Whether to require property owners to take steps to contain running bamboo from encroaching on adjacent properties is among the issues Bexley City Council members plan to revisit when they return from their summer recess in August.
Council is considering an ordinance that would add running bamboo to the city's list of noxious vegetation and weeds, along with such plants as poison ivy, poison oak and ragweed.
Bamboo is divided into two main types: running and clumping, according to the American Bamboo Society's website, Bamboo.org. Clumping bamboo has a short root structure that extends a maximum of a few inches each year. Running bamboo can reach up to 100 feet aboveground, with an underground root system known as runners or rhizomes that can extend far from the parent plant, according to the website.
"Running bamboo is an aggressive, fast-growing plant that once it gets started on your property, it is almost impossible to get rid of," Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said at the first reading of Ordinance 17-18 at council's May 22 meeting.
"It's a uniquely problematic plant," he said.
If approved by council, the ordinance would require property owners, at their own expense, to install a barrier system and remove bamboo that is encroaching onto any other private property or public right of way.
He said the ordinance is written so that violators would first receive a citation and the city's code-enforcement officer would work with them to establish a timeline for them to remove the running bamboo from the other property and install a barrier. If the property owner would fail to comply with a citation to remove the running bamboo, the owner would receive a fine.
If necessary, the city's code-enforcement officer would give the property owner an extension to comply with the citation, Kessler said.
If the property owner doesn't comply with the citation at all, Kessler said, the city has two options: Hire a contractor to remove the bamboo and install a barrier and pass the cost on to the resident or issue a separate citation for the property owner to appear in Bexley Mayor's Court. At that point, the magistrate would decide a penalty, which could be a fee in an amount the magistrate would determine or a longer timeframe for the property owner to comply.
Kessler said the legislation resulted from a complaint from a resident, Nathaniel Hartman of East Livingston Avenue. Hartman informed the city earlier this year that his next-door neighbor's bamboo had started encroaching on his property and causing a nuisance.
Hartman said he has been battling the spread of bamboo since he and his wife bought their house four years ago.
"The first year, it went out 8 feet. You can rip out the rhizomes. I've impaled myself with it. I've poked through my boots with it. It's that hard," he said. "It's very invasive, and now we're four years on.
"It's gone across my entire half of my property, almost all the way to my backyard, which is 100 feet away from where the plant is actually planted," he said.
After Hartman reported the issue, Kessler said, he and the city's code-enforcement officer, David Hrdlicka, discussed how to remedy instances of bamboo encroaching onto the public right of way and private property.
"I recalled a similar issue the city deals with where we have bamboo that encroaches into public right of way at a corner that's of concern and we have to continuously cut back the bamboo in order to allow drivers to see around the corner," Kessler said, referring to the corner of Bryden Road and Moreland Drive.
"We started to brainstorm how we could solve that issue with a change to our code," he said.
Kessler said the ordinance is modeled on similar regulation in Worthington.
In 2015, Worthington City Council passed an ordinance that requires bamboo owners to make sure the plant stays on their property, or they face a $100-a-day fine.
Worthington has had only two cases since adopting the law in 2015. In one, a magistrate ordered the removal of the bamboo from a Howard Avenue property, city law director Tom Lindsey said.
In the other, no enforcement action was taken against the owner of a Loveman Avenue property, Lindsey said.
Bexley's ordinance doesn't ban property owners from planting running bamboo or maintaining running bamboo that was planted before the ordinance, Kessler said.
"We're also requiring that if you have this type of bamboo, you need to install a barrier from going into adjacent properties," he said.
Councilman Troy Markham, chairman of the service and environmental committee, said Tree and Public Garden Commission members are planning to discuss the issue at their July 18 meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St. Markham said he will ask the commission to make a recommendation to council on whether running bamboo should be listed in a separate category, since it is not poisonous.
Council is scheduled to reconvene and discuss the ordinance at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at Bexley City Hall.
Columbus Dispatch reporter Mark Ferenchik contributed to this story.