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Long Beach balks at bamboo ban

Bamboo grows in the Town of Huntington on

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

Long Beach balked at the chance to become the latest Long Island municipality to ban bamboo.

The City Council voted down a ban on the often-invasive plant Tuesday night by a vote of 3 to 2. The decision stopped Long Beach from becoming at least the ninth city, town or village on Long Island to put a halt to the use of bamboo.

Homeowners sometimes plant bamboo for aesthetic purposes, but the plant can spread into adjacent areas and damage foundations, roots and sidewalks.

The city considered the ban in response to residents' complaints about bamboo encroaching on their properties, City Council president Len Torres said.

Torres said the ban was shot down because the council wants to revise the law so it doesn't penalize residents who grow bamboo responsibly. A revised law will be considered at a future meeting, he said.

The city needs a law that "protects people that are compliant to their neighbors and their neighbors' properties," Torres said.

Long Beach's proposal, which was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night, stated that it would become illegal to "curb, to plant, grow and/or maintain bamboo" anywhere in the city."

The proposal stated that infractions would carry a penalty of $250. The measure follows the lead of a Smithtown law -- the first of its kind on Long Island -- that took effect on Jan. 1 and bans bamboo within 10 feet of a grower's property line.

Resident Catherine Northrop attended the public hearing with a stalk of bamboo she said she ripped from her yard. The bamboo has encroached on her property from a neighbor's property and prevents her grandchildren from playing in the backyard, Northrop said.

"Bamboo is an insidious plant that has no place in our community," Northrop said.

But Francis McQuade chided the proposal as "governmental overreach." He added that bamboo can enhance landscaping if maintained properly.

City manager Jack Schnirman said the city is looking to respond to a regional trend of bamboo bans.

"We've been gathering information about bamboo from throughout the state," he said. "It's a very interesting proposal that's going on all over the place."

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