Controversies over invasive species can sometimes die out only to pop up somewhere else—ready and raring to grow.

Just like bamboo.

There are nearly 1,300 species of the woody plant. It can grow nearly anywhere but prefers tropical climates.

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In the grass family, bamboo took off as a way of providing shade and privacy in suburban backyards.

But as its popularity grew, so did feuds between neighbors.

Certain kinds of the plant send out roots horizontally which can puncture folks’ water and sewer lines, not to mention destroy their driveways.

The state recently added two types of running bamboo to its prohibited invasive species list: yellow groove bamboo and golden bamboo.

This means that the plants can’t be sold, imported, purchased, transported, introduced or propagated in New York.

But as far as the stuff that’s already growing here, it’s up to individual municipalities to lay down the law, which is what Somers is trying to do with its proposed “property maintenance” ordinance.

Susan Drive resident Maureen Devine, appearing at the Town Board’s Dec. 13 public hearing on the subject, emphasized that while she was a “bamboo property owner,” she has no objections to the Somers regulating the plant.

However, she said, she was troubled by three main things: the model on which the proposed rules are based, the public notification process, and hefty fines for bamboo violations.

If the amendment is adopted “as is, you will burden yourselves with a monster,” she told the board.

Under the new code, bamboo cannot be replanted or replaced if it is “dead, destroyed, uprooted, or otherwise removed.”

That’s problematic because bamboo can look dead, and still be very much alive under the soil.

Devine said her bamboo was the running kind (as opposed to clumping) but was “well contained.”

BORROWING CODE
Rather than re-invent the wheel every time a new ordinance is adopted, municipalities tend to borrow from one another and then make adjustments as necessary.

The town’s proposed ordinance was based on that of the tiny Fire Island village of Saltaire, the geography of which is nothing like Somers’ hilly and rocky environs, Devine said.
 

Saltaire also has about 400 property owners, the vast majority of which are not year-round inhabitants, whereas Somers has 22,000 inhabitants and 10,000 property owners, she said.

A more appropriate, clearly worded, and understandable version would be the one in place in Patterson, in nearby Putnam County, Devine claimed.

Once the new ordinance is enacted, the town would have 30 days to notify property owners. Anyone with bamboo would have 60 days to fess up and supply any information required by the town.

Devine wasn’t convinced that the town could reach out to all 10,000 property owners through its tax department or website.

Devine also called proposed fines of $250 a day “no joke.”

“That’s a lot of money for me,” she added.

Town attorney Roland A. Baroni Jr. said the town had been unaware of Patterson’s code while it was weighing bamboo regulations.

Offering a perspective from the other side of the fence Thursday was Carey Gross, a resident of Overlook Way.

She ended up having—reluctantly—to sue former neighbors who, she claimed, didn’t control their bamboo. The new owner of the property has also been less than cooperative, insisting that any bamboo that crosses into her yard is no longer his problem, she claimed.

Gross said she worried that the aggressive and destructive plant would get into her “propane line, or drain.”

Gross, who raised the bamboo issue earlier this year, said she didn’t mind being the one to wave the anti-bamboo banner as long as something was done.

The town has declared itself the lead agency in the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process.

The board adjourned the public hearing on bamboo and promised to give Patterson’s code a good read before going forward.

The matter will be referred to the Planning Board and taken up again in 2019, hopefully, to be resolved by this spring, Morrissey said.

“Good, because the new owner seems to think he has no liability either,” Gross replied.

“Guess we know where the first bamboo complaint will come from,” the supervisor joked.

“Right. The squeaky wheel of Somers,” Gross responded