To the Editor:
Attention all Cape May homeowners with trees, shrubs, vines and plants in their beautiful yards and gardens: you will be surprised to know that as of Dec. 29 of this year, many common trees, shrubs, vines and plants you have already growing in your yard will become literally illegal, if ordinance number 404-2020 “to control and eliminate invasive plants and species,” up for a public hearing and final adoption at Cape May City Council’s 4 p.m. meeting Dec. 1, becomes law, with Lear, Hendricks and Meier voting in the affirmative.
What would become illegal to have on your premises? Not only bamboo, ragweed, multiflora rose, kudzu, poison ivy and oak, mimosa trees, and Bradford and Callery pear trees, but everything listed on the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team Do Not Plant lists.
Included, along with Phragmites, porcelain berry vine, are, for example: Japanese and Norway maples, goldenrain trees, black locusts, elms, zelkova, white and gray poplar, sweet cherry, higan cherry, paulownia trees, ailanthus trees; plants like Spanish bluebells, scilla, yellow flag irises, and some ornamental grasses (preexisting mature trees would be exempted).
Shrubs include barberry, butterfly bushes, euonymus alata (burning bush), hydrangea paniculate, privet hedges, rosa rugosa, spirea, and six kinds of viburnums.
Vines include kiwi, akebia, flamula and terniflora clematis, euonymous fortune, Japanese and four other honeysuckles, English ivy, Boston ivy and wisteria.
There are about 200 entries, many with Latin common names known to few, and needing a horticultural expert to identify and name.
“Failure to control the existence or growth of any invasive species on a resident’s property” is a violation. “All places and premises… shall be subject to inspection by the enforcing officer.”
If code enforcement finds an invasive plant, as defined in the ordinance, the city will issue a violation notice, and order you to remove or “abate” it within a specified time, at your expense.
If you fail to comply, “the enforcing official may remove or otherwise control the invasive plant,” and the town “may recover the cost of such removal from the property owner and place a lien on the property,” or, alternatively or additionally, the owner can be prosecuted in municipal court, subject to penalties.
Does this strike you as a little bit drastic? Should any “invasive” plant be made “illegal?” Is there an ordinance like this anywhere else?
I asked the city to post these Do Not Plant lists on the city website, with the ordinance, which will be posted Nov. 27. Please contact the city or comment at the meeting.
Perhaps the city should provide an expert naturalist at the hearing to show slides of all these “invasives,” so residents could see what will henceforth be illegal. Also, could the naturalist explain the harm these invasives are doing?
I, for one, know that poison ivy is good for wildlife. Should poison ivy be made illegal?
Also, could the city or its hired contractor come into my yard and remove plants with glyphosate or Roundup?
This ordinance needs to be defeated.
ED. NOTE: This letter was submitted after deadline for the Nov. 25 edition of the Herald and is running online only.