Fenton Officials Ponder Fireworks Restrictions
Fenton is considering what they can regulate with people allowed to sell and use more powerful fireworks 30 days per year under new state fireworks law.
Michigan is hoping to add some revenue with a new law restricting local governments' control over consumer fireworks sales and use for 30 days of the year. Legislators reason that instead of Michigan residents driving to Ohio, for example, to buy more powerful fireworks, they will be able to purchase them in their own state.
"They believe there is money to be made in Michigan with fireworks," Councilwoman Pat Lockwood said.
The six percent Michigan sales tax people will pay when they buy consumer fireworks is a motivation for the law, along with a fireworks tax that the state has established. Fireworks tax money will go into a special fund, and state officials intend to eventually share it with municipalities, to cover local governments' costs, Lockwood said. These costs could include issuing local permits for fireworks sales, Lockwood said. Under the new law, the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, nonprofit organizations can sell consumer fireworks, with a permit.
Unfortunately, though, the state bypassed local governments' input when it passed the law, she added. What works for one community doesn't always work for another.
Some Fenton City Council members said they'd support a time limit for when people can light consumer fireworks on the days it's allowed.
City attorney Stephen Schultz said Fenton would need to amend its noise ordinance dealing with fireworks. In addition, someone who receives a ticket for lighting consumer fireworks during a time limit a local government sets, on one of the 30 days listed in the state law could challenge the ticket in court, Schultz added.
"Someone has to be a test case," he said.
According to the state law, people can light consumer fireworks all day and all evening during the 30 days that are listed, Lockwood said.
Councilman Les Bland said he supports a time limit for fireworks in Fenton, along with the city being able to recoup its costs if there's a large fire.
Schultz said Fenton doesn't currently charge residents for fire department runs. The fire department has a cost recovery ordinance for when it responds to calls for nonresidents, or for when the Fenton Fire Department leaves its jurisdiction.
Before the state law, citizens' use of any type of fireworks that left the ground and made noise were illegal, said Chief of Police Rick Aro.
Now, for certain holidays, it's legal for people to use more powerful fireworks classified as consumer fireworks on their own private property, said Fenton Fire Chief Robert Cairnduff. These include bottle rockets, Roman candles and mortars.
The police department's recommendation is for council to have something in place in terms of regulations before the Fourth of July, Aro said.
Resident Cherie Smith said people tailgate in parking lots along Silver Parkway during the Fourth of July. She has concerns about tailgaters setting off larger, consumer fireworks near a lot of other people, children and vehicles.
The police department can and will enforce incidents of people lighting consumer fireworks in businesses' parking lots and on public property, Aro said.
The state passed a law effective Jan. 1, changing local authority over the regulation of consumer fireworks. There are now 30 days that local governments in Michigan can't prohibit the sale or transportation of this type of fireworks, said city attorney Stephen Schultz. These 30 days of the year include the day before, the day of, and the day after 10 holidays. The main holidays for fireworks would be Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and New Year's Day, he said. Holidays that are listed in the state law but probably wouldn't be main ones for fireworks include Columbus Day, for example.
On the other 335 days of the year, local governments can regulate and prohibit the use of consumer fireworks.
There are four levels of fireworks, said Cairnduff. These are novelty, low impact, consumer and display fireworks.
Novelty and display fireworks include sparklers, cones, snakes, party poppers, California rockets and smoke candles and sparkling wheel devices. And display fireworks are larger ones that muncipalities use for Fourth of July displays, for example.
Consumer fireworks are the ones affected by the recent law, Cairnduff said.
City Manager Lynn Markland said seven communities have passed restrictions. He asked for guidance from council on the issue.
The issue is scheduled to appear on council's Monday meeting agenda, for possible action, said Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl King. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Fenton City Hall.
It's an ordinance regarding policing power, so there's no requirement for council to wait on acting on it, Schultz said.
Council also discussed the issue of tents selling consumer fireworks around the city, and how long these tents would be able to operate.
Tent and sidewalk sales for local businesses are allowed for two weeks, maximum, in a calendar year, Schultz said. But tent operations for consumer fireworks could operate for around three months, from before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Otherwise, fireworks sellers could say a local government is trying to regulate them out of business, he said.
With the state law, Fenton has limited ability to regulate the sale of fireworks, Schultz said. But the city can address tent sales of fireworks as a land use issue, he added.