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Long Beach votes to restrict bamboo

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 became the latest Long Island municipality to pass a law restricting the use of bamboo on private property.

The law makes Long Beach at least the ninth city, town or village on Long Island to restrict the use of bamboo. Homeowners sometimes plant bamboo for aesthetic purposes or as a property barrier, but the often-invasive plant can spread into adjacent areas and damage foundations, roots and sidewalks.

The city's law states that invasive or "running bamboo" cannot be planted anywhere in the city. Residents who already have bamboo on their properties can maintain it as long as "it does not encroach or grow onto any adjoining or neighboring property," the law states.

The law will allow the city to bring scofflaw bamboo growers into court, said Scott Kemins, the city's building commissioner.

"It's a win for homeowners who are being invaded by this bamboo. It's just another tool to help them," Kemins said.

The law allows the city to give violators 10 days to remove bamboo and fine them $250 per day after that.

The City Council enacted the law by a 3-1 vote Tuesday night. Michael Fagen dissented, saying the law could pit residents against each other.

"At the end of the day, we want neighbors working with neighbors," Fagen said. "You're going to have two neighbors that are sworn adversaries."

The city set about banning bamboo in response to about a dozen residents' complaints about bamboo encroaching on their properties, City Council president Len Torres has said.

City Manager Jack Schnirman said the city's law was crafted after consulting restrictions that have recently been enacted in other Long Island municipalities, such as Hempstead and Smithtown.

The law was revised based on an Aug. 7 public hearing in which several residents said the law shouldn't penalize bamboo growers who maintain the plant responsibly. The City Council had a chance to approve the law after the Aug. 7 hearing, but balked.

"The revised resolution takes people's concerns into account," Schnirman said.

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