Brookhaven sets hearing on bamboo ban plan

Don Seubert, Medford civic leader, stands in a

Don Seubert, Medford civic leader, stands in a field of 20-foot-high invasive bamboo in Medford. (March 28, 2012) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

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MaryAnn Johnston feels like she's under siege. Bamboo has wended its way onto her property, woven through her fence, and choked her evergreens.

The Mastic resident supports Brookhaven's plan to join a growing list of Long Island communities that restrict the sometimes unwieldy, intrusive plant.

"It's invasive, and that's the key," Johnston said. "And we don't have any pandas here to eat it."

Some property owners plant bamboo as a buffer or for aesthetic purposes, but the plant can spread into adjacent areas and damage foundations, pipes, roots and sidewalks. Brookhaven has scheduled an April 24 public hearing on a proposed law that would make it illegal for anyone to plant "running," or fast-spreading, bamboo within town limits.

Residents who own property where bamboo already grows must confine the plant from spreading onto anyone else's property, the proposal states.

The measure follows a Smithtown law -- the first of its kind on Long Island -- that took effect on Jan. 1. Smithtown bans bamboo within 10 feet of a grower's property line.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh, who proposed the town's law, said residents have been asking for a similar statute in Brookhaven since Smithtown passed its rule.

"Our intent is not to regulate people's backyards, but hopefully to provide some relief for residents who have been affected," Walsh said.

Brookhaven's bamboo law would carry a fine of $500 to $2,000 for a first offense and $1,000 to $3,000 for any subsequent violation.

The proposed law could face opposition from businesses that grow or sell bamboo, such as nurseries including Peconic River Herb Farm in Calverton.

Cris Spindler, who owns the farm, said proper use of bamboo is incumbent on buyers and sellers, and does not necessarily require a local law.

"There are lots of good bamboo nurseries, and bamboo is a beautiful plant, it just has to be planted properly," Spindler said. There are hundreds of types of bamboo, some of which can grow dozens of feet underground.

Don Seubert, a Medford civic leader who supports the ban, said the plant has been allowed to grow wild and become a nuisance in some parts of town. "It's an invasive species and ends up killing the understory," he said.

Some environmentalists have spoken in favor of the measure, which they say will block the spread of a nonnative plant on Long Island.

Karen Blumer, an ecologist who is president of Shoreham-based Open Space Preservation Trust, said bamboo's root system makes it very difficult to eradicate once it takes hold on a property.

Debbie Felber, of Selden, said she will speak at the hearing in favor of the proposal to ban bamboo, which she called "a weed that doesn't stop." She said her property was previously beset with bamboo, which was coming up through her driveway and spreading into her home's siding, before she resolved the situation directly with a neighbor.

"It's a weed," Felber said. "You have to get a saw to cut it."

 

At a glance

 

Towns and villages with laws restricting bamboo use:

Smithtown

Babylon (village)

Saltaire (village)

Ocean Beach (village)

 

Towns considering laws restricting bamboo use:

Huntington

Brookhaven

Islip

Oyster Bay

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