Archive for Thursday, August 25, 2011

Planning commissioners recommend developer cut the artificial grass at new Lawrence apartment complex

August 25, 2011


Don’t tell Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence — not if it is artificial grass, anyway.

Developers of a new West Lawrence apartment complex were one step closer Thursday to being required to tear out thousands of dollars of artificial turf that they installed as landscaping at the Tuckaway Apartments at Frontier. Planning commissioners on Wednesday evening balked at changing city rules to allow the use of artificial turf as a replacement for traditional grass.

“It is just a lesser alternative in our view,” said Planning Director Scott McCullough, who recommended against the use of artificial turf. “There are other methods out there that have the same benefit of low maintenance but are more beneficial to the environment.”

Paul Werner, a Lawrence architect for the apartment complex, said he anticipates having further discussions with the city to see if a compromise on the product can be reached. The rule change before planning commissioners would have allowed the widespread use of artificial turf in both commercial and residential lawns. Werner said he doesn’t think that is feasible because the product costs more than three times as much as traditional sod. But Werner said he thinks the product can be used in some limited situations. He also thinks the community would like the look of the product, if it were given a chance.

“We would agree that it shouldn’t be used everywhere,” Werner said. “I kind of think this is like when fake stone started being used on buildings several years ago. It looked really good, but then when you found out it was fake, you didn’t like it.”

Planning commissioners rejected the rule change on a 6-2 vote. City commissioners ultimately will make a final ruling on the issue, unless the development group — which is led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel — withdraws the request in an effort to come up with a new compromise.

Werner didn’t provide an estimate on how much the development group spent on installing the turf, but it was used as lawn material around all of the buildings of the 96-unit apartment complex at 546 Frontier Road. Developers began installing the artificial turf, believing that it was allowed in the city’s code. When city inspectors notified them that artificial turf wasn’t allowed, developers continued installing the turf — which they had already purchased — with the hope regulations could be changed.

“The developer and the owner of the complex are just absolutely sold on the product,” Werner said. “From a no-maintenance standpoint, no fertilizer, no pesticides. There are a ton of advantages to the stuff.”

But McCullough said the planning department believes there are plenty of natural plants and landscaping that can be used by people who want a low-maintenance alternative. Plus, McCullough said there is significant research that says the artificial turf degrades the underlying soil by keeping it covered for long periods of time.

“The soil essentially begins to die,” McCullough said. “If you wanted to use the soil again, it would take some rehabilitation.”

None of the proposed changes under discussion impact the ability to use artificial turf at various sports fields around town. That use is covered under a different set of regulations.

In other planning news, planning commissioners approved a preliminary development plan for a new apartment complex in the Oread neighborhood.

Commissioners unanimously approved plans for a new complex at 1043 Ind., which is the site of the old Varsity House property. The project will move the Varsity House about 200 feet to the north, which will make room for a new development that will include five one-bedroom apartments, 41 two-bedroom apartments, and four three-bedroom apartments. 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. The project’s design, though, still must be approved by the Historic Resources Commission, which is tentatively scheduled to discuss it on Sept. 15. Historic preservationists have expressed concerns about moving the Varsity House, a 1908 home that got its name by serving as a boarding house for the KU football team in the 1950s.


Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 9 months ago

From the article: "unless the development group — which is led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel —"

Thanks, Chad

conservative 6 years, 9 months ago

Make them take out the artificial turf. It looks terrible as it is too bright even during the spring when real grass is green. It will look worse in the winter, plus when it gets older and rips or stains you know they won't be right there replacing it because "it costs so much"

LogicMan 6 years, 9 months ago

What happens to the surface after the dogs and other animals pee and poop on it, month after month? Won't the stuff accumulate, stink, become slippery, etc?

