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Proposed ban aims to curb invasive bamboo

Long Island's first townwide ban of new bamboo plantings will go on the books if the Town of Smithtown approves a proposed ordinance to regulate the evergreen.

Though the proposed law would not require removal of existing bamboo, growers would have to keep the plant from spreading within 10 feet of neighboring properties. "You can't get rid of the stuff, so they're going to be made to keep it off other people's property," said Councilman Robert Creighton, who helped draft the ordinance, which would take effect later this year if approved.

The proposed ban will be the subject of a public hearing Thursday night when the town board meets at the Eugene A. Cannataro Senior Citizen Center on Middle Country Road.

Two Fire Island villages -- Saltaire and Ocean Beach -- restrict or outlaw bamboo. Nationally, bamboo bans are almost unheard of.

Smithtown's law would forbid both varieties of bamboo: "clumping," which is generally easy to manage, and "running," which grows aggressively.

Town officials began considering a ban after residents complained that bamboo planted by neighbors had invaded their yards. One resident who complained, Keith Alletto of Smithtown, said Monday that the town's proposed ban was "a step in the right direction" but did not go far enough.

"I feel that the restriction should be pushed back to at least 40 feet," Alletto said. "This stuff can go underground and pop up within 40 feet."

He said bamboo grown by a neighbor had appeared in the yard of his Oak Avenue home after burrowing underground. Attempts to remove it failed, he said.

Creighton said town public safety officers would enforce the ban. Violators would be ordered to remove the plant and could be fined, though the amounts of fines are not specified in the ordinance, he said. "It will be treated as a property maintenance issue," he said. "If neighbors complain, we'll go take a look at it."

Alletto said he knew other residents who said bamboo grown by neighbors had destroyed brick patios and come up through central air-conditioning units. "We're hoping that a township -- some township -- just comes out and outright bans the stuff," he said.

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