Eatontown seeks to control invasive bamboo

By Coleen Burnett

Eatontown — Eatontown is looking to possibly ban bamboo in the borough.

Mayor Anthony Talerico floated the idea to the Borough Council at their June 26 meeting. Bamboo is a highly invasive, fast growing plant that, if left unchecked, can destroy virtually anything in its path, including such hard to replace items as sidewalks and sewer systems. Talerico himself had a personal childhood experience with a neighbor’s bamboo — it took out his family’s backyard pool.

Point Pleasant and Brick in Ocean County and Wall Township and Neptune in Monmouth County are just a few of the towns at the Shore that have prohibited the plant. Most times the ordinance gives the authority to the Department of Code Enforcement to handle the bamboo, but most experts agree it is difficult to enforce, due to the fact that the plant travels so fast between properties.

Talerico said he is also aware that there are several residents who have bamboo on their properties that take tremendous care to see that the plant doesn’t travel. This usually involves a somewhat complicated — and expensive — process that involves placing steel or concrete walls ten-plus feet down into the ground nearby to prevent them from wandering.

Eatontown resident Jeff Genovese said the problem was particularly bad for him, as he has a neighbor whose bamboo simply jumps over to his property. The way things stand now, he would be unable to sell his home because of his negligent neighbor.

“It pits neighbor against neighbor, friends against friends, and destroys communities psychologically and personally,” he said. “If we lose 350 grand, where do we go? Who do we sue?”

And he warned there would be consequences for the borough if they waited too long on taking action. “It will cost this town millions of dollars to remediate the problem. You’ll have to dig up the street, dig up the sewer, dig up {what’s underground} and it will take years. Bamboo destroys everything.”

Most ordinances of this type say that you are banned from planting it and if you do have it you are prohibited from letting it get in your neighbor’s yard. Borough Attorney Gene Anthony said he would look into drawing an ordinance up, but warned that it may not be the easy fix everybody thinks it is — especially when comes to the legal term of retroactivity, or determining who originally was at fault.

“I’ve had cases where it has spread over three people’s properties and you’re not sure where it began,” he said.