Town may allow homeowners to use artificial turf

Community By David L. Snelling and Linda Trischitta Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Town of Miami Lakes may allow property owners to use artificial turf in place of paving in backyards.

The council unanimously approved a proposed ordinance after the first reading to revise the Land Development Code and will vote on it again on March 9.

Mayor Manny Cid said he supported the use of fake grass after a resident complained that sod didn’t survive in shade.

Cid said another resident didn’t want to remove artificial turf in areas of her yard.

That homeowner would likely be allowed to keep artificial turf installed in a decorative pattern in her driveway under the proposed ordinance.

Otherwise, the town won’t allow man-made material to be used in front yards.

Rudy Lloredo, chair of the Neighborhood Improvement Committee, said the group unanimously approved the ordinance with restrictions and that “dozens of residents” were seeking options, claiming it was expensive to replace damaged grass and maintain it each year.

Felicia Salazar, an architect who also serves on the town’s Neighborhood Improvement Committee, said artificial turf doesn’t comply with the Miami Lakes aesthetic.

“Our town is basically a planned community that is geared toward conservation, with our tradition of having our trees,” said Salazar.

“Our front lawns are disappearing. And if you put it in the driveway, it looks artificial.

“We need to maintain the Miami Lakes look, or we’ll look like any other suburb in Miami,” she said.

During the past 17 months, town staff and committees have looked
at whether artificial turf should be allowed, as it’s not described in Miami-Dade County code, which Miami Lakes also follows.

The town’s proposed ordinance limits uses and requires zoning permits.

Artificial turf could be used on residential lots in back yards where a deck or pavers would be allowed.

It cannot be visible from the street or placed within permanent drainage features such as swales or ponds.

Installation must provide for proper drainage.

It can’t be placed along slopes near lakes and the base material can’t damage a tree’s health or roots.

Owners cannot let artificial turf fade and must keep it clean and free of dirt, mud, stains, weeds or tears.

It also has to be non-flammable and lead free. Indoor/outdoor plastic or nylon carpets cannot be substituted.

“My concern is you are opening a Pandora’s Box by allowing people to put
it in the backyard,” Salazar said. “It’s being treated
like a hardship variance in allowing people to use that product. But we need to put something in the code to guide people.”

During the Feb. 9 town meeting, Miami Lakes Principal Planner Susana Alonso said homeowners have options with hardier plants that will survive in shade, such as ferns or a flowering ground cover called perennial peanut.

Cid said he will research artificial products that are “plant based” prior to the next town meeting and find a way to “amend the code to help people while obviously keeping the town aesthetically pleasing.

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