Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Town Talk: A real debate over artificial turf; plans for old Varsity House up for approval; new pottery-making business opens on Iowa Street

August 24, 2011

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News and notes from around town:

• Here’s a question for you: During this hot summer, would fake grass spur real envy? It is always green, it never needs mowing, it never calls for water. So, I can see how it may sound appealing to some, but it is not winning many rave reviews from Lawrence-Douglas County planners at the moment.

If you remember, we reported in May that an apartment development by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel was using the artificial turf instead of sod. We also reported that the development — which is replacing the old Boardwalk Apartments in West Lawrence — had jumped the gun. The developers mistakenly thought the city’s code allowed the use of the artificial turf, but it does not.

Now, Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioners are being asked to rewrite the code to allow the ever-green grass. Planning commissioners will consider the issue at their 6:30 meeting this evening at City Hall. The request may have an uphill battle. The city’s planning staff is recommending against the use of artificial turf. Planners say they recognize the desire to have a low-maintenance landscape in certain situations, but they said there are plenty of natural options that require very little water or care. The staff report also expressed concern that artificial turf “contributes nothing to the environment and does not function as living components of green infrastructure.”

The report also brought up concerns that the turf degrades the quality of the underlying soil and that it is not easily recycled once it wears out — which might be in about 15 years.

Artificial turf recently installed at the Tuckaway Apartments at Frontier in West Lawrence.

Artificial turf recently installed at the Tuckaway Apartments at Frontier in West Lawrence.

Lawrence architect Paul Werner has pushed for the rule change, saying the reduction in water usage, pesticides and fertilizer are important considerations. The city’s planning staff did find that there are several communities that the allow the use of the product in certain situations, but most of those communities are far from here and are in areas that receive significantly less rain than Lawrence.

Planning commissioners will get their say on the subject tonight, but ultimately city commissioners will debate the topic in the coming weeks.

As for what happens to the artificial turf that already has been installed at the apartment complex, it potentially could have to be removed. There’s also a chance, I think, it could be granted a variance even if the rules aren’t changed. That all will play out later.

• A quick bit of trivia or whatever you want to call it. The former Boardwalk Apartments — where this fake grass has been installed — was of course the site of a tragic fire several years ago. What you may not remember is the name of one of the streets that ran along the edge of the Boardwalk complex. It was Fireside Drive. That has always been kind of eerie. Well, it won’t be any longer. The apartment developers have asked the city to change the name of the street to Frontier Lane. City commissioners have agreed to the change. The apartment complex was the only property that had an address of Fireside Drive, so the name change shouldn’t be much of a problem for other people.

• Also up for discussion tonight at the Planning Commission is the future of the old Varsity House at 1043 Indiana St. Planning commissioners are tentatively scheduled to consider a rezoning request and preliminary development plan that would allow the old home to be move down the block a bit to make way for a new apartment complex.

Renderings of a proposed apartment development at 1043 Indiana Street. The project would incorporate the old Varsity House property, shown on the right edge of the rendering, and add new apartment units.

Renderings of a proposed apartment development at 1043 Indiana Street. The project would incorporate the old Varsity House property, shown on the right edge of the rendering, and add new apartment units.

The project calls for five one-bedroom apartments, 41 two-bedroom apartments, 4 three-bedroom apartments, and the old Varsity House would be converted into a boarding house with six bedrooms. The whole project would have two levels of underground parking, which would be a new feature for apartments in the crowded Oread Neighborhood. Planning staff members are recommending approval of the rezoning and the development plan. Whether the Planning Commission really ends up debating the project tonight, though, is uncertain. That’s because the project’s design needs to win approval from the city’s Historic Resources Commission. That group was supposed to consider the plan last week, but the meeting was canceled because a quorum of the group’s members were not available for the meeting. Ultimately, this project also will end up before the City Commission.

• If Planning Commission items aren’t your thing, maybe pottery-making is. (They both can get kind of squishy at times.) There’s a new business that’s up and running aimed at getting people involved with pottery-making. Muddy Waters Studio has opened in the Hillcrest Shopping Center at Ninth and Iowa. (Now that I think about it, Muddy Waters Studio wouldn’t be a bad name for City Hall either.) The business is around the corner and south of The Merc. The business offers seven-week classes for both adults and children. It also rents out studio space to established artists on a monthly basis. Owner Kara McKamey previously operated studios back in Vermont and New York before moving to Lawrence. She said so far interest has been strong in the business. She said people like the idea of learning an art that is functional, and both kids and adults are taking to the idea.

“It has been really neat to see how many adults want to just learn something for themselves,” McKamey said.

The multi-week classes range in price from about $125 to $185, depending on the class.