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

It's sad that an architect, who is trained with a view to aesthetics, would sacrifice his principles and education to advocate for the garish simply because its saves one of his wealthy clients a few long-term bucks.

missmagoo 6 years, 9 months ago

Oh please. You say they're protecting the soil.. they say they're protecting the earth against pestisides and polution from gas lawn mowers. Wah wahhhhh

mytwocents 6 years, 9 months ago

where does the rainwater go? doesn't there have to be a certain amount of permeable ground in the building codes around here? is artificial turf permeable? i have so many questions. and i want to take grass/snow pics there when the time comes! how bizarre!

zzgoeb 6 years, 9 months ago

Oh, the Green irony!!! It never has to be mowed(fuel burned in dirty lawnmowers), it never has to be sprayed for weeds or fertilized(chemicals into the water source)...yada, yada, yada....If this town is all about sustainability and '"being Green" this should be a no-brainer!!!

Kris_H 6 years, 9 months ago

Highly manicured green lawns should become a thing of the past. There are lots of options that don't have to be sprayed with anything. Plant the whole thing to native grasses and flowers and forget the lawn mowers. Yeah, it will look like an unmowed meadow, but I say "hurrah!" And the bees and butterflies will love it.

You could even plant sunflowers. :D

verity 6 years, 9 months ago

"Highly manicured green lawns should become a thing of the past."

I so agree with you.

It doesn't have to look like an unmown meadow. You can plant native flowers and ornamental grasses like you would an English cottage garden and it looks very kempt and beautiful. Besides only mowing once a year, after the plants are established you rarely have to water, don't have to fertilize or spray. Most of the weeds get crowded out.

Certainly better looking than the lawns this year.

Keith 6 years, 9 months ago

“We would agree that it shouldn’t be used everywhere,” Werner said. “I kind of think this is like when fake stone started being used on buildings several years ago. It looked really good, but then when you found out it was fake, you didn’t like it.”

He's probably responsible for all the fake stone and stucco too.

Austin Bergstrom 6 years, 9 months ago

Bring back the old much more attractive! I think the new complex looks awesome and I'm pretty sure most neighbors are much happier w/ the present day landscape even if a little of it is artificial! They still have a lot of plants and evergreens.

Kurt Stockhammer 6 years, 9 months ago

Let's not forget Someone has already pioneered getting away with using the stuff at the, uh, lovely Oread Inn.! Perhaps it'll be used at that Comfort Inn project, too! Is that also not somehow partly a related project as well? Perhaps here comes even more fake stone and stucco... All those Extra Hotels for little old Lawrence! Sorta like someone's playing Monopoly with waay more money than most anybody else gets to play with!! There also seems to be a penchant for using granite EVERYWHERE til it has just ho-hum allure, not to mention it being Very slippery and dangerous for college-rowdy use. Wow, it's like someone owns their own granite quarry or something! Some of my longtime established builder-contractor friends tell me they feel Someone should be fined heavily for all the, ehm, seemingly Non-Local Craftsmen that tend to be employed as well. Seems some Builders get their own set of rules, while many of our true Honest-Abe unsung local heroes do their best to tow the line for our Lawrence at huge disadvantage! Those poor, hard-to-understand Worker guys,... grinding all those marble countertops, inhaling all that fine dust..dangerously.hanging out of those huge towering skylifts... Doug C may not be that much more liked, but he seems about nine times more clever even with his eyes half-closed and his foot pinned underneath a car tire! My guess is that, once its finished, that new building of his behind the bank will be something Lawrence can't help but be proud of. Why, it even seems to be fully OSHA compliant. My compliments!

John Hamm 6 years, 9 months ago

WHAT?!?!? A Lawrence department wants a developer to redo something! Ah, that's okay the commissioners will halt this intrusion into "saving money."

John Hamm 6 years, 9 months ago

WHAT?!?!? A Lawrence department wants a developer to redo something! Ah, that's okay the commissioners will halt this intrusion into "saving money."

somedude20 6 years, 9 months ago

can we get some faux dog shhhh it to go with the fake grass. What do you prefer, astro turff or grass. Well, I have never smoked astro turff

Ronda Miller 6 years, 9 months ago

I believe grass, as a viable living organism, also produces oxygen - unlike stone and brick - they are paving paradise and putting in a parking lot of faux grass. No no no!!!!! If we're going green, let's make it real. Enough for what? Sustaining life!

lawslady 6 years, 9 months ago

"Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop. Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them for their own good."

