ON MARCO ISLAND, AN AFFLUENT island community on the west coast of Florida, Ed Ehlen, the owner of a flooring company, wanted a lawn next to his $4 million home that would require very little maintenance. So he put down artificial turf, like the material used in sports arenas. But city officials wanted the material removed, saying that rubberized pieces could be dislodged in heavy rain and endanger local wildlife.

The city initially rejected Ehlen's argument that the lawn would actually be more environmentally friendly, because it doesn't require water, weed killers, or pesticides to look beautiful. Planners refused to grant him a certificate of occupancy unless he tore up the turf.

In protest, Ehlen painted the unfinished side of his new home with purple and green polka dots. But the story didn't end there.

Several other Marco Island residents were discovered to have plastic turf already in place. At least one resident, Robert Fairchild, has had a plastic lawn for three years.

After much heated debate, the city planning board finally agreed to let the people with plastic lawns keep their turf—at least for three years, during which time it plans to do an environmental study to weigh the pros and cons of the product's impact.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Naples, FL.