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Denver Voters Approve Green Roof Plan

By Tom Mustin

DENVER (CBS4)- A new sustainability plan for downtown Denver has been approved by voters. The green roof initiative requires new Denver high-rises to have a portion of their roofs covered by gardens or solar panels.

That initiative passed by a roughly 52.5 to 47.5 vote. That's despite a $250,000 advertising push by several Denver businesses against the plan.

(credit: Denver Green Roof Initiative)

Ordinance 300 mirrors plans already in place in Toronto, San Francisco and Chicago. Nonprofits can apply for an exemption.

Brandon Reitheimer is tired but happy after Denver voters passed his green roof initiative.

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Brandon Reitheimer (credit: CBS)

"Feeling great. It's a huge victory," he told CBS4's Tom Mustin.

For a year, Brandon and 60 volunteers pushed a plan to require all new Denver buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to have roof gardens and/or solar panels.

(credit: Denver Green Roof Initiative)

The goal: to reduce air pollution and energy costs. Wednesday voters approved the plan.

"We were just all grassroots. Small money donors. People who really care about the environment and care about the city," said Reitheimer.

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CBS4's Tom Mustin interviews Brandon Reitheimer (credit: CBS)

But with construction booming downtown, it's not easy being green. Not everyone is sold on the plan -- including many developers.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also voiced his concerns on Wednesday.

"We are concerned that it may mean additional costs to these projects that we are laying out in terms of the bond that we did not have programmed in the dollars," he said.

(credit: CBS)

Others had voiced concerns about Denver rent prices skyrocketing. Brandon says the green roof plan includes a small up-front cost for builders, but the roofs last five times as long -- and will pay dividends in the future.

"You're looking at a return on investment in about six and a half years," he said.

Andrea Burns with Denver Community Planning and Development says the initiative will require a lot of work in the next few weeks, but she's hopeful the new sustainability plan won't derail several city projects.

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Andrea Burns with Denver Community Planning and Development (credit: CBS)

"It will be a little bit of work in the next few weeks, but green roofs are already possible in Denver. It's just a matter of making those agreements that are part of Initiative 300 work with our system now. We're going to make this work for the people of Denver," she told Mustin.

And after winning a David vs. Goliath battle, Brandon says the real winner is the City of Denver.

(credit: CBS)

"This builds a healthier city, a better city, and people want to move there."

The city council can repeal or revise the ordinance in six months, with a two-thirds vote.

Tom Mustin is CBS4's Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

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