Comments

Brock Masters 3 years, 11 months ago

As for the artificial grass, it sounds like it might be better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. If the ordinance is not changed they should have to rip it out. No forgiveness for not following rules or you just encourage others to do the same.

boxers_or_briefs 3 years, 11 months ago

Tear it out. I suspect they knew they were trying to get one past the city when they were installing it...like the cell towers at the Oread...or the Eldrige flag pole...or the fountains at Hutton Farms.......

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

"Let's make Fritzel a deal, put this crap around his house in Fall Creek first."

I like it. Except he'd probably do it just to get the ordinance he wants, and then tear it out and plant grass.

anonymous88 3 years, 11 months ago

He has artificial turf at his house...that is the first place that he put it.

anonymous88 3 years, 11 months ago

He has artificial turf outside for his dog runs

frankfussman 3 years, 11 months ago

Mets pitcher Tug McGraw, on whether he prefers grass to AstroTurf: “I don’t know. I’ve never smoked AstroTurf.”

frankfussman 3 years, 11 months ago

Pottery making: Sunfire Ceramics, 1002 NH, 749-2828 (in the old Phillip's 66 station) http://www.sunfire-ceramics.com/ Among other items on the website: Clay Workshop Options Choose form a variety of Handmade Clay Projects including Garden Art, Masks, Candle Holders, Birdhouses and Feeders, Boxes and like these pictures show Marvelous Mirrors to create. We provide all of the materials and the instruction. You finish with the painting and then we fire the works to be the bright and beautiful masterpieces they become. The project prices range from $12 to $16 depending on the size. We recommend ages 10 through adult for these workshops. To arrange a Clay Workshop for your group or party we require a minimum of 6 or more people. The maximum would be around 12 to 15 people.

kernal 3 years, 11 months ago

Please don't misunderstand Frank's post; it's not about learning how to make pottery, but it is about painting precast clay items. That sounds like a fun thing to do for a girl's birthday party and a brownie or girl scout troop.

frankfussman 3 years, 11 months ago

My mistake. It is about painting -- not making -- pottery.

jayneway 3 years, 11 months ago

There's already artificial turf around exterior of The Oread Hotel, especially the southwest corner and west facing areas of the hotel grounds.

kufan1146 3 years, 11 months ago

Exactly what I was going to say. It sure does look funny in the dead of winter.

Chad Lawhorn 3 years, 11 months ago

You are correct. It was granted an administrative variance from the code, in part because there was concern about traditional vegetation surviving in that high traffic location. It also was installed prior to receiving city approval, according to the planning department's staff report on the subject.

I also meant to mention in the article that none of this artificial turf discussion impacts its usage for sports fields. That is covered under a different set of regulations, and is legal.

Thanks, Chad

WilburM 3 years, 11 months ago

"Lawrence architect Paul Werner has pushed for the rule change..." Oh, you mean the guy who gave us the Leavenworth Penitentiary West (The Oread)? By all means, let him do whatever he wants with that great building on his resume.

anonymous88 3 years, 11 months ago

Paul Werner did not design the Oread...a firm out of Kansas City did...although he did get it approved.

WilburM 3 years, 11 months ago

thx, but you sure anyone actually designed it?

bornherelongago 3 years, 11 months ago

Is it legal to put it in residentiaal yards? I've driven by the Boardwalk site and it is beautiful...especially compared to the ugly, over grown, burned out grass of nearby neighbors. i'd say it's a beautification project and also like the idea of no maintenance, no pesticides and water saving. If it's legal for yards, I'm looking into it for my own yard and I think I can overlook the fact that it looks "weird" during the winter months. But I'm also guessing it's not cheap to install. Let them keep it...change the ordinance and bring on the beauty!

boxers_or_briefs 3 years, 11 months ago

anonymous88 must be on the Fritzel payroll.

I remember when I first moved to Lawrence and the Fritzel name meant quality construction. Now...not so much.

irvan moore 3 years, 11 months ago

variances are for rich connected people, of course they should get one.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

"The developers mistakenly thought the city’s code allowed the use of the artificial turf, but it does not." Absolute nonsense.

I don't believe it for one second. This family of developers has been around town for how long?

Jean Robart 3 years, 11 months ago

It's artificial turf by law in Las Vegas--shortage of water.

ivalueamerica 3 years, 11 months ago

In california they once offered tax benefits to properties that would lay gravel in their yard and paint it green. In fact, a fair number of homes still do it today though they stopped the program, anyone who was in it can stay in it. Not many left, thank goodness, ugly as hell.

Hoots 3 years, 11 months ago

He installed it at The Oread as well but no one said anything about that.

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