Turfing the turf: City of Langford to stop adding artificial grass to building fronts

Click to play video: 'Langford council votes to toss artificial turf'
Langford council votes to toss artificial turf
WATCH: Langford, B.C., has decided to let the grass grow, officially ending its short-lived artificial turf initiative. Originally it was brought in as a cost-saving and environmentally friendly alternative to real grass on city boulevards, but as Kylie Stanton reports -- it turns out it's neither. – Mar 21, 2023

The City of Langford is turfing a portion of its bylaw that requires it to use artificial grass instead of sod on its boulevard frontages, citing a number of financial and environmental concerns.

Councillors of the Vancouver Island municipality voted unanimously in favour of the motion on Monday night, noting the turf has not produced the positive outcomes anticipated when they took the decision to place it outside new developments in 2017.

“It turns out to be more expensive in the end, it’s not friendly to the environment and folks are just impacted in a negative way by it in terms of their general wellness and wellbeing when they look at artificial turf and know that it’s a plastic that will never dissolve,” explained Coun. Lillian Szpak.

“This is a step in the right direction.”

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According to a recent staff report, the change from grass to artificial turf five years ago was expected to lower maintenance requirements and costs, improve worker safety, reduce water consumption, and reduce taxpayer costs at a time of rapid growth. The City of Langford began paying 65 per cent of the turf installation costs, with developers covering 35 per cent.

Since then, however, the prices of both artificial turf and sod have increased by 64 per cent and 50 per cent per square metre respectively, due to a combination of inflation, pandemic supply chain issues and flooding in the Lower Mainland. If Langford switches back to sod in front of boulevards, developers will pay 100 per cent of the costs, the report noted, and they will pay less per square metre than they would with turf.

“We’re not going to say the artificial turf that is in place now is going to be ripped up. That would be cost prohibitive and we’re very sensitive to that, especially now at budget time,” Szpak said.

“What we will do is let the turf that is there age out. It has a life expectancy, when it’s over it will be taken out and the area will be rehabilitated with natural plantings.”

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According to the staff report, the life expectancy for artificial turf is between 10 and 15 years. It does not support the breakdown of organic and inorganic materials, its repair costs are higher than sod and its maintenance is more expensive and infrequent, the report notes.

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With the motion to remove turf requirements from the bylaw passed, city staff will also reinstate previous industry standards for maintenance and warranty periods on all frontage improvements. The changes are expected to form part of the next omnibus amendment to the bylaw.

Global News spoke with a handful of Langford residents about the phaseout of turf on Tuesday. Wilma Winiewski said she favours the artificial stuff because it’s “easier to look after and it’s green all year long.”

Ken Patterson said he supported natural grass.

“There’s enough plastic without adding a whole new layer to it,” he said. “I believe it’s a no-brainer. We need to keep more of the organics … I don’t want to sit down on hot plastic in the summer, I want to sit down on the grass with my grandkids.”

Kelly Chashai, owner of Down To Earth Gardens and Nursery in Victoria, said she supports Langford city council’s decision too.

“I’d go for grass all the way,” she said in an interview. “We live in the Garden City — it seems weird to have artificial turf to me … I like the real stuff, from my point of view from a landscape point of view and installation point of view. “


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