While I would NEVER put fake grass in my own yard, when did we collectively decide that the GOVERNMENT should be able to dictate how our property looks to others? Be careful. Today this project. Tomorrow, some government clerk will be telling you that you may not plant your favorite flowering bush.

Rae Hudspeth 6 years, 8 months ago

Already there, lawslady.
No more moonflowers, or datura, because some daft kids were eating the seeds.

lamb 6 years, 9 months ago

This is absurd! There are too many regulations and rules here. I thought the complex looked very nice. Lots better than some of these complexes where the landscaping is not maintained and looks shabby.

OhHai 6 years, 9 months ago

Don't forget that the same development team installed this junk at the Oread.

irvan moore 6 years, 9 months ago

who were the 2 planning commissioners who voted for letting the developer keep the turf?

Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps we could spend some time instructing developers on what is green. Green is not plastic. Green is not lawns. Green is low maintenance. Green is alive. Green is cool. Green has diversity. Green in cheap, in the long run. What's not to like about "green"?

boxers_or_briefs 6 years, 9 months ago

"...When city inspectors notified them that artificial turf wasn’t allowed, developers continued installing the turf... "

Sounds like they could have avoided this if they had just listened. Make them tear it out city commisioners! They knew what they were doing what was wrong. Haven't the Fritzels built what they want instead of what's allowed long enough?

lawslady 6 years, 9 months ago

I love green. I do green. But I also do not like other people telling me (making me) do things the way they consider "right." So I return the favor and try to avoid forcing my values down the throats of others. Education is fine. Forcing the collective "Borg" mentality on everyone is a dangerous thing - even in matters where I happen to prefer the "borg" way of doing things.

opinion 6 years, 9 months ago

Pros and cons of the fake grass aside, intentionally going against an established code should be looked at. If you don't believe a restriction or requirement is a good one, fight it before moving forward. If the commish caves, they are inviting more and more of this activity.

Ricky_Vaughn 6 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence only pretends to be "progressive" and support sustainability. Deep down though, Lawrence is full of small town Republicans and college students.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

Which creates more pollution? Manufacturing astroturf to cover X square feet once or using a 2-stroke mower to cut the same area for years and years and years.

Kris_H 6 years, 9 months ago

You think the astro-oil-turf will last forever? Nope, will have to be replaced and replaced and replaced, at ever-increasing cost. I say natural grasses and perennials win every time.

We will probably need xeriscaping with sand, rocks and cacti anyway, the way things are going.

imisspattersonliquor 6 years, 9 months ago

I wonder how will it look when the grafitti monsters turn it into a mural.

sad_lawrencian 6 years, 9 months ago

When was the last time a Lawrence landlord or management company spent some money they didn't have to spend, and wound up improving the community a little? You know, you don't all have to be greedy all the time.

doc1 6 years, 9 months ago

McCullough is a colossal idiot. Less government needs to be this commissions focus. “The soil essentially begins to die,” McCullough said. “If you wanted to use the soil again, it would take some rehabilitation." Hey dummy what about the concrete that gets poured everywhere? You think in a bajillion years when they tear down that apartment complex they are going to be worried about dead earth below the turf? No they will bulldoze it all around and it will be fine.

BruceWayne 6 years, 9 months ago

I guess it could be worse, they could have been allowed to hang new condos off the side of a city owned parking garage.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Low low maintenance = nothing but maple trees in a Kansas landscape aka beautiful rock garden/ornamental grass setting = no mowing and damn little watering.

The Fritzel family know damn well how to do this. They do it well when they do it.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

Language, please, children might be reading this award-winning website.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 9 months ago

Funny how people want to dictate to others what they can do with their own property! It's no wonder there is no development going on in Lawrence! Too many rules and regulations! The Planning Department fights very hard to keep developers from developing and creating jobs!

Sunny Parker 6 years, 9 months ago

Like I said...It's a big fight to get anything done in good ol Lawrence

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