LIVINGSTON, NJ – When the Livingston Township Council convened for a conference meeting on Monday, various issues concerning the community were discussed, including the ongoing conversation about a proposed bamboo ordinance; a proposed resolution for energy efficiency and renewable energy; and the beginnings of forming a community garden.

The proposed bamboo ordinance, which regulates the planting, growing, maintenance and/or cultivation of bamboo and has been in discussion for several months, was a focus of the meeting. The ordinance has yet to be finalized, as questions remain regarding pre-existing bamboo, the removal, responsibility and control of the plant.

According to the council, the invasive plant continues to create issues for both homeowners and the municipality. The major dilemma lies in deciding which party bears responsibility for the dissemination of the plant.

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According to the Livingston Environmental Commission (LEC), removal and upkeep is a costly procedure. Thus far, the ordinance allows for “grandfathered” bamboo, or plants that were previously planted would not need to be removed, but would need to be maintained.

Some residents have cited the added liability to their property value by having a costly plant to care for—a plant that some residents never wanted, but was in place when the home was purchased. However, although the plant’s intrusiveness poses problems for driveways, sidewalks and other structures, some residents have reported that the plants are useful for drainage and limiting soil erosion.

“If [the bamboo is] pre-existing, the victim (neighbor) has to remove it from his yard at his cost, but the originator then has the responsibility to prevent it from re-growing,” said Walter LeVine, chairman of the LEC. “The feeling of the LEC was that if it’s predominantly on your property and it’s now spreading to your neighbor’s, you’re the one with the responsibly of preventing it.”

LeVine reiterated that these rules will only apply after the effective date listed in the ordinance, which will be voted on after a final hearing at a later date.

“There’s really no perfect answer to this problem,” said Mayor Shawn Klein. “So we’re going to just have to come down on one side or the other.”

Also discussed at the meeting was a proposed resolution for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“This is a resolution that was sent to me from an organization that’s promoting the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and the New Jersey Clean Energy Program,” Klein said. “I think a lot of this stuff is pretty wonderful.”

The resolution coincides with recent initiatives by developed, industrialized countries to curb emissions and transition into renewable forms of energy.

Specifically, according to Klein, the resolution calls for the township to operate on 80 percent clean energy by 2050—a figure supported by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“There are a couple options…you could have a free local government energy audit and another option where it talks about a direct install audit,” said Klein. “That’s like a turnkey company that comes in, does the audit and then makes whatever repairs and/or figuration changes or equipment changes in order to achieve the energy savings you’re looking for.”

Livingston, in particular, would have costs subsidized through a direct install audit. As part of New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program, the audit will pay “up to 70 percent of retrofit costs, dramatically improving your payback on the project,” according to the website. For a facility to be eligible for said payback, according to the website, it must not have exceeded 200 kW in any of the past 12 months, must be located in New Jersey and must have “served by one of the state’s public, regulated electric or natural gas utility companies.”

Contractors participating in the program cover a variety of installation projects including refrigeration, heating and cooling, as well as lighting and ventilation. The project is still in its infancy, and must be treated carefully, as the issue could become politicized, according to the website.

Members of the council said it seemed “a little too good to be true” but that the township has incentive to consider changes to its energy infrastructure.

“If someone’s willing to pay for 70 percent of our energy-efficiency upgrades, I think we should try to figure out where we could use that,” said Klein.

In addition to these ongoing discussions, LeVine also announced that after listening to residents’ suggestions regarding updates to the Master Plan, the Livingston Planning Board has decided to include provisions in the plan that recommend providing a community garden within the township. The council was enthusiastic about this news as well as LeVine’s proposal to form an official community garden committee to help organize the project.