Bloomington board of public works notebook: Boxed-in bamboo wins appeal

A stand of bamboo can continue to screen the hawks and herons that eat the excess fish in a backyard Bloomington water feature.

That was ruling from Bloomington’s three-member board of public works at its Tuesday meeting.

In the first week of September, Bloomington resident Carolyn Geduld had been cited by the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department for allowing the bamboo to grow on her property in the southeast part of town. It was a warning that the HAND department issued, not a fine

Under Bloomington’s city code, bamboo is defined as an invasive species and cannot be planted or maintained on a property.

Geduld appealed her notice of violation. And the city’s legal department was persuaded by her argument.

Assistant city attorney Chris Wheeler addressed the board in support of the appeal. Geduld attended Tuesday’s board of public works meeting, but did not address the board.

The key to winning over the legal department was not the hawks and herons that Geduld described in her appeal, but the fact that the bamboo was confined to a structure where it could not spread.

Bloomington has recently cited other residents for bamboo violations, and the city is trying to avoid issuing fines, while still requiring residents to remove their bamboo. But assistant city attorney Chris Wheeler told the board that the specific situation warranted a different approach: “There’s a rationale behind it. We’re not going willy nilly into this.”

What makes the situation different, Wheeler said, is the fact that the bamboo can’t escape its contained area. “There’s a well-defined wall. And it has a floor to it. There’s a concrete floor and brick walls.” Only if the structure containing the bamboo were to be structurally compromised could the bamboo spread, Wheeler said.

That’s why the recommendation from the legal department to grant the appeal came with the condition that the HAND department should “monitor the bamboo annually to determine whether it is spreading or continuing to remain in place in the brick and concrete planter.”