Archive for Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lawrence city commissioners to consider developers’ proposal to allow artificial turf for landscaping

The artificial turf is made of a plastic-like material that allows water to drain into the ground. In addition to the Tuckaway at Frontier Apartments, the turf is also in use at The Oread hotel.

The artificial turf is made of a plastic-like material that allows water to drain into the ground. In addition to the Tuckaway at Frontier Apartments, the turf is also in use at The Oread hotel.

May 5, 2011


A worker passes an island of fake sod installed at the Tuckaway at Frontier Apartments Thursday, May 5, 2011, as construction continues at the complex. Developers for the project are waiting to hear from city officials about the legality of landscaping with the artificial turf.

A worker passes an island of fake sod installed at the Tuckaway at Frontier Apartments Thursday, May 5, 2011, as construction continues at the complex. Developers for the project are waiting to hear from city officials about the legality of landscaping with the artificial turf.

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Artificial turf — soon you may no longer have to be a jock to call it home.

City Hall leaders are being presented with a proposal that would give businesses and apartment complexes the option of using artificial turf to meet city landscaping requirements rather than traditional grass.

In fact, developers with the new Tuckaway at Frontier apartment complex in west Lawrence already have started to install the synthetic turf, mistakenly thinking it was legal in the city code. Now, instead of removing the artificial turf, they’re asking planners to look at the potential benefits and change the city’s development regulations.

“It looks great,” said Paul Werner, a Lawrence architect working on the Tuckaway project, 546 Frontier Road, which is on the former site of the Boardwalk Apartments. “It needs no water. You don’t have to mow it, you don’t have to fertilize it, it has a long life. It is a real product, and we think it can be a viable alternative.”

Ultimately, city commissioners will be the judge of that. Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioners are expected to debate the development code change in June, and city commissioners would tackle the subject later in the summer — perhaps at about the time everybody has become thoroughly tired of mowing grass.

Scott McCullough, the city’s planning director, said his staff has quite a few questions to answer before then. McCullough said his staff will study how well the product allows water to drain, what the city’s authority would be to require replacement of the product if it gets damaged or discolored, and whether other communities have allowed the product.

“Really, I’m not sure what the implications would be to the community if we allowed it,” McCullough said. “That’s one of the things we’ll have to study.”

At least one other project in town has synthetic turf. The Oread hotel, 1200 Oread Ave., uses the product in small quantities near its entrances. Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel was a developer of that project and also is a developer of the apartments. Werner said Fritzel has become sold on the green aspects of artificial turf and also its cost benefits. Werner estimated artificial turf is more than five times as expensive to install than sod — it requires extensive grading and an underground drainage system — but he believes it will pay for itself in about five years due to the much lower maintenance costs.

Frank Male, an owner of Lawrence Landscape, said he thinks some homeowners might consider artificial turf in certain situations. He said he’s had clients consider it for small backyards that have too much shade to feasibly grow grass.

The proposed changes to city code won’t affect residential lawns — only projects that require a site plan. But McCullough said that a quick review of the residential regulations regarding lawns doesn’t make clear whether the product currently is allowed.

“That’s probably a question we’ll have to answer,” he said.

Male said his company likely won’t oppose the proposed changes to city code. Instead, he said the company may learn to install the product, saying he could see how it could be a benefit in high-traffic areas where grass gets trampled to death.

“We’re always looking for opportunities,” Male said. “Maybe we’ll jump on the bandwagon.”

That’s not to say, though, that Male thinks it is going to be a real big wagon.

“I guess it all depends on what you want,” Male said. “There is nothing quite like going out with your puppy dog or your child and rolling around in the yard. I’m pretty sure grass is not going out of business anytime soon.”


sallyone 4 years, 4 months ago

I think that this sounds like an excellent idea!

boxers_or_briefs 4 years, 4 months ago

Why? They put FAKE PLASTIC grass in without getting the citys approval first? You'd think they would know the codes by now. The Fritzel family has been building/developing in Lawrence for decades and Paul Werner has been an architect in Lawrence for over 25 years.

nowthetruth 4 years, 4 months ago

Typical Fritzel move..... do what he wants and then plead ignorance. He and his family have been developing and building in this city for decades, don't insult the city by saying you "didn't know". I call BS!

Janis Pool 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't care who is the builder, or how easy it may be to maintain, or how cost effective, NO!!!!!
We already do so very much to destroy what was created for us. What will the long term cost be to our grandchildren who don't have enough oxygen to breathe because they live in a plastic world.
City officials take heed, you open this up and it will be very difficult to close.

tanaumaga 4 years, 4 months ago

Your grandchildren will surely use one of those push reel mowers as well....and water the yard with their bath water....and only natural fertilizer from the toilet, and dog, and cows, and horses. Thank you poolside, for saving our planet.

boxers_or_briefs 4 years, 4 months ago

Just how many times can Paul Werner/Thomas Fritzel build/install something without getting the ciy's approval first? They have done it for years (Hutton Farms fountains and buildings too close together, Eldridge Flag Pole on Roof, Cell phone towers on Oread and now artificial turf instead of grass.)

