Denver planners don’t expect to exempt many new projects from green roof rules

If developers aren’t already talking to city planners, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get a project exempt before 2018.

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A green roof atop a model of the future Lakehouse multi-use building. Sloans Denver, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; sloans lake; sloans denver; development; residential real estate; lakehouse;

A green roof atop a model of the future Lakehouse multi-use building. Sloans Denver, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver developers don’t have many options for getting around the new green roof rules ushered in by voters this fall.

Starting Jan. 1, all new and replacement roofs on buildings larger than 25,000 square feet must include a green roof component, according to the rules brought by Initiative 300. It’s unlikely new offices, apartments and other developments will be able to avoid the rules unless city planners are already reviewing the projects, according to Denver Community Planning and Development.

The only projects exempt from the green roof requirements are those that have a submitted, complete building permit application or complete site plan application prior to Jan. 1, 2018; residential buildings that have four stories or less or a height of 50 feet or less (whichever is greater); and commercial greenhouses at grade, temporary structures and air-supported structures.

The executive director of NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Kathy Barstnar, told Denverite last month that the organization is encouraging developers to get their plans in before the end of the year “because come Jan. 1, I believe it’s too unclear what they should do.”

Some builders are concerned green roofs could cost more than their conventional counterparts and that the new rules will add another layer of complexity to the planning process for developers.

A green roof concept on a model of the new DaVita being built behind Union Station in the office of the real estate brokerage firm Slifer, Smith & Frampton, Oct. 19, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A green roof concept on a model of the new DaVita being built by architects Slifer, Smith & Frampton behind Union Station, Oct. 19, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

If developers aren’t already talking to city planners, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get a project exempt before 2018. To be exempt from the new rules projects would need to be past the concept stage, said CPD spokeswoman Laura Swartz.

During the concept phase, developers are required to go to city planners with a general proposal for what they’d like to build. Then after planners give feedback, the builders and architects can hone in on the details and submit a formal site plan and pay the associated review fees. These processes can take weeks and there are only days left before the green roof ordinance goes into effect.

“We highly suggest that any project that has already completed their concept phase and seeks to submit their formal site plan this year do so no later than Dec. 22 to guarantee that it can be logged in, and an invoice issued and paid, before the deadline,” Swartz said.

It’s not uncommon for developers to rush to try to avoid new rules going into place. Last year, Mayor Michael Hancock established an affordable housing fund to help create or preserve 6,000 affordable homes for low- to moderate-income families. The fund was financed by property tax revenue and an impact fee on new development after Jan. 1, 2017.

To avoid the new rules developers could file building or site development plans, including at the concept phase, by Jan. 1. It appears there was a slight uptick in plans submitted near the end of the year.

There’s a chance city planners could see an uptick in roof permit applications before the end of the year from building owners looking to replace their roofs before the green roof rules go into effect.

Roof permits can be applied for online at any time of day or night through Dec. 31 to be exempt from the green roof requirement. For all permits, work must commence within 60 days from the date of permit issuance.

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.