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Bethlehem approves running bamboo ordinance

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night that bans the growing of running bamboo and imposes restrictions on residents who currently have it. The vote was 4-3. Councilwoman Olga Negron and Councilmen Adam Waldron and Bryan Callahan cast the three dissenting votes.

The law permits city residents who already have running bamboo on their properties to keep it. However the law requires they take steps to control its growth to neighboring properties. It must also be isolated from other vegetation with high-density polypropylene or polyethylene barriers. The barriers must be secured and joined by stainless steel clamps or closure strips, according to the bill. Those barriers must go at least 30 inches, with a minimum of three inches of barrier above ground level.

Prior the vote, several residents on both sides made their opinions known to council. Some residents said they didn't want to see the bamboo on their properties and wanted the city to have the power to regulate it. Other residents thought it was an example of government overreach into what was essentially a matter between private property owners that was a matter for the courts and not the city government to decide.

Throughout the several discussions and votes on the bill, the city has maintained they are attempting to be proactive to residents' complaints and had not enforcement mechanism to deal with them. On Tuesday night, Alicia Karner, the city's director of community and economic development, said the city's goal with the law would be "compliance" rather that using the law aggressively.

In other business, council approved the establishment of a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) zone that includes neighborhoods around Moravian College. The vote was 7-0. The measure must still be approved by the Bethlehem Area School District and Northampton County before it can be established.

The district would run from Maple Street on the east side, to Mauch Chunk Road on the west side, up to Laurel Street on the north and down to West Broad Street on the south.

Finally, council postponed a vote on a bill on regulated rental unit occupancy standards. The vote was 6-1 with Councilman Shawn Martell voting "no." The postponement was introduced by Waldron who sought clarification on the definition of the word "transient" in the city's code book. City officials could not answer the question during Tuesday night's meeting, thus prompting the delay until the next council meeting.


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