Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is against Green Roof Initiative, says it “goes too far too fast”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is opposing a citizen initiative on the November ballot that would require most new city buildings of at least 25,000 square feet to have gardens, solar panels or other “green roof” components, saying it “goes too far too fast.”

“While green roofs support many sustainability objectives, Initiative 300 is not the right approach for Denver,” Hancock said of the Green Roof Initiative in a letter this week to a few members of the Denver City Council. “By taking a mandate-only approach and eliminating the opportunity for options, the initiative would actually hinder efforts to pilot, promote, phase and incentivize green infrastructure, as is being done in many of our peer cities across the United States.”

Building and real estate interests opposed to the initiative have built up a 6-to-1 fundraising advantage over its backers, with $41,500 from four donors compared with $6,421.34 raised so far by the Green Roof Initiative committee.

“We also are very concerned about cost increases to construct and maintain priority projects such as affordable housing, the legality of several parts of the ordinance, and conflicts with existing city building codes,” Hancock wrote. “We would have much preferred to see a collaborative approach, which has become the hallmark of how we solve problems here in Denver.”

The mayor said he has worked to enact an agenda of sustainability during his time leading the city, including setting a goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and achieving 100 percent renewable-energy consumption in Denver.

A group of environmental activists who are backing the Green Roof Initiative responded Wednesday by saying that Denver has some of the worst air quality in the nation and that the benefits outweigh the costs in the long run.

“We understand that this will increase the cost of construction,” the backers wrote in a response to Hancock’s position. “Green roofs are more expensive to install and maintain. However, the roof membrane lasts two to three times as long and combined with the decrease in energy consumption will directly result in significant lower long-term operational costs.”

The backers of the initiative also called Hancock’s sustainability goals “empty promises” from a politician.

Groups in opposition to the initiative include the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, the Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors’ Opportunity Fund and the Denver Metropolitan Commercial Association of Realtors.

The initiative includes goals that would be among the nation’s most stringent.

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