ordinance forward, it wasn’t clear Tuesday who might end up paying for it — project applicants or the city.

The state let reporting costs fall on local municipalities, with the ordinance going into effect even without Goleta’s say-so.

“People who wish to save water and redo their landscaping will have to pay more money,” Councilman Michael Bennett said as the first to criticize the regulations.

Faced with a fourth year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown last April signed an executive order requiring the state Department of Water Resources to update the state’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

Goleta staff prepared its own ordinance based on the revisions, which included provisions for more efficient irrigation systems, incentives for gray water usage, improvements for on-site stormwater capture, limitations on high-water use plants, and prescriptive compliance options for landscapes under 2,500 square feet.

The local ordinance wasn’t that different from the state’s model, just without unnecessary references to areas outside city limits and accounting for specific areas covered by the local water purveyor, the Goleta Water District.

The city will work with the water district to implement and enforce regulations that affect two types of projects that would require a building or landscape permit:

» New landscape projects equal to or greater than 500 square feet

» Rehabilitated landscape projects equal to or greater than 2,500 square feet

Before construction can begin, applicants for those projects — be it developers or residential homeowners — must submit packets to the city including project information, a water efficient landscape worksheet, soil management report, landscape plan, irrigation plan and grading design plan.

They also must submit a certificate of completion with an irrigation and maintenance schedule and irrigation audit.

Smaller, new landscape project applicants developing between 500 to 2,500 square feet can use a “prescriptive compliance” option meant to be less cumbersome, still submitting documents but incentivizing the use of gray water and rainwater.

Goleta can require applicable landscapes to be subject to irrigation water use analyses, irrigation surveys and irrigation audits. Then all the information gets reported to the state annually.

Alexandra Chambers, a legal intern at the City Attorney’s Office, said developer fee deposits would fund staff time, but officials wondered if that should come out of general fund coffers instead.

Councilwoman Paula Perotte asked her colleagues to consider requiring future developments to use gray water, and city staff agreed to make that a separate discussion at another meeting.

“The bottom line is, we don’t have a lot of latitude with this,” Councilman Roger Aceves said, noting the regulations would likely be further defined later. “I think we’ve kind of expressed our concerns.”

City staff said the council will have another chance to discuss who will pay for the mandates in six months or so.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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