Sept. 29 hearing to decide plant’s fate
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Orangetown is mulling outlawing bamboo as a landscape shrubbery following an outburst of complaints from angry neighbors who claim the pesky oriental plant is so invasive it is taking over their adjacent yards.
The chief complainant, and the first, is Cynthia Anselmo of Palisades, who has been a frequent critic of the plant at Town Board meetings this year. She has since been joined by other residents in other Orangetown communities, who heard about the ruckus and have joined the campaign to outlaw the pesky shrub.
According to Anselmo, her next-door neighbors planted a row of yellow groove bamboo, technically called phyllostachys aureosulcata, about a decade ago on their side of their common property line.
At first everything was fine, Anselmo acknowledges, but within a few years the rapidly growing and even more rapidly spreading bamboo crept underground onto her property and began sprouting where it wasn’t wanted. It is so strong and so invasive that it began growing underneath her paved driveway, and sending shoots up through the macadam.
Her family’s best efforts at cutting, trimming, pulling, weeding and chemically treating the unwanted visitors failed completely, she now says, and it is slowly but gradually taking over her yard.
Court Case Stalls
When all attempts at controlling the invasive plant failed, Anselmo took her neighbors to court, in a case that is still pending. That property is owned by the Maffei Family Trust, which in turn is owned by several non-resident partners including Audrey and Roger Schneider, who have no been available for comment on this story.
Frustrated by the time delay and lack of results in court, Anselmo began attending Orangetown Town Board meetings, imploring the five-man council to pass legislation outlawing bamboo within the township.
Other communities have already done so, she told the board, and the plant has now been officially designated an “invasive species” by the New York State Agriculture Department, which in turn allows towns and villages to regulate its existence within their boundaries.
Other undesirable plants falling into the new invasive category include European common reed grass, Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, mile-a-minute weed and garlic mustard.
Some communities have banned the planting of some of these species, while others have legislated that those who plant them must contain them to their own properties and not allow them to spread. So far, no communities are known to have made it illegal to own such species already planted, in what would amount to an “ex-post-facto” law outlawing something after the fact.
Officials in Orangetown at first shied away from Anselmo’s complaints, contending that they did not view their governmental role as dictating what plants residents could plant or grow on their private properties.
Building Inspector John Giardiello, whose office would have to enforce the law if it is ever adopted, said he lacked the manpower to patrol plantings throughout the township, lacked the expertise to know what plants are legal and illegal, and did not want to be the arbitrator among battling neighbors. If you list specific plants as illegal in a law, such as bamboo, can a neighbor who hates red roses them request an amendment to the law to include them as well, Giardiello asked rhetorically at one public meeting this summer.
Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that there are two primary types of bamboo available to gardeners in this area, yellow groove bamboo and golden bamboo, also known as phyllostachys aurea. Both belong to the broader category known as running bamboo, as compared to the less invasive species called clumping bamboo.
The public hearing in Orangetown on Sept. 29 will be to outlaw the planting of any type of running bamboo, such as yellow groove and golden. And while it will not outlaw any such bamboo already planted before the law is adopted, it will make it illegal for existing bamboo to cross over into a neighbor’s yard.
It does not include clumping varieties of bamboo, and it will also not include the other 68 plant species categorized by the state earlier this year as “invasive species,” although town officials note that amendments can always be made to the law to include additional specifies if residents so desire, and the town Board agrees through subsequent public hearings.
If adopted as proposed, the law would impose a fine of $350 on a homeowner who allows his bamboo to encroach on aneighbor’s yard. Each encroachment by each bamboo shoot would be classified as a separate violation.
The public hearing on the proposed new law is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, a regular Town Board meeting, in the auditorium of the Town Hall at 26 Orangeburg Road, at the corner of Dutch Hill road.
Residents, landscapers, gardeners and others can speak for or against the legislation, or suggest amendments, for up to three minutes apiece.
The Town Board may vote on adopting or not adopting the proposed law that evening, or it may reserve decision to further investigate the problem, and make its decision at a future meeting.