Say no city! Make them rip it out until they have gotten approval from the city. Enough is enough.

Paul Werner should be ashamed. He says he was mistaken? He knew exactly what they were installing and did nothing about it until the city said something. I sure wouldn't hire him if he makes these kinds of mistakes.

JustNoticed 4 years, 4 months ago

"...mistakenly thinking it was legal in the city code." What a joke. Unbelievably cynical and without shame.

lounger 4 years, 4 months ago

Well put consumer1. Oil products not only leach into groundwater but are another reason NOT to like artificial turf. A plastic world doesnt solve everything! Just fill the space with native flowers and prairie so they do well and dont drink loads of water-sheesh!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

consumer1 - I think we need fake people too, so we don't feel so alone.

Joe Hyde 4 years, 4 months ago

Install artificial turf at an apartment complex, first thing some drunk or disgruntled renter will do is squirt a can of charcoal lighter on it and set it afire. Result? If nothing else, more smoke than a Flint Hills pasture burnoff, and 10 times as harmful to inhale.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

Yea, a typical Fritzel/Werner/Compton move-- better to ask forgiveness for breaking the rules than to ask for permission.

There likely are situations where artificial turf makes good sense, but there is much to consider, and I doubt that any sensible policy can written in a couple of days.

But the movers and shakers don't want sensible policy, that want carte blanche to do whatever they please.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 4 months ago

What will this plastic lawn look like after 2 summers in the Kansas sun? I'll bet the "developer" wont be around to clean up that mess.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 4 months ago

What will this plastic lawn look like after 2 summers in the Kansas sun? I'll bet the "developer" wont be around to clean up that mess.

doc1 4 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

doc1's was a pretty silly post, but why was it removed?

pizzapete 4 years, 4 months ago

Yea, why should someone know the laws and regulations of their given profession?

ivalueamerica 4 years, 4 months ago

This might make sense in some high drought prone areas or deserts, but not in Lawrence

Mike Myers 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey Paul, as soon as you put it in at your house....

tonytman 4 years, 4 months ago

what is my dog going to think of it and will he use it

tonytman 4 years, 4 months ago

Oh But i do clean up after him just like i want others to do when there dog uses my yard or my city grounds

justoneperson 4 years, 4 months ago

One of the greatest things about the city of Lawrence is the green-space. I have lived other places (without the abundance of grass, trees, parks, etc.) and it's just depressing.

That "grass" at the Oread looks terrible, and I LMAO every time I see it.

It's not just about looking like you have grass, it about actually having grass. Changing this would totally undercut the point of that stipulation being there in the first place. Why not allow LEGO-like trees and shrubs while we're at it?

Kontum1972 4 years, 4 months ago

why dont we do the whole town.......trees and all.... what else does he have thats artificial?.......LoL......hmmmmmmmmmm!

purplesage 4 years, 4 months ago

Why would this even be an issue? Sounds like too much regulation, once again. People complain about exhaust from lawn mowers, the problem of the clippings getting into storm sewers, streams and rivers?

Makes no sense.

gudpoynt 4 years, 4 months ago

Her green plastic watering can For her fake Chinese rubber plant In the fake plastic earth That she bought from a rubber man In a town full of rubber plans To get rid of itself

Ralph Reed 4 years, 4 months ago

@none2: Well done. I wondered how long it would take for someone to bring up drainage and water absorption. "...paving paradise and putting up a parking lot..."

gudpoynt 4 years, 4 months ago

The only thing more American than a perfectly manicured lawn that serves no practical purpose, is one made of plastic.

God bless America, the home of the paved.

optimist 4 years, 4 months ago

"...a quick review of the residential regulations regarding lawns doesn’t make clear whether the product currently is allowed."

This is still a free country. If there is not a specific and legitimate regulation restricting its use then I would automatically assume that it is allowed. In the absence of prohibition the obvious answer is that a free person should exercise their private property rights freely.

boxers_or_briefs 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm guessing that the submitted site plan showed turf areas not artificial turf areas.

BorderRuffian 4 years, 4 months ago

What'll they think of next - re-introducing polyester double-breasted leasure suits and vinyl leather-look shoes?

John Landon 4 years, 4 months ago

The city inspector passed the Ored and gave occupancy to them why would you not think it was ok to do it somewhere else. People would much rather drive around town and look at ugly lawns with weeds and no grass and gripe when you use herbicides to control them. I say Put turf down and save my $4 a gallon gas for my taxes and the school to spend. Worry about something that matters.

justoneperson 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm not seeing the connection between artificial grass, gas prices, and your taxes...

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

"use herbicides to control them."

It is believed by some experts that there is a direct relationship between herbicide use and cancer.

But of course, no one is concerned about that until either they or a friend or family member has a good case of it.

Ken Harris 4 years, 4 months ago

Lots of info out there about the heat-island effect with artificial turf.

