Item Coversheet

 Item 5.

TO: Sustainability Resiliency Committee Meeting

Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager

DATE: December 11, 2017


Tom Mooney , Planning Director | Flavia Tonioli, Sustainability Manager
Item C4E - September 25, 2017 Commission Meeting
Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman
On September 13, 2017, the City Commission referred a discussion item to the Sustainability and Resiliency Committee (SRC) to consider an amendment to the City Code to allow greater usage of artificial turf by residents, to match advancements in technology that have made artificial turf systems more permeable than natural turf. This item is sponsored by Vice Mayor John Elizabeth Aleman.  On October 30, 2017, the SRC directed the Administration to draft an ordinance that would allow for artificial turf in rear yards and continued the discussion to December 11, 2017. 


The City’s Land Development Regulations (LDRs) require the use of natural growing plant material within all required setbacks. Additionally, the recently adopted changes to Chapter 126 of the LDR’s (landscaping) establish minimum landscape standards and include limits to allowable lawn (natural grass) areas, to promote a greater diversity of native plant material. 


Under the LDR’s, artificial turf and/or synthetic grass is permissible in areas outside of the minimum required yard setbacks, as well as an allowable encroachment within a required yard. Any placement of artificial grass within a required yard, which is beyond the allowable encroachment limitations detailed in the LDR’s, requires a land use board variance. 
The draft ordinance (Attachment A) provides for artificial grass to be utilized in the rear yards of single family homes in place of natural grass. The use of artificial grass would be subject to the same limitations of natural grass, including a limitation that it not exceed 50% of required open space on the property. The proposed use of artificial grass would be reviewed and approved by staff, rather than require land use board approval.

The draft ordinance requires that artificial grass be installed as a system that would allow for drainage that equals or exceeds that of natural grass. Additionally, the proposed ordinance would require that the owner submit an affidavit agreeing to maintain the artificial turf in good working order, as the artificial grass systems tend to clog over time, reducing their permeability, and creating the potential for flooding during rain events.

The following is a summary of the proposed regulations for the allowance of artificial grass in required rear yards:

Artificial grass areas may be permitted within required rear yards in single family zoning districts, in accordance with the following:

a. Artificial grass shall be allowed as an alternative to lawn grass and shall count towards the maximum lawn area as described in Attachment B.

b. Artificial grass shall be installed as a system that is pervious and contributes to storm drainage. The permeability shall be equal to or greater than that of natural grass.

c. Landscape permit plans shall be provided with artificial grass system specifications, sections and details for review and approval by planning department staff.

d. Applicants shall provide an owner affidavit agreeing to perpetually maintain the artificial grass system in good working order in order to ensure that there is continued ground permeability.

Additionally, the Administration recommends that any artificial grass installed in the minimum required rear yard setback consist of the newer generation of plant-derived organic systems. These systems require fewer synthetic chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and health. Specifically, the Administration recommends that the following additional criterion be incorporated into the ordinance:

e. The artificial grass system shall utilize organic plant-derived components to the maximum extent feasible, including but not limited to cork, coconut, corn husk, and rice husk. The use of crumb rubber and other synthetic materials shall be minimized.


The Administration recommends that the Sustainability and Resiliency Committee discuss the item.  If there is consensus on the draft ordinance attached, it is further recommended that the item be transmitted to the full City Commission with a favorable recommendation, for transmittal to the Planning Board.

Attachment A Draft OrdinanceOrdinance
Attachment B Lawn Area TableOther