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Your Grass May Be Illegal Soon (and Why That’s a Good Thing): A Review of Bill 6

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Yes, you read that right. Last Friday (March 15th), Governor Polis signed Bill 6 into law. This new legislation outlaws the installation of nonfunctional turf, artificial turf, and invasive plant species on many new construction projects across the state, effective on and after January 1, 2026.

Who will Bill 6 affect?

First, let’s make something 100% clear – this bill does not apply to previously installed landscapes. However, this bill does affect you if you are:

  • A homeowner’s association (HOA, UOA, POA, etc.) looking to re-landscape common areas.
  • A builder looking to build new HOA, UOA, or POA-controlled properties.
  • A builder who intends to work on state-owned property construction.

If you’re interested in learning more, click this link to read Bill 6 in its entirety.

Why does Bill 6 matter?

Bill 6 matters because:

  1. Too much of Colorado’s scarce water supply is being used on entirely ornamental, nonnative turf grass.
  2. Artificial turf contains synthetic materials that can leak harmful chemicals into the environment and watersheds. Additionally, it has a much hotter surface temperature than living grasses, contributing to the heat island effect.
  3. Invasive plant species can have harmful effects on the state’s environment and economy.

If you live in Colorado and hope to keep it beautiful – and hope to keep water accessible and affordable – you should keep reading. This bill is a crucial measure in the broader effort to curb climate change, conserve water, and mitigate Colorado’s growing heat island effect.

What will Bill 6 change?

No More Nonfunctional Turf

Bill 6 defines nonfunctional turf as turf that is “located in areas that receive little, if any, use, and could be replaced with water-wise landscaping without adversely impacting quality of life or landscape functionality.” This does not include turf that is in a sports field or playground.

However, not all grass is bad grass. The Front Range sits atop the highest elevations of the short grass prairie. As the name implies, Blue Grama (the state grass), Buffalo Grass, and other grasses short in stature dominate the landscape, and are excellent native turf options.

Here are five water-wise turf options that we recommend:

1. Turf Master EnviroTurf™

turf
Larry Levin Park at RidgeGate Station | Lone Tree

Turf Master EnviroTurf™ sod is a mix of fescues and other drought tolerant species used in high traffic park spaces. Additionally, it, along with Nature’s Prairie Sod (see below) both need 40% less water than traditional Kentucky Bluegrass.

2. Turf Master Nature’s Prairie Sod

turf
Turf Master Prairie Sod Farm | Fort Collins

Turf Master’s Nature’s Prairie Sod is a blend of indigenous and naturalized grasses used in tree lawns and other moderate traffic areas.

3. Buffalo Grass/Blue Grama Seed Mix

grass
Blue Grama at Denver Zoo Main Entrance | Denver

A Buffalo Grass/Blue Grama seed mix has a very low water demand used for medians, right of way (ROW), and natural areas where a more uniform natural look is desired.

4. Low Grow Native Seed Mix

native seed mix
Leyden Rock | Arvada

A “low grow” native seed mix is used for disturbed areas on edges of development.

5. Non-Native Naturalizing Grasses

grass
Blue Lyme Grass and Ribbon Grass at Stanley Marketplace | Aurora

Turf doesn’t always need to be native to be sustainable. Non-native grasses should be drought-tolerant, aggressive growing, and durable to wear-and-tear by humans and pets.

Sustainability doesn’t need to come at the cost of profitability. Check out this recent case-study that details how one of our projects reduced water costs by 43% by utilizing water-wise landscaping.

No More Artificial Turf

Bill 6 defines artificial turf as “an installation of synthetic materials developed to resemble natural grass.” As stated above, artificial turf can leech chemical pollutants as it degrades from use and sunlight, and it absorbs more heat, contributing to the heat island effect.

For a more sustainable alternative, we recommend utilizing one of the turf solutions mentioned above.

No More Invasive Plant Species

According to the Colorado Revised Statute 37-60-135 (2)(e), Invasive plant species are nonnative plants that 1) are introduced accidentally or intentionally, 2) have no natural competition or predators, and 3) have harmful effects on the state’s environment or economy or both.

For more information on invasive species, we encourage you to visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s list of noxious species.

In Conclusion

If you’re a builder in the front range, Bill 6 is not a threat to your business. Keeping water accessible and affordable is key to keeping new home development moving forward. Additionally, there are readily available, cost-effective, and sustainable landscaping practices that can serve your customers well while preserving Colorado’s rich, natural beauty.

If you’re still concerned about Bill 6, or if you’re interested in improving sustainability without sacrificing profitability, Consilium Design is offering a free sustainability consultation to Colorado Builder subscribers from now until June 1st, 2024.

Author

  • Craig L Karn

    With over 43 years in land planning, urban design, and landscape architecture, Craig Karn, principal and founding partner of Consilium Design, is a nationally renowned expert in community design and real estate development. Craig achieves success with a wide range of challenging projects through an emphasis on quality, sustainable design, and an uncommon respect for the design process. He’s driven to bring great communities to life. Craig’s experience includes large-scale land development planning, mixed-use master planned communities, golf communities and the design of a variety of neighborhoods and urban spaces. He has been active in the master planning and design of communities across Colorado as well as throughout the United States and internationally. Craig’s design philosophy centers around creating authentic places that are connected to the land, forming a meaningful backdrop for living. He believes a careful integration of the qualities of a site and its context are critical to creating a distinctive community image.

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