A red flag soon may be raised on artificial grass that stays green all year long.
Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday directed staff members to come up with code language that makes it clear the use of artificial turf at commercial and multifamily projects could happen on only a very limited basis and in small amounts when natural grass was unlikely to perform well.
“It is still a question of real versus fake,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter. “That’s what it comes down to.”
The question came before city commissioners after a development group led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel installed large amounts of artificial grass at the new Frontier Apartments at 546 Frontier Road in west Lawrence. City inspectors detected the artificial turf as it was being installed and alerted the group that it was not in compliance with city code. The city allowed the remaining turf to be installed with the understanding that the development group would seek a change in city regulations and would remove the turf if the code changes weren’t approved, said Planning Director Scott McCullough.
A representative for the development group said it was too early to say that the turf will need to be removed. Jane Eldredge, a Lawrence attorney, said she’ll want to see the final language proposed by staff before advising her clients on that matter.
“Change is never easy, and this is an evolving field,” Eldredge said. “It is a good application. That is why high schools are using more of it all the time. This really is an educational opportunity.”
City commissioners said they understood some of the environmental appeal of the product, which doesn’t need mowing, fertilizing or regular watering. But commissioners expressed concern about what will happen to the product as it ages and whether future city officials would face difficulty in forcing property owners to replace turf that has outlived its useful life.
Several commissioners, though, said they didn’t want to entirely ban the use of the product. The Oread hotel near Kansas University uses artificial grass in small strips near some of its sidewalks. Commissioners said a small use like that seemed appropriate, given that natural turf may have a hard time surviving in the high traffic area.
Commissioners are expected receive the new code language for consideration in the next several week. McCullough said his office would wait to deal with the Frontier Apartments issue until after that language is finalized. McCullough, though, told commissioners Tuesday night that he does not consider the installation of the turf at Frontier to be a limited use of the product.