Sea Cliff’s mayor and the Board of Trustees is looking into complaints regarding the overgrowth of invasive bamboo species in the village. According to three separate complaints filed in May, certain types of bamboo planted on properties has begun to spread to neighboring homes and gardens, growing over other plants and raising the question of whether to continue to allow the planting of any bamboo on private residences.
Sea Cliff Mayor Elena Villafane brought up the issue at the village board’s most recent meeting on June 6. She shared the concerns of several residents who have suffered from the effects of “running bamboo.”
This type refers to any species of bamboo where the roots of the plant grow laterally outward from the bamboo at the rate of multiple feet per year. When not properly planted and maintained, these species can quickly spread across the planter’s property and onto neighboring homes.
“There are basically two types of bamboo, and it’s one of them that’s a real problem,” Villafane said. “If not taken care of, this bamboo can grow under and destroy driveways, garages, swimming pools, anything.”
Villafane said that according to the complaints she had received, in Sea Cliff there have already been instances of bamboo coming onto people’s property, breaking through asphalt, and even coming up through the floor of one garage. According to “House Beautiful,” a British home and gardening magazine, “running bamboo” can even destroy peoples’ homes.
“Due to the extraordinary distance the [bamboo] roots can travel, running bamboo has the potential to be more damaging to property than Japanese knotweed and has similar abilities to push through brickwork, drains, cavity walls, patios and exploit cracks or weaknesses in concrete,” a 2019 article by “House Beautiful” stated. “In a recent case, a homeowner in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, had bamboo growing up between the skirting board and wall in his living room, having encroached from the next door’s garden and exploited a weakness in the property’s foundation.”
The distance bamboo can travel is vast. While many mistake bamboo for a species of tree, it is actually a type of grass which can spread as much as 30 feet from its initial point of growth. Since its shoots grow underground it ignores fences, walls and other dividers, making proper management and an understanding of “running bamboo” a necessity in residential areas.
According to the village administrator Bruce Kennedy, there are only two ways to effectively get rid of it. One is to use advanced chemicals to kill the plants, which can destroy one’s garden and presents a host of environmental issues. The other option is to restrict its outward growth.
“Either you have to put steel sheets in the ground and plant the bamboo around it, or you have to put it in a railroad ties raised bed,” Kennedy said in an interview. “The board is considering this from a global perspective, taking a birds-eye view of the issue and what potential solutions there are to addressing the concerns of residents.”
The Town of Oyster Bay passed legislation regarding this issue in 2017, which Sea Cliff’s elected officials mentioned and discussed in their meeting. The local law banned town residents from planting any species of bamboo, which can be considered “running,” while those who had already planted it had to adapt to a new management code or face a fine up to $350.
Currently, Sea Cliff’s board plans to listen to their residents, continue to research the issue and find out how it’s being resolved in other municipalities. Villafane said that the board wants to make sure they have a full understanding of the situation before they begin passing any legislation.
“Generally, what we do with legislation is we identify an issue, and we ask our legal council to give us sample legislation from other communities,” Villafane explained in an interview. “We’re also a member of the New York Conference of Mayors so we have a very, very extensive legal department available to us as a benefit of that membership. We’ll reach out to them and we’ll consider the legislation that’s out there, and we will solicit public comments from the community.”