A proposal to make Minneapolis safe for nontraditional yards advanced to the full City Council with nary a whisper of dissent.

A council panel Monday endorsed the proposal to allow natural landscapes as an alternative to lawns after environmental staff assured it that the plantings need to be both intentional and maintained. In other words, not merely turf grass gone wild, according to Daniel Huff, a city environmental supervisor.

That opens the door for property owners to plant native and exotic grasses, wildflowers, forbs, ferns, shrubs or trees without running afoul of the city's 8-inch height limit on grasses. But those lawns can't include state-defined noxious weeds.

The approval follows several well-publicized scalpings of natural landscapes ordered by city inspectors. "I hope we can avoid that now," said Council Member Cam Gordon, who oversaw a task force that developed the proposal.

Adherents of natural landscapes say they reduce the use of water and chemicals, hold soil and runoff, promote biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide habitat for wildlife such as birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects and species. But nobody testified for or against the proposal, which the full council is scheduled to vote on Sept. 2.

Although the proposed ordinance doesn't require it, Huff said that the city encourages owners of natural landscapes to post informational signs both for the benefit of inspectors and to educate neighbors.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438