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Natural plantings may take place of turf grass in unincorporated Will County

JOLIET – Residents in unincorporated Will County will be able to “go natural” with their lawns this year, thanks to changes in the County’s Plantings Ordinance.
“The Plantings Ordinance is a proactive measure that establishes standards and regulations allowing the use of natural planting elements in lots less than 2.5 acres in size,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “The new ordinance removes the barriers that prevented property owners from taking advantage of natural plantings for sustainable landscapes.”
The ordinance was drafted by the Will County Land Use Department, in concert with the County Board’s Land Use and Development Committee.
Steve Lazzara, Senior Planner with the Will County Land Use Department, said his organization also gleaned insight from representatives of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Forest Preserve District of Will County, Illinois Audubon Society, consultants with expertise on the topic, municipalities, and private citizens who utilize natural plantings.
In addition to lots under 2.5 acres, the ordinance also allows for exemptions where property owners can meet setback requirements. It also implements guidelines which include plant species, setbacks, and certain height requirements.
The use of natural plantings instead of turf grass is gaining momentum as an alternate ground cover due to the fact that natural plantings help replenish underground aquifers, are easy to maintain, and exhibit a unique and creative alternative, said Lazzara. The ordinance restricts the natural plantings to those that are not recognized as noxious or invasive by state and federal guidelines.
“We feel this ordinance is fair to those who want to use natural plantings, while still taking into consideration neighbors who may oppose this approach,” said Lazzara.
The guidelines will set apart property owners who are implementing or already have ecologically friendly, sustainable landscapes from property owners who are not maintaining the ground vegetation, allowing noxious weed growth, and are classifying this type of growth as environmentally positive.
Work began on the ordinance in the spring of 2010, and it was approved by the County Board at its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 15. It went into effect with the County Executive’s signature.
For additional information about the County’s ongoing zoning and building ordinances update project, go to http://www.renewingwillcounty.com.

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