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Glen Cove approves outlaw on bamboo planting

Bamboo in the Town of Huntington. (June 20,

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

The Glen Cove City Council voted 6 to 1 Tuesday night to outlaw planting bamboo and made property owners responsible for removing plants that spread from their land. Glen Cove joins a growing number of municipalities that have enacted laws to stop the proliferation of bamboo.

Before the vote, Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi, a Democrat, said bamboo wasn't a problem citywide, but it was severe in some cases.

"This will give code enforcement legislative ability to deal with it now," he said.

City council member Anthony Gallo Jr., a Republican who voted against the measure, said the fines were "way too expensive."

A first time violation is punishable with a $250 to $1,000 fine per day. A second offense brings a fine of up to $2,000.

The city's move comes as the state is seeking to add yellow groove bamboo and golden bamboo to its invasive species list -- rules that would ban the sale, purchase and importation of the plants.

Homeowners who already have bamboo on their property and wish to keep it can do so but will need to take steps to prevent the plants from encroaching on adjacent land, including keeping the plants 10 feet away from the property line.

Bamboo spreads underground through its root system. A single stem is not a single plant: an outcropping of bamboo stems can emerge from a single plant's roots.

"Where it is planted, it spreads, it can grow very rapidly and it does eliminate other vegetation," said Marilyn Jordan, a senior conservation scientist at the Nature Conservancy's Long Island office.

Bamboo causes problems by crowding out native species, Jordan said.

"Healthy ecosystems support people as well as wildlife and you need a diversity of species of ecosystems," she said. "Any species that takes over and makes a monoculture is reducing the ability of that ecosystem to support wildlife and human needs."

Homeowners who let their bamboo spread to other properties will be responsible for removing it. They are also required to prevent the spread by installing an underground barrier that bamboo roots can't penetrate such as a metal sheathing.

The law doesn't just put responsibility on the person who originally planted the bamboo: a neighbor who finds the plant has spread to his or her property has to notify the property owner of where the plants originated.

Failure to do so would mean the neighbor is permitting the bamboo to spread and would thus come under the same regulations as the owner whose property was the source.The law will take effect once it has been filed with the state.

The state Department of Environmental Protection plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed new state rules at Stony Brook University on Tuesday at 2 p.m. The public comment period ends Dec. 23.

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