Lehigh Valley

Running bamboo may be on the run in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Running bamboo is the bad boy of the plant game. It does what it wants, when it wants and where it wants. It has more lives than a cat and doesn't easily scare.

Restrictions on growing running bamboo in the city of Bethlehem came before council Tuesday night. While intrigued by the idea of establishing legislation to ban it, the legislative body said it simply needed more time to get down in the weeds on it.

"It's important to think about the consequences," said Councilwoman Olga Negron-Dipini.

"The heart of what we are looking at is how is it enforced," said President William Reynolds.

The proposal was presented to council by city health director Kristen Wenrich who said Tuesday night that residents' complaints provoked a nearly two-year investigation into the matter which culminated in the proposed ordinance. Resident Ron Huber told council bamboo began sprouting out of his yard from his neighbor's yard. He said it would cost about $850 to remove it and $22,000 to keep it out with a barrier and fence.

The bamboo has "been a nightmare," Huber said.

Running bamboo, according to the legislation, is considered an "invasive plant" which means it's a species of vegetation which is non-native to the ecosystem; it is likely to cause "economic or environmental harm or harm to human health."

Councilman Adam Waldron said he was trying to understand the need for the legislation. To illustrate his point, he asked how would his neighbor's tree, which sheds leaves all over his yard, be addressed. That conflict would be considered a matter of negotiation between residents, with a date in civil court if they are unable to reach a compromise.

Councilman Shawn Martell said he was concerned about residents being culpable for removing the running bamboo on their property even if they didn't plant it.

Health department officials said the city would use discretion in exercising the ordinance and would only pursue the matter if a complaint was brought before them by a citizen "in good standing," or if the running bamboo caused damage to the city's infrastructure.

While council members seemed amiable to the idea, after much discussion they decided more discussion was required, and the proposed ordinance was sent back to committee.

In other business, council voted 6-0 to approve the establishment of a climate action plan and climate change working group. Prior to the vote, Reynolds made an impassioned case for the need for it, saying that in today's environment it has "gone from important to essential."

"We want to be a leader on this issue,' Reynolds noted.

The resolution notes council is "committed to doing its part to fight climate change and believes that local government, working collaboratively with interested citizens and community stakeholders, should lead by example by adopting energy conservation, sustainability and other environmentally-sensitive operating practices."

Finally, council established the salaries for the mayor and themselves. Starting in 2018, the mayor will receive a $90,500 annual salary, with council members earning $7,100 a year, with the president of council making an additional $500 for the post. The salaries will be in effect for the next four years.

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