BELMAR, NJ — Artificial turf will be permitted on residential properties in Belmar, as long as it is kept in the backyard or cannot be seen from the street.
The borough council in a 3-2 vote on June 8 signed into law a measure that prohibits homeowners from installing synthetic grass on front lawns and any side yards that are in public view, but allows its use in rear yards and side yards not visible from any public street or right-of-way.
The nine homeowners in the borough who currently have artificial lawns would be able to keep them, but would need to obtain borough approval if they want to replace them with a new synthetic turf, under the measure.
Mayor Matthew Doherty, Council President Brian Magovern and Councilwoman Jennifer Nicolay voted in favor of the ordinance, and Councilmen Thomas Brennan and Mark Walsifer cast the dissenting votes.
While Mayor Doherty said that he sees artificial turf as having “functionality” in back yards, particularly those with pools, he doesn’t see the same rationale for front yards. “If I’m coming home and I see plastic lawns, that’s not the right aesthetics for the community,” he said. “It would change the look of the town.”
The new law was met with resistance from a handful of residents, including several currently with artificial front lawns who are concerned they would be targeted by code enforcement officials.
Assuring them that would not be the case because their lawns are grandfathered under the new law, Doherty also commended them for keeping their lawns well-maintained and stressed their particular properties would not be an issue.
One of those residents, Jeannine Lonski of 13th Avenue, did not seem convinced. “I am being targeted because you don’t like turf,” she told the mayor. “The law is arbitrary, difficult to define, contradicts itself and discriminates one neighbor against the next.”
The ordinance requires that an “organic landscape” buffer, measuring at least one foot wide, be placed between the artificial turf and any impervious surface, such as driveways and walkways. The buffer could include a combination of trees, shrubs, vines, ground cover, flowers, natural grass sod or native grasses.
Homeowners currently with artificial lawns are required to follow all appearance and routine maintenance requirements as outlined in the new regulations.
The law also prohibits the installation of artificial turf in all business, commercial and professional zones, including establishments situated along the beachfront and at the marina, as well as age-restricted planned residential developments.