Highland Park's city council has decided to ban fake plastic grass from the town's front yards, a scourge which according to one city official has overtaken at least three (3) properties.
The Morning News reports that council members voted on the new ordinance on Monday. Artificial turf will still be allowed in "side yards and back yards," though, provided that you obtain a special permit and keep the stuff out of sight.
Andrew Barr, a city council member, told the DMN after the vote that fake grass is "not in keeping with the design and quality of design we want to have in our town." He added that the decision was made to "address this before it affects the neighbors and the general public."
Barr also told the paper he's concerned about increasing "non-permeable surfaces," which could potentially impact the storm water system, he says. A five-second Google search for "permeable fake grass" turns up any number of fake turf companies that bill their faux-grass as being "100 percent permeable." Thrillingly, we also discovered that there is an entire Association of Synthetic Grass Installers.
Highland Park development services manager Kirk Smith was quoted in the DMN article as saying there were three properties with artificial grass in town. Only three, really?
"No," Smith told us just now, a little testily. "I said approximately three."
Smith also objected strongly to our referring to the new ordinance as a "ban."
"It's not banned in the town," he said. "There are just provisions on where it can and can't be on the property. It can still be in the side and rear yards."
Smith said that "inquiries have been received for the last few years" from artificial grass-installers eager to install their artificial grass throughout Highland Park. That, he said, spurred staff discussions on regulating it.
Unlike council member Barr, Smith said, "runoff wasn't one of the considerations" city staff considered in making their recommendation. They also considered the upsides of fake grass, he said: "The proponent is irrigation water that doesn't have to be put on the yard, so you've got water conservation."
But ultimately, he added, the decision was made to limit the grass to side and backyards. Why?
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"I don't have an opinion on that," Smith replied. "I don't have a direct answer for that. That's going to be our council's decisions on where they wanted to see it and didn't want to see it."
Although there are approximately three fake grass-havers in town, Smith said, "I don't know that any exists in the front yards." If so, he said, "They're grandfathered in. There's no provision in the ordinance to make them remove any that's already installed."
Highland Park isn't the first town to ban plastic grass. That honor seemingly belongs to Glendale, California, who outlawed turf in November of last year, citing the "plastic and chemicals" used (but like HP, they still allow it in backyards, where plastic and chemicals don't count). City officials said they'd press criminal charges against anybody who refused to replace their plastic lawns; in late July, one stubborn holdout was reportedly "two weeks away" from having a case filed against him in L.A. County Superior Court.
Incidentally, if you're in Highland Park looking for the other kind of fake grass, that's still illegal too. Without asking them directly, we feel absolutely confident that Highland Park officials would advise you to just go straight for the real thing.