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Carolina Beach Considers Prohibiting Uncontrolled Bamboo Growth

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council considered a new ordinance at their Tuesday July 10, meeting to prohibit "Running" bamboo plants.
According to Planning Director Ed Parvin, Carolina Beach property owner Dr. Donna Levesque expressed concerns at their June 12, meeting with bamboo planted next door to her property.
Levesque said the running bamboo started to encroach on lot and was beginning to cause damage to her landscaping.
Parvin explained the Council heard that concern and directed Town staff to research the issue and look at potentially developing an ordinance that would eliminate Levesque's and any other property owner's concerns with invasive bamboo.
He explained, "There are a couple of types. There's "clumping" and "running". Running is the type that is invasive and the type people have problems with. It can destroy and take over landscaping, damage foundations, damage pools, things like that."
Parvin presented an ordinance to the Council but noted, "Some of the legislative authority in the General Statutes goes to the State to regulate these types of plants. Beach Vitex, bamboo" and other types of plants.
He explained, "We could send a letter to the state asking them to regulate running bamboo. Or you might want to look at this as a civil issue between these two property owners."
The proposed ordinance would prohibit planting running bamboo and require existing plants to be eradicated.
He said, "Containing it was not an option I put in there."
Town Manager Tim Owens explained, "The other concern I have is where our authority lies in the North Carolina General Statutes. It does talk about the North Carolina Department of Agriculture but it really doesn't talk about Towns to my knowledge."
Beach Vitex was banned some years ago by authority granted by the State General Assembly. It's a non-native plant that was originally believed to control beach erosion but soon became invasive killing off other native plants that better hold together sand dunes along the beachfront.
Town Attorney Lawrence Craige explained State General Statutes give the Town the authority to define and "abate nuisances" based on public health and safety. He recommended amending the proposal saying, "To specifically define the bamboo as a nuisance and perhaps explain why it is a danger to other property owners."
Council member Sarah Friede asked if running bamboo was actually an issue of public health and safety?
Craige said the Town would have to define it as a "threat to public safety" to decrease the likelihood of any future challenge to the ordinance.
Mayor Ray Rothrock jokingly said, "I've known since I moved here about 27 years ago that it is totally illegal to plant sweet potatoes on this Island."
Rothrock said in addition to the ban on Beach Vitex, New Hanover County has a ban on two other plants.
He said, "I think it would be appropriate for the Town to go to the state via the county because one of the weeds, which is Puncture Vine, is just in New Hanover County. Let the Department of Agriculture in on this and make it county wide if they need to. Because I think if the County was to hear about the bamboo" they would probably support it.
Rothrock said another solution is to purchase "Root Rot" which will kill anything.
He made a motion to contact the County and State to request a ban on running bamboo.
Former Councilman Alan Gilbert told the Council during a public hearing that he has running bamboo on his property and he researched methods to control it using barriers.
Gilbert said, "I think you've got a single matter here. You've got a neighbor who's not being a good neighbor."
He said some people are responsible with running bamboo.
Council member Sarah Friede said if an owner allows running bamboo to grow into a neighbors yard, "It's some type of trespassing" and it's a civil matter between property owners. She said there are other options to deal with the problem and said she wouldn't support the proposed ordinance.
Mayor Rothrock said, "Shall we give staff direction to contact the County and Department of Agriculture to see what steps can be taken."
The Council agreed.