Fireworks ordinance fizzles in Denton

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By Cheryl Holladay

Regulating the use of fireworks in light of a relatively new Michigan law allowing consumer fireworks such as Roman candles, bottle rockets and other items that leave the ground drew some fire at a recent Denton Township meeting.

Under Michigan’s fireworks law, municipalities may not regulate residents’ use of consumer fireworks the day before, the day of and the day after a national holiday (10 national holidays in all). Some municipalities have adopted ordinances to restrict fireworks use on non-holidays and Denton Township has been considering the same.

At its June 5 meeting, Lake James resident Mary Jo Wilczewski addressed the board, stating she has visited businesses along M-55, most of which were unaware of the proposed ordinance (Ordinance No. 89) that was up for a vote.

“This is a resort town,” she said. “We have these businesses we need to support.”

She said people visiting spend money, eat out at restaurants, buy toys and that businesses want them to be able to shoot off (consumer) fireworks.

“We need a public hearing,” she said, adding more residents should voice their opinions. “These people (tourists) come up for 48 hours. Let’s play nice.”

Denton Township’s proposed ordinance – which was not adopted at the meeting – would have regulated what can be set off and when. Township officials discussed it at their regular meeting May 1 and again at a special meeting May 15. It states: “The use of low impact fireworks is permitted year-round in the Township of Denton,” but “Consumer Fireworks may not be used, discharged and/or ignited in the Township of Denton except on the day before, the day of and the day after a national holiday.”

The language says that consumer fireworks include things such as sky rockets, bottle rockets, missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, Roman candles and firecrackers and that consumer fireworks do not include lowimpact fireworks (commonly known as sparklers, cylindrical or cone fountains, illuminating torches, wheels, ground spinners, flitter sparklers, certain toy smoke devices and certain multiple tube fireworks devices.)

Lake James resident Al Walker disagreed with Wilczewski’s argument that fireworks draw people to Houghton Lake, adding that visitors are, indeed, wanted in the area.

At the board’s May 1 meeting, he had presented board members with a draft of an ordinance in regards to consumer fireworks he would like to see enacted that would prohibit the ignition, discharge or use of consumer fireworks in the township to the extent allowed by Public Act 256. His petition of the proposal, signed by about 90 people, requested that a person who violates the proposed ordinance be responsible for a municipal civil infraction, subject to a maximum fine of $500 and court costs.

Walker said the state law is “very specific,” in that local communities may enact ordinances related to consumer fireworks except for national holidays and the day before and day after, for a total of 30 days of the year. He said the public health and welfare is paramount.

“They are explosives,” he said.

One small business owner said she had difficulty equating the benefits to area restaurants because those businesses existed before the fireworks law went into effect.

“This is not just a Lake James issue,” Larry Bittner, a Lake James resident, said.

One woman in the audience commented that she heard fireworks going off in her neighborhood one evening for two hours and she had to shut the windows.

“I go to the Tip-up Town fireworks,” she said, adding there should be some moderation of consumer fireworks. “I live here. I support the businesses.”

“Restrict the amount of time people can bother us,” one man said.

Trustee Paula Fuller suggested giving the Michigan Legislature a year.

“They’re already thinking of time limits,” she said.

Legislators are considering an amendment to the law, House Bill 4743. Co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats, the amendment would allow local units of government to adopt ordinances prohibiting the use of consumer fireworks between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. the day before, on and after most national holidays (except New Year’s, when midnight displays would be allowed).

Clerk Carol Asher reminded residents that the township already has a nuisance ordinance. Under the ordinance, a nuisance is defined as “any act or acts... which annoys, injures or endangers the peace, welfare, order, health or safety of the public in their persons or property” and includes conditions “which render persons insecure in life or in the use and enjoyment of their property, such as effects and emanations from noise, glare, lights, vibration, dust, smoke, odor, gas, steam, fly ash, soot...”

Supervisor Craig Cotterman made a motion to adopt the fireworks ordinance No. 89 as presented, but it failed for lack of support.

Police Chief Dallas McGeary said he would track the number of complaints he receives under the nuisance ordinance.

2013-06-13 / Front Page

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