Managed Natural Landscape Ordinance Passes
The Managed Natural Landscape or "tall grass" ordinance I authored passed the Council unanimously this morning.
This action represents the City's formal rules catching up with both the current best practices of our staff and the evolving aesthetics around yards in Minneapolis neighborhoods.
Prairie plantings, whether native or not, have a number of real advantages over standard turf grass lawns. They have deeper roots, which means they more effectively wick storm water into the ground, helping the City's goal of decreasing storm water quantity and improving storm water quality. They typically require fewer artificial inputs, such as pesticide, fertilizer, and the energy required to mow. They sequester more atmospheric carbon, and create more biodiversity and habitat for beneficial species like monarch butterflies.
Many purposeful prairie plantings already exist in Minneapolis. As of today, they have legal standing. Our inspections staff have been very responsive to natural landscapes, allowing residents to cultivate them even without the official imprimatur of our ordinances. I believe that today's action will help them communicate with people who have prairie plantings and people who complain about them. It makes clear to staff that the Council strongly supports allowing residents to cultivate well-managed prairie plantings. I expect this to drive some process improvements within housing inspections, including additional training for all inspectors on the differences between managed natural landscapes and turf grass lawns that are not being maintained.
I have two main hopes for the impact that this ordinance will have. The first is that there will be fewer of the incidents that have unfortunately happened about once per year since I took office in 2006, in which the City has mowed the purposeful planting of a Second Ward resident.
The second hope is that more Minneapolis residents will change part or all of their yards to managed natural landscapes, for all of the environmental benefits above - and the additional aesthetic benefit that beautiful prairie grasses, flowers and other plants bring.