LAKE COMO, NJ — Bamboo is now on Lake Como’s “not wanted” list.

The planting of running bamboo is prohibited throughout the town, and any existing plants cannot be replaced, under a new ordinance approved by the borough council.

Although bamboo usually starts off as an ornamental planting — many times used as a natural barrier between residential properties — the fast-spreading, towering plant can become a major nuisance with a quick-growing root system that breaks through sidewalks and driveways, kills trees and crowds out smaller shrubbery.

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And in a tiny town like Lake Como, where small-sized lots dominate its residential landscape, invasive bamboo can escalate into a nightmare among neighbors.

“We’ve been kicking (the issue of bamboo) down the road,” said Mayor Kevin Higgins, referring to the fact that a measure regulating bamboo has been under consideration for several years, but not officially addressed. “But it’s only getting worse as people are cutting down (bamboo) and it’s spreading.”

Councilman David Gardner, liaison to the borough’s Environmental Commission, said the ordinance was reviewed by the commission and concerned residents — with a general consensus that the borough needed a strongly worded measure that requires a total ban on several species of invasive bamboo.

In addition, the new law requires property owners to keep existing bamboo plants contained to their property. And if it does spread to a neighbor’s yard or onto public property, they are responsible to have it removed or face a fine of up to $200 a day. If the borough is forced to remove bamboo that has spread onto public property, the homeowner would a subject to a property lien in the amount of the removal’s cost.

According to the latest available information, Lake Como joins some 20 municipalities in New Jersey to implement bamboo regulations of some kind — and the second only to Howell in Monmouth County. However, most limit — not ban — the growth of the plant within property lines.

In 2014, the state Assembly voted to limit the growth of bamboo to a person’s property and no less than 100 feet of a property line, but the measure has failed to be considered by the state Senate.

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