Bethlehem Press

Monday, October 21, 2019
Sean Delonas with the offending running bamboo growing in his yard. Sean Delonas with the offending running bamboo growing in his yard.

BETHLEHEM TOWNSHIP: Resident seeks relief from invasive bamboo

Thursday, July 30, 2015 by BERNIE O'HARE Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

About 50 people attended the July 20 meeting of Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners to complain about raging stormwaters that periodically turn the township into the Venice of the Lehigh Valley. But Sean Delonas was there for something completely different: Bamboo.

Out-of control flooding has plagued many township residents, but Delonas warned that destructive bamboo is next. The kind that goes through a home's foundation and destroys underground utilities. Best known as a cartoonist for the New York Post's Page Six from 1990 to 2013, Delonas asked commissioners for their help, suggesting an ordinance that would impose restrictions on how this grass is planted.

Four of the five commissioners agreed to study the problem. But the fifth, Michael Hudak, repeatedly interrupted Delonas and disputed nearly every point made. Hudak eventually walked out of the meeting.

Delonas told commissioners that running bamboo is recognized by the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as one of the fastest growing and most invasive plants in the world. His neighbor planted bamboo along his property line, and the grasses have spread to DeLonas' property at Cabernet Place. According to a study by the Institute of Invasive Bamboo Research, running bamboo even survived the Hiroshima bomb.

Delonas told commissioners that running bamboo has already broken through his fence "and will break my underground lines, pipes and my home's foundation in less than two years." He requested an ordinance that would hold a property owner responsible for the spread of this plant onto other properties. He stopped short of seeking an outright ban, but wants those who plant running bamboo held responsible if its destructive path takes aim at another person's property.

Throughout Pennsylvania, 17 communities have adopted bamboo ordinances. Some, like Douglass Township, have imposed a ban on this grass.

A Cumberland County Court has declared running bamboo a "vegetative nuisance." The court reasoned that urban living includes certain responsibilities, including a responsibility to take precautions against invasive plants that encroach upon another person's property.

While Delonas attempted to speak, Hudak repeatedly interrupted him. His first comment was that there is a grove of bamboo trees behind his house, and it has not spread into his yard. Delonas tried to explain that clumping bamboo does not spread and that Hudak may have running bamboo confused with cane, which is native to this area and does not spread. But Hudak kept speaking over him.

Hudak then said Tiger Lillies are an invasive plant and no one complains about them. Delonas was not objecting to running bamboo because it is invasive, but because it is destructive. He referred Hudak to several studies, but Hudak retorted, "I'm married to someone with all those degrees."

Hudak insisted Delonas was seeking a ban on bamboo, which Delonas denied. Hudak then said bamboo has been growing in the township for the last 80 years without incident.

"You can do what you want," he advised. "Phil will vote for it," he added, taking a shot at another commissioner. Then, declaring he was speechless, Hudak said he was done, and walked out of the meeting.

Phil Barnard's response to Delonas? "We owe you a review."

Attempts to contact Delonas' neighbor, who is reportedly out of town, were unsuccessful.