Belmar Unveils Measure to Ban Artificial Grass on Front Lawns, Certain Side Yards

Artificial turf would be banned from front lawns and side yards in public view, under a measure introduced by Belmar's Borough Council.

BELMAR, NJ — The Borough Council last night rolled out proposed limits on the use of artificial turf on residential properties.

In a 3-2 vote, the governing body introduced 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 for now — but would need to obtain borough approval if they should decide to replace them with a new synthetic turf, under the proposed law.

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While Mayor Matthew Doherty, Council President Brian Magovern and Councilwoman Jennifer Nicolay voted in favor of the ordinance, Councilmen Thomas Brennan and Mark Walsifer, who cast the dissenting votes, disagreed with the selective banning of artificial turf on front and certain side yards only, when it would be permitted in back yards and side yards that cannot be seen from the street.

“I don’t see the purpose of banning the turf on front yards if residents are spending the money to make their properties look good,” Walsifer said. “I don’t see the difference.”

Reiterating that point, Brennan said that as long as the turf was permeable and met appearance guidelines, he did not see why the synthetic grass could not be permitted on a homeowner’s entire property.

The ordinance, which is scheduled for a public hearing and final vote on Tuesday, April 18, 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 would be required to follow all appearance and routine maintenance requirements as outlined in the new regulations.

The proposed 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.

Earlier this year, the issue of regulating artificial turf lawns surfaced after Council President Magovern said he saw no environmental benefit to artificial turf lawns. As a result, the Borough Council has held several workshop sessions where proponents of synthetic grass voiced their opposition to the restrictions, including homeowners currently with artificial lawns and Jasson Rusak, president of Shore Synthetic Grass of Avon-by-the-Sea. Last night, Rusak presented the Borough Council with a report touting the benefits of artificial turf, complete with testimonial examples of residential, commercial and recreational uses in nearby communities.

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