In one study they determined that the artificial turf was 37 degrees hotter than asphalt and 85 degrees hotter than natural turf.

gudpoynt 4 years, 4 months ago

yeah, i remember when the put grass back in at Arrowhead. They said it reduced the temp on the field by at least 20 degrees.

justoneperson 4 years, 4 months ago

Good point, wasn't this part of the reason those football players had the burns during the Mangino reign?

kansasredlegs 4 years, 4 months ago

Saw that Dillons recently had a huge sale for plastic Pink Flamingo, therefore, plastic grass mandates plastic pink flamingos.

btw: When the City was out there inspecting the grass, why didn't someone tell the developer to put a cover on its manhole. Well, to be completely honest, the developer did a few days later place a wood pallet on top to hide it. As of yesterday, still no manhole lid.

Stop being cheap and complacent, go ask your attorneys how much it would cost if a child falls in that open manhole and drowns.

davetheturfguy 4 years, 4 months ago

All of you are from your local community, so I have to say that it is impressive how many comments were put here in one day. You guys take a lot of pride in your community, that's very cool. Being a synthetic turf manufacturer, I have to share with you some good honest information about the product in general. I cannot comment on the products installed in your community as I know we did not supply them. Here's some real facts: 1. Synthetic turf does get hot, but landscape grass does not get as hot as athletic field grass which is filled with tons of black crumb rubber. 2. The newest synthetic turfs made today are incredibly realistic looking, some of the older styles or cheaper grass does look tacky, I agree, but you actually have to get down on your hands and knees to tell whether the better turfs are real or plastic. 3. All the grass in the world only produces 3% of the oxygen in the world. Natural grass does not do a good job of photosynthesis. I would not worry about the oxygen impact of putting synthetic turf in areas where grass won't grow anyway. 4. Several of your comments were spot on - it is not for everywhere. Synthetic turf is a good alternative for areas where you can't grow grass due to foot traffic or environmental or site specific conditions. We do not advocate using it where native plants or other natural grasses can grow successfully. 5. Synthetic turf is environmentally friendly, it is not a green product because it is not made of recycled materials (yet). Synthetic turf typically lasts about 15 years. Most environmentalists who have looked at it have concluded that the 15 years of savings in fresh water, no mower emissions and no fertilizers and pestcides in the ground far outweigh the environmental costs of someday that turf being in a landfill. (You'll find these studies on the web just like I did, don't need to take my word for it.)

Finally, I have no vested interest in your local situation, I have never sold turf in your community and probably never will. I was just impressed by the number of people who took their time to voice their opinion and decided to share some facts about synthetic turf. When you put your emotions to the side and look at it objectively, there is definitely a place for synthetic turf when used appropriately. It looks a lot better than mud and burnt out grass and those are the places it should be used in. Good luck to you guys and getting this resolved, but do continue your debate with facts in hand. If you want more information about the product, we offer a free consumer guide on our web site, perfectturfinc dot com. Thanks - Dave

davetheturfguy 4 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, should have mentioned that. Drainage is always considered first and foremost. Typically the water goes through the turf, through the rock base and into the ground just like it would with natural grass. In cases where you want to direct water for storm water management or retention/detention requirements, those needs can be accommodated through turf, base and drainage design options.

jafs 4 years, 4 months ago

Interesting - thanks.

What if people don't water their grass, mow sparingly, and don't use fertilizers or pesticides?

I would think that tilts the environmental equation towards grass.

jafs 4 years, 3 months ago

I said sparingly, not never.

I try to mow every 2-3 weeks, as needed, rather than weekly.

tomatogrower 4 years, 4 months ago

These wonderful business moguls will do anything to keep from hiring human beings. I mean the fewer leachy employees, the more money they get to keep for themselves. I mean those trophy wives are hard to maintain, and the kids all need new sports cars for college. These people they hire to mow are always wanting to get paid, and maybe even get health insurance. And they actually want to have days off. Just too much trouble. Let them go on welfare.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 4 months ago

These people know what is allowed and what is not allowed. They have been in business for many many many years.

Installing something that may be in violation of the site plan is the real violation. BUT they figure if they have it installed the city commission will NOT make them correct the violation. These developers have every reason to believe that the city commission WILL NOT make them abide by the site plan..... it's happened so many times before.


So instead of using a material that may never decompose once it's lifetime has been reached why not install beautiful rock gardens with an Kansas ornamental grass or two. This is also very low maintenance and beautiful. These Fritzel folks can do a fine job with this application. Phoney green is ugly.

BTW the Fritzel folks are not stupid and know IF they are in violation of a site plan or not.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

The phoney turf at the Oread is quite obviously phoney as we have noticed walking by the place.

Why bring on more products that may never decompose? Radioactive waste is one such product.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 3 months ago

Using Astroturf cuts down on the planet-killing pollution of internal combustion lawn mowers. Not using more Astroturf would be dumb and irresponsible !!!!!!!!!

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