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Landscapers Fight Southeast Water Rules

David Garmon, co-owner of Metrolina Landscape, walks past a irrigation flag atop the light rail parking deck where he and his crew had planned to put down Bermuda sod. Local rules banning turf irrigation quashed the job, however.

North Carolina landscapers and irrigation professionals are fighting back against water restrictions they say threaten to put them out of business. Water limits have caused layoffs of 30 percent of the sector's 151,000 workers statewide, an industry group says.

Many businesses will fold, the group says, if conservation rules get tougher.

Landscapers say they will ask Charlotte City Council for relief. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities says it will stand firm on its restrictions.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities banned lawn watering and the use of sprinklers Sept. 26, in the midst of the fall planting season.

Landscapers Unfairly Targeted?

As a Fort Mill, S.C., council member, Ken Starnes voted for water restrictions in late 2007. As owner of Shamrock Landscaping, such restrictions cost him half his business and 18 of 100 employees who were laid off or quit over shortened hours.

He regrets his vote now.

Mecklenburg County landscape businesses claim the county's water rules punish them unfairly.

The utility may grant exceptions, but only when lenders require new landscaping as a condition of closing the sale of new homes.

"We don't understand why Coca-Cola isn't being told to cut back 10 percent when we're being cut back 100 percent," said David Garmon, co-owner of Metrolina Landscape. "All we're asking for is some equity."

Business Down 40 Percent

Maeneen Klein, the utility's conservation coordinator, said the utility isn't picking on landscapers. Pool builders and other industries have also been hurt, she said.

"We're not targeting an industry," said Klein, who has met several times with landscapers. "We're eliminating uses that we consider discretionary."

A study last year by N.C. State University found that the state's "green" industry--landscapers, nurseries, well drillers, irrigation companies, Christmas tree growers--has an $8.6 billion annual economic impact. Revenue dropped 40 percent last year because of the drought, the state Green Industry Council says.

Source: Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

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October 17, 2019, 9:15 am PDT

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