Huntington bid to regulate bamboo fails

David Spellman bends a bamboo plant in his

David Spellman bends a bamboo plant in his Melville yard. Spellman has been battling a neighbor and the Town of Huntington to regulate bamboo growth in their town. (June 20, 2012) (Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin)

Bamboo tore through his driveway, shot up through a shed and caused his fence to fall over several times.

David Spellman, of Melville, said his neighbor had planted the bamboo and it has encroached onto his property. On Tuesday, Spellman thought he was going to get help from Huntington Town to stop the plant's spread.

But that didn't happen.

The town board voted down a measure to create an ordinance regulating bamboo. The proposal didn't ban the plant, but deemed it illegal for property owners or tenants to allow bamboo to migrate onto any adjoining parcels. It also would have required a property owner whose bamboo had migrated to a neighboring property to dig at least a 4-foot-deep trench and fill it with a barrier, such as concrete, to stop the spread. Residents found to be in violation of the law could have faced a range of fines, from $250 to $5,000.

Dozens of residents expressed support for the proposal -- both at a public hearing in March and on Tuesday night. They talked about the damage bamboo has caused and concerns about potential injuries."I just don't understand why they didn't pass the law [Tuesday] night," Spellman said. "I didn't plant this thing and it is affecting my property."

The board voted 2-2-1 Tuesday night. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone and board member Susan Berland, the resolution's sponsor, supported the proposal. Members Mark Cuthbertson and Eugene Cook voted no. Mark Mayoka abstained.

Berland hopes to get the issue back on the agenda for a vote. But first, she wants assurances that it will pass, and would need support from at least one other board member. "It is not fair to constituents to get their hopes up and then for it to fail again."

"If I had it my way, I would have it for any infringement of growth and it shouldn't be the property owner who is being infringed upon's responsibility to get rid of it," Petrone said.

Cuthbertson has opposed the measure since it was first introduced. "I don't think it is an area local government should be regulating," he said Tuesday. He said the town doesn't regulate plants now and said it's a road the town shouldn't go down.

Mayoka said he abstained because he had requested a legal brief from Berland about the proposed legislation and received "200 unorganized pages of information."

"It was no help in the decision-making process," he said. Additionally, he said several issues need to be vetted, such as the fines and the potential negative impact such a ruling could have on real estate exchanges.

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