Turf battle

Planning commissioners are right to balk at retroactive approval of a local developer’s use of artificial turf as a landscaping material.

September 5, 2011


Lawrence planning officials have a number of legitimate questions about the use of artificial turf as a landscaping material.

Not the least of those questions is why a developer would continue to install artificial turf around a new 96-unit apartment complex at 546 Frontier Drive after being specifically told by city inspectors that the material doesn’t comply with city standards.

The only answer that the developers of Tuckaway Apartments apparently had to offer was that they already had purchased the material and hoped that they could receive retroactive approval for its use.

It shouldn’t be news to a long-time local developer that that isn’t how the system works, and city officials shouldn’t hesitate to order the turf torn out if they determine it isn’t an appropriate landscaping material.

An architect for the apartment complex said the developers are “just absolutely sold on the product” because it requires no maintenance. He added he was confident that community residents would like the look of the product if they gave it a chance. Count planning officials among those who are unconvinced. They contend there are other more appropriate and attractive no- or low-maintenance landscaping methods that the apartment developers could use.

They also expressed concern over the long-term environmental impact of the material. Significant research, for instance, indicates that soil covered by artificial turf for long periods degrades and actually begins to die. Concerns over the environmental impact and appearance of the material warrant at least some serious study and discussion.

The other issue involves the precedent of allowing a developer to knowingly violate city regulations and then retroactively seek “forgiveness” for that action. There is no question that the developers knew the artificial turf didn’t meet city standards, but rather than tear it out or even stop installing it after being notified by city inspectors, they ignored the warning and kept installing.

The arrogance of that action shouldn’t go unnoticed by planners or Lawrence city commissioners who will have the final say on a rule change to allow the artificial turf. Developers likely will try to work out a compromise on the issue, but city officials should base their decisions on the use of artificial turf on what is best for the city and the environment and not the developer’s pocketbook.


bevy 2 years, 7 months ago

What about pet waste? Are they going to install a pet area with real grass, where the, ahem, pet byproducts will degrade naturally?


oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 7 months ago

How does the city's "Registered Vegation" ordinance read? What is it exaclty and where is it being used and who has registered, addresses please?

Does artificial turf create water run off and if so, why not leave it and charge more for the stormwater fee. After all, this whole thing is about money and landscaping businesses that are not working and making money.

Could Mr. McCullough cite some instances in the Maricopa county where artificial turf was used in place of "desert landscaping"? I am sure he will recall some instances.


thuja 2 years, 7 months ago

"Well, it's certainly not irreplaceable as new soil is generated naturally as a process of geology." jaywalker

The main surface processes of geology are erosion and deposition. Soil, on the other hand, tends to form only where neither of these processes are working actively.

Soil is a mix of minerals, organisms, and organic and mineral matter in various stages of decay. Geologists don't study soil. Geographers do.

Bozo is correct, soil is absolutely irreplaceable. Do you like to eat? There are plenty of places where the Save the Endangered Soil movement is alive and well, China comes to mind immediately.


classclown 2 years, 7 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies…

As a matter of fact, worldwide we're losing billions of tons of topsoil every year-- and it's an absolutely irreplaceable resource.


That's not true. It is replaceable. It just takes a real long time


jaywalker 2 years, 7 months ago

"Significant research, for instance, indicates that soil covered by artificial turf for long periods degrades and actually begins to die."

Are we about to have a Save the endangered Soil movement? Might be taking things a tad too far.


boxers_or_briefs 2 years, 7 months ago

Great editorial LJW. I couldn't have said it better.

Just how many times can they build/install something without getting the city's approval first?

Say no city! Make them rip it out. Enough is enough.


JustNoticed 2 years, 7 months ago

Well, thanks for noticing and putting on the dudgeon, JW. But isn't this really just business as usual? Or maybe this really is so much more egregious that you think it's worth taking a stand about, probably so. After all, they can't claim ignorance in this case. But were you excited at all about the towers on top of that hideous homage to 19th Century factories that sits on top of the Hill now? I don't recall. You know what I'm talking about and I think it's the same architect, Mr. Werner. Sorry to be harsh, Paul, but it's truly an ugly building in many, many ways. And the towers were not on the plan that was approved - just another little oops they got away with. Anyway, thanks for speaking up about this.


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