A 21-minute conversation from the dais regarding Ordinance 2549 – which would have limit and place restrictions on bamboo growth in the borough – resulted in the bill being defeated almost unanimously at the October 18th Mayor & Council meeting.
The governing body asked the Code Enforcement Official Frank Genova to the podium for the discussion. Mr. Genova explained to council that the construction department officers are not design experts and would only be looking for specifications and how a rhizome – or barrier – would need to be constructed. He went on to state that he had serious concerns with concrete as a barrier. When asked how thick the concrete should be, Mr. Genova responded, “I don’t even want to see it in concrete. I’d rather see it in some type of plastic . . . I think concrete will crack and the roots will expand right through the cracks. I’m looking for some type of barrier that’s not going to be deteriorated through freezing and could handle the elements.”
Councilman-At-Large Joseph DeIorio asked, “How much of this is a townwide problem? Because just like we dealt with the noise ordinance, we found out that it was one person and we’re creating a whole new law to try to address one thing and it didn’t work out well.”
First Ward Councilwoman Jayme Lynn Negron commented, “So this barrier would then have to be done throughout the entire borough even on our property that has bamboo.”
“What this requires is anyone who has bamboo,” replied Borough Attorney Richard Huxford.
“Including the borough,” reiterated the councilwoman.
“So we would have to follow our own law,” she explained, “So if it’s in the back of Acker Park or by the baseball field, we would have to then pay a contractor to go out and do it the way we are telling residents to do it.”
Mr. Huxford answered, “As this is written right now, that is correct.”
Councilwoman Negron inquired as to how prevalent this problem was with residents. The borough attorney went to state that Mr. Genova relayed that the construction department received ‘two or three’ complaints about bamboo.
Councilman DeIorio remarked, “We’re getting into this trend of when one or two people have a problem we’re trying to pass an ordinance, so that’s my concern. If we have one or two people . . . Are there existing laws in place that we can use to try and remedy this?”
Mr. Huxford cited an existing law, Section 19-2.2 which addresses the removal of brush, debris, and whatever is determined to be ‘obnoxious growth’.
This lead to another discussion where it was mentioned to that a deputy code enforcement officer is interpreting bamboo to not be obnoxious growth.
Councilman DeIorio commented, “What else is out there that we’re not enforcing that we used to enforce because of an interpretation? That’s just my opinion and a little bit of a vent because I’m getting frustrated.”
Mr. Huxford presented a solution, “If you [Mr. Genova] determine it as being an obnoxious growth . . . as department head, can you set down a policy . . . determining that as of such and such a date in your determination bamboo . . . is an obnoxious growth and should be treated accordingly under Section 19-2.2?”
“I am in agreeance with that,” concurred Mr. Genova.
“This way, we don’t need to amend the ordinance unless mayor & council want to do that,” reiterated Mr. Huxford, “And that the policy set forth by the construction department and the code enforcement head would indicate that effective whatever date you put the policy out, that’s an obnoxious growth, and it would stay in effect until you repeal it or someone else repeals it down the road.”
Mr. Genova agreed.
With the understanding that the borough would use existing law to address invasive bamboo growth, the vote was taken to defeat Ordinance 2549 with Second Ward Councilman Joseph Petrosky being the only ‘yes’ vote.
The one telling comment of the entire discussion was made by Councilwoman Negron regarding how the municipality deals with issues on a case-by-case or complaint-by-complaint basis. She said, “Can I just go on record by saying I dream of a council meeting where we don’t make a new law.”