LONG HILL TWP. – After months of deliberation, the city committee still does not know how to regulate the planting of invasive species, especially bamboo.
The committee, however, plans to draft an ordinance before meeting later in the month.
The governing body meeting on Wednesday, September 8 was held virtually on Zoom as a precautionary measure due to the bad weather overnight.
“At this point we’re still thinking about it, but I don’t think we have anything definitive that we can decide tonight,” said Mayor Guy Piserchia.
Committee member Matthew Dorsi cited the case of his neighbor on Essex Street in Stirling whose driveway is pushed by bamboo roots planted by another neighbor.
“If someone does property damage, there should be some recourse, at least to give the tooth zoning official to say, ‘Hey, take this or the other out,’” Dorsi said.
Committee member Scott Lavender was not opposed to regulating bamboo, but believes the way forward will be complicated.
After reviewing the invasive species laws of other municipalities, Lavender noted that they were insufficient to define them specifically.
“I’m not opposed to it per se, I recommend that we focus on exactly what we’re trying to control,” Lavender said. “If we can’t apply it, why are we bothering? “
As Lavender pointed out, not all bamboo is bad bamboo.
There is bamboo that grows from runners or runners, an underground root system growing horizontally in the ground, which can grow up to 20 feet from the mother plant. Some types of runner bamboo are more aggressive than others.
There are also tufted bamboos, which spread very slowly from a single tuft similar to ornamental grass.
While there are potential mitigation techniques, such as laying concrete or thick plastic edging, Lavender argued it was “too complicated to pursue.”
Lavender suggested clarifying existing laws that provide remedies for nuisance situations and implementing these changes in the township ordinance.
Township attorney John Pidgeon said any action should be a cause of civil action brought by an individual.
“We shouldn’t just leave this as a private action because not everyone can or is willing to pay the cost,” Deputy Mayor Brendan Rae said.
Pidgeon said the committee and / or the zoning officer should be qualified to determine whether a plant or tree is an invasive species.
“It would be a problem as to how we enforce that the zoning officer is qualified to make some of the necessary decisions,” he said.
Morris County was added as one of the New Jersey counties quarantined for the spotted lantern fly.
“This means that residents of the quarantine zone are supposed to complete a compliance checklist,” said township administrator Nancy Malool.
If a Morris County resident travels to an unquarantined county, the individual should ensure that none of their personal effects or vehicle are carrying live lanterns.
But as Malool admitted, “almost everywhere you go in the state is quarantined”.
Lavender has drawn attention to the Tree of Heaven, also an invasive species known to harbor the spotted lantern fly.
“I can tell you from personal experience that this tree is an absolute monster,” Lavender said. “The tree itself spreads like bamboo with runners and creates a toxic environment in the soil that prevents other better tree species from growing.”
He urged the committee not to inadvertently protect invasive species like the tree of the sky in its shade tree ordinance.