Huntington OKs law against invasive bamboo

Bamboo grows in the Town of Huntington on Bamboo grows in the Town of Huntington on June 20, 2012. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Huntington has passed a law to regulate invasive bamboo after more than a year of debate, revisions and tension among town board members, joining a growing list of Long Island municipalities with similar restrictions.

While the new law approved this week doesn't ban bamboo altogether, it prohibits residents from planting new running bamboo and requires them to contain existing plants if they have it and want to keep it. The penalties are $250 to $500 for maintaining, growing or failing to remove running bamboo, and $1,000 for planting or replanting bamboo.

"The misery inflicted on residents with bamboo has done nothing but increase since I started on this last year," board member Susan Berland, sponsor of the resolution, said Wednesday. "So I am happy for the residents who now feel they have a government behind them."

The law says residents are responsible for either removing the bamboo or taking reasonable measures to confine it to their property and to prevent its spread. There will be a six-month moratorium to clear or contain bamboo before penalties are imposed. Public safety officers will be enforcing the law.

The law passed 3-2 at the town board meeting Tuesday night. Since Berland first introduced a version of bamboo legislation in February 2012, it has been opposed by board members Mark Cuthbertson, Mark Mayoka and Gene Cook, mostly because they felt it was not a law local government should enact and fines were too punitive.

But after numerous revisions and suggestions, Berland was able to get a version of the law that Mayoka felt he could support.

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"While many feel that bamboo should be a civil matter to be settled between neighbors, it has become increasingly invasive to the point where it has become a regulatory issue," Mayoka said during the meeting and in a statement. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone also supported the measure.

Cuthbertson and Cook voted against it.

Some residents were also not pleased with the new law.

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Julian Shih of Huntington Station, one of about 16 residents who spoke at the public hearing, said, "The town should not have a hand in everything."

JoAnn Walsh, of Greenlawn, who has been a stalwart at town board meetings asking that a law restricting bamboo be passed, said she was elated.

"All we ever wanted from the beginning was for people to be responsible to keep it on their own property," she said. "I hope this does it."

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