Palm Beach officials look to tighten rules on use of artificial turf

The City of Palm Beach could make it difficult for residents to use artificial turf in their yards due to environmental concerns.

The Committee on Regulations, Rules and Standards at its May 20 meeting called on city officials to draft an ordinance for the city council to consider in July that would regulate the use of artificial turf more strictly.

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Concern about artificial turf was raised last year by Councilor Bobbie Lindsay, who compared it to a “plastic carpet” that can reach temperatures of up to 200 degrees in summer and release harmful compounds into water over time.

Artificial turf also requires fossil fuel production and contains chemicals like acetone, arsenic and benzene, some of which have been shown to be carcinogenic, Lindsay said.

The ORS committee had planned to consider the matter last year, but meetings have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Committee chairwoman Julie Araskog said she hopes to educate the community about the damage artificial turf can cause.

“More and more residents are buying artificial turf. The problem is that, as a city, we don’t have enough studies on this. I think letters need to go to contractors and landscapers for further training, ”she said.

Lawn is preferred by landscapers and homeowners because it doesn’t require water, fertilizer, or pesticides and it looks better than natural grass. The material usually needs to be disinfected with biocides to avoid health risks from animal feces and bacteria.

Deputy City Administrator Jay Boodheshwar said the use of lawn is not banned in Palm Beach as it is in other cities in South Florida, but the city does not allow it to count towards the minimum open space requirement in the countryside, which is typically 45% of that Quantity.

If the lawn is visible from the street, it must be approved by the Architecture Commission and the Monument Protection Commission.

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Committee member Ted Cooney said artificial turf has become increasingly popular in the city and that some residents who have their gardens professionally landscaped are drawn to it.

“I really don’t know what balance to strike,” he said.

Cooney said the committee could reach out to Susan Lerner, director of the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation for Horticulture, and members of the Palm Beach Garden Club.

Araskog read from an article that said experts at the University of Florida do not think artificial turf is safe because it kills beneficial bacteria and microorganisms underground and is not recyclable.

She said she got rid of artificial turf in her own garden because when it got hot it smelled “like plastic”. She replaced it with grass.

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Planning and zoning director Wayne Bergman said the city is starting to see some residents get permits for a home and then remove large amounts of landscaping property to replace it with something else or nothing at all.

“There is currently nothing that would be a direct violation of the Code,” Bergman said. “Clearer language would help us and the residents.”

Araskog said the city’s use of artificial turf was “a long time coming”.

“I think we are a very green city and I think we are known for that. I don’t want us to limit ourselves to just hedges or trees, ”she said.

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