St. George, Utah (October 29, 2009)- As recommended by the Planning Commission Tuesday, the City of St. George could soon have a landscaping requirement for front yards. The proposed rule, designed to prevent “unsightly” fronts yards that are all dirt, all weeds or as was recently seen at one local residence, all concrete, would require at least 30 percent of all new front yards to be made up of any combination of “decorative rocks, decorative gravel, stone, pavers, bark or synthetic turf and living plants such as trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, flowers, grass and other plants that are generally not considered to be weeds.”
The city has landscaping ordinances for commercial and manufacturing zones and multi-family residential zones, but not for single-family housing zones, because they have generally not been a problem, said Bob Nicholson, the city’s community development director. At least half of that 30 percent outlined must include some vegetation, Nicholson said, but the Planning Commission wanted to allow for some variation in what counts as decorative.
“They didn’t want to get over-dictatorial, or tell people what a landscape should consist of, but they did want something there,” he said. The ordinance does allow for water-conserving practices such as xeriscaping and zero-scaping, as part of the regional push to use less irrigation water, said Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager.
“We encourage zero-scaping,” he said. “We’ve been very proactive about pushing for more of that.” The amendment would require at least one tree in each yard, but that tree could be of a desert variety. As currently constituted, local home builders would support the change, said Carol Sapp, executive officer of the Southern Utah Home Builders Association, although there could be areas where such an ordinance could get touchy. “I understand there was some talk about retro-fitting and we would be adamantly opposed to that,” she said. The city council is scheduled to have a public hearing and vote on the issue during its Nov. 19 meeting.
New terms considered for front yards