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Babylon steps up battle against bamboo

Bamboo grows in the Town of Huntington on

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

The Babylon Town Board Tuesday expanded regulations on invasive bamboo to require owners of property where the plant originates to pay for removal from areas where it spreads.

The unanimous vote by the four board members present added one sentence to existing town rules that call for any newly planted invasive bamboo to be blockaded by planters or sunken plastic walls.

The fast-growing tropical grass, once popular as a cheap privacy screen, is now subject to regulation in dozens of municipalities in the region.

"We're on a fixed income -- I can't pay somebody to come in," said Doris Bezold, 75, of Copiague, who said a neighbor's bamboo had spread to her yard. She displayed a section of roots cut from the ground as proof and said more of the original growth was still lurking.

While much of the testimony in previous town meetings has been from residents who said they were besieged by bamboo, many of the 12 speakers Tuesday said the new law put them at the mercy of neighbors.

"What am I supposed to do? I did what I was supposed to do," said Sylvia Cianchetti, 83, of West Babylon. She said town code inspectors responding to a neighbor's complaints were still pursuing her about bamboo originating on her property after she paid $1,500 to a contractor for removal.

Bruce Saul of West Babylon said bamboo was on his property when he bought it 25 years ago. In recent years, he said, he'd spent $7,000 to contain the growth: "How is one to prove exactly where the bamboo came from?"

Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said the town will leave to the courts cases where the origin of bamboo in one neighbor's yard or another is disputed and not provable.

While the regulations still include fines of up to $500 per day for violation, he said fines that high would not normally be enforced. "We will give a reasonable amount of time. We're working with property owners, and there's a lot of room for property owners to work together."

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