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Council hears about invasive plant dangers

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 10:14 a.m.

The Ligonier Borough Council received a presentation from horticulturist Andrew Webreck detailing the invasive nature of bamboo plants on Thursday, as resident Leslie Nemeth asked the council to recognize the threat her neighbor's bamboo plants pose to the borough.

Nemeth, who resides at 233 East Church St., said her neighbor planted bamboo plants approximately three years ago. Since then, the plants have invaded Nemeth's yard, sprouting up in her flower beds, sidewalk and back porch stairs.

“I'm concerned it will grow up through my siding on my house and tear up my brick sidewalk that I have in my backyard,” Nemeth said. “I don't know what to do about it.”

During his presentation, Webreck passed around a bamboo shoot that had grown almost a foot in 24 hours. He also explained a shoot in Eastern Asia had reportedly grown 39 inches in 24 hours.

“It tends to take off,” he said. It wants to spread. It's like any weed or grass.”

Webreck had observed the growth in Nemeth's yard about a year ago and said it has since tripled in size. He emphasized the fast-growing nature of the plant, adding that if not contained or destroyed, bamboo can create a nest-like environment, attracting mice, rats, termites and ants. It also poses a fire hazard when the plant dries out.

He urged council to look into creating an ordinance banning the plant, as its tendency to spread could lead to problems in the borough, such as roots entangling with sewage pipes. He recommended considering ways to get rid of the plant, such as planting chemical sheets in the soil to contain the root or cutting it down and using commercial herbicide on affected areas. Destroying the plant is costly though, and it can take up to five years to fully rid an area of it.

“You can't kill it with anything from Lowe's,” he said.

Webreck also appealed to the council by explaining the negative side effects bamboo can have on the borough's natural beauty.

“If you have huge stems of bamboo, it's not really desirable,” he said. “It's not what people come to the Laurel Highlands to see. You want to be able to preserve your community.”

Solicitor George Welty found an ordinance that bans plants exceeding six inches high unless for ornamental purposes.

President Robert Helterbran encouraged council members to look into the issue individually to decide how to approach dealing with it during the next meeting. Welty added that Nemeth should consider consulting with an attorney.

Also during the meeting, Vice President Kim Shaffer asked council members to remind members of the community that if they choose to fly the American flag at their residence or business, they should fly it properly. Shaffer said flags can be flown sunrise to sunset and at night if illuminated correctly. Guidelines for flying the flag are available in Rep. Mike Reese's office.

In other news, the council approved appointing Merle Musick as zoning officer effective July 4, 2013. Current zoning officer Chick Cicconi will continue serving the borough as an assistant to Musick after he steps down from his position.

The council also approved the borough's $40 donation to Westmoreland Cleanways for its hazardous waste collection event on Oct. 5, 2012 and moved to reject Verizon Wireless' $500 per month offer for use of the borough's property for a cell phone tower.

The council also discussed Colonial House owner Dawn Metz's request for the borough to extend its noise ordinance hours to 8 a.m. The council moved not to change the ordinance.

Nicole Chynoweth is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862