Toronto woman forced to turf artificial lawn thanks to bylaw

A Toronto woman’s front lawn, which once earned her an award for the most beautiful garden, is now being turfed thanks to local bylaws.

The CBC reports that Sangeeta Gounder and her husband have been instructed to remove the artificial turf from the front lawn of their Scarborough home, after a violation notice was issued to them in May. The couple installed the synthetic grass three years ago, and tell the outlet it was a great investment.

"It was getting very difficult to keep a green, weed-free lawn," she told CBC Toronto.

According to a Toronto bylaw, a "minimum of 75 per cent of the front yard must be soft landscaping." Artificial turf does not fall under this classification.

While no one confronted Gounder directly about her lawn, officials investigating the bylaw violation who issued the notice only did so after someone called 311.

“The bylaw officer told me it was purely a reactive situation," Gounder said. "I've never actually encountered anybody who didn't like our lawn, so it was surprising to us that someone would complain."

Concerns about drainage, flooding

It is an about-face for the city, which issued Gounder the "Beautiful Front Lawn Garden Award" last year.

When she pressed further about the issue, a bylaw officer told her they were concerned about drainage. She retorts that since the turf was professional installed, there’s two feet of drainage underneath.

The city also expressed concerns that the artificial turf could heighten the risk of flooding after heavy showers or snow melts, since it doesn't absorb water as well as a natural lawn. However, Gounder stresses that her artificial lawn “is a different breed.”

An example of artificial turf in a backyard. (Getty)

A $1,400 fine

This isn’t the first time an artificially turfed lawn has been targeted in Toronto. Former city councillor Karen Stintz was told to remove hers after she put her house on the market in 2015. She never did, but the city never followed up either. When her house sold, however, the buyers made note of the bylaw infraction and she paid them the equivalent costs to have it replaced with sod. The new owners took the money but never replaced the yard.

"[Artificial turf] should be widely used and accepted," she told the CBC. "I don't understand why the city would consider artificial grass to be hard surface. It's water permeable. It's not a paved surface like asphalt."

Homeowners who don’t comply with the bylaw will be fined $1,400. While Gounder had intended to fight her case, she’s instead choosing to remove the artificial turf later this summer. It would have cost about $1,800 to go before the city’s committee of adjustment.

"If one person on that panel disagrees, we would lose our claim and that money as well," says Gounder.