Community standards for appearance: city officials attempt to clarify landscaping rules
City officials may not yet be able to define what a weed is, but have said they know it when they see it.
To clarify the rules for code enforcement purposes and to further the goal of beautifying the city, South Salt Lake City officials--including members of the City Council and Urban Livability Department--are working on new definitions and regulations to govern landscaping practices within residential neighborhoods.
South Salt Lake City Urban Livability Director Glenn Smith said residents have had questions about the rules for keeping their yards up to city code. Those questions have included issues about the basic definition of what a weed is.
“There’s a need for some clarifications,” Smith said.
Currently, the rules for landscaping practices in the city have been modeled on Salt Lake County codes and regulations.
For example, residents have been expected to keep their yards trimmed so that the ground cover, with the exception of trees and shrubs, didn’t grow any taller than 6 inches high.
The rules governing what type of ground cover could be planted along the parking strips in front of residents’ homes were narrow and excluded decorative rock and concrete.
But some residents concerned with their neighbors’ yard work and the look of their community have suggested that those basic rules don’t address the problem of plants such as creeping morning glories in the yard, ivy or excessive dandelions, which are low to the ground but some still consider undesirable.
In addition, if a homeowner let the yard die there was no rule in the code to enforce.
South Salt Lake City Planner Michael Florence, who is currently working to draft a new landscaping ordinance, said the new city regulations would clarify the question about weeds, but also encourage water conservation and help to beautify the city.
“This ordinance isn’t being written just to require maintenance,” Florence said.
Xeriscaping, or the practice of landscaping with drought-tolerant plants instead of grass, could be written into the new ordinance so that residents might have the option to use water to keep their yard healthy.
An early version of the new landscaping ordinance went before the South Salt Lake City Planning Commission on May 19 and received a favorable recommendation, but was sent back to be reworked when it was presented before the South Salt Lake City Council.
The council could revisit the issue in July.
“Our goal is to have [a new ordinance approved] by the end of July,” Florence said.
In the meantime, for more information about the current rules on landscaping within city neighborhoods, or to report a code violation, residents may call South Salt Lake City Code Enforcement at 801-483-6000.