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Green Roof Initiative Shows 'Unintended Consequences'

By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) - The City of Denver has scrambled after the November election to get the Green Roof Initiative up and running to start 2018.

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Voters overwhelmingly passed the initiative, but the city struggles to see how it will effect development and implementation in some city departments.

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CBS4's Jeff Todd interviews Kendra Black. (credit: CBS)

"You think it takes a long time to get a building permit now, just wait. It's going to be a huge burden on our building department," said Councilwoman Kendra Black, who represents southeast Denver. "Our building department cannot hire enough people to meet the demand and they're trying to hire people."

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Black thinks the citizen-led initiative appealed to voters, but didn't allow them to be informed with the pros, cons, or cost of a "yes" vote.

The initiative says buildings over 25,000 square feet need to have vegetation or solar panels on the roof. Even old buildings looking at roof repairs are now forced to change if they seek a new roofing permit.

"It sounds like such a good idea and that's why it passed," Black said. "There are always unintended consequences."

Brandon Rietheime spearheaded the initiative. He told CBS4 on Wednesday he's pleased with the city's quick response to implementing the initiative.

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He's also concerned the city could make changes in the coming months that would alter the original intent.

A stakeholder group is being organized that includes electrical utilities, the fire department, economists and developers to look at the rules for green roofs and to see how they can change.

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"Both southeast and southwest Denver, we have acres and acres of closed big box stores that we'd like to see redeveloped and this is going to add a huge cost to those making it even less likely a developer is going to come in develop those properties," Black said.

Draft changes have been proposed by the city and it is now taking public comment. A hearing is scheduled on the draft proposal for Jan. 17.

"Maybe if we can find a way, more of a carrot and less of a stick, it might work out better," Black said.

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he's been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.

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