City looks at fireworks ordinance

GLADSTONE – The expanded use of consumer fireworks in Michigan has created headaches for law enforcement across the state, but soon Gladstone Public Safety may have an ordinance to point to when addressing residents’ concerns over firework usage.

The proposed ordinance, which was introduced at Monday night’s city commission meeting and will be up for a public hearing during the Dec. 9 meeting, is designed to curb noise and debris related firework complaints.

“We’ve had an issue with fireworks like each community has at certain times of the year since the change in the state of Michigan law that allows consumer fireworks to be sold and/or used,” said Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer.

For many years consumer fireworks, such as bottle rockets and Roman candles, were illegal in Michigan, prompting residents to search elsewhere for the festive explosive devices.

“Our neighboring states like Wisconsin and Ohio did allow consumer fireworks so many people were traveling out of state; they were purchasing these fireworks, bringing them back into Michigan,” said Geyer.

The prohibition on consumer fireworks was lifted in 2011. However, opening up consumer fireworks in Michigan for sale and use created problems for local law enforcement in many communities – particularly when discharged fireworks prompted noise complaints or disputes over falling debris.

Unlike display fireworks, which require a permit from the city to be discharged and are specifically used for celebrations such as the Fourth of July, municipalities had few options when it came to regulating consumer firework usage.

“It’s the consumer fireworks that we didn’t have any sort of control over,” said Geyer.

Communities across Michigan began raising their concerns to the state, and this year an amendment to the current law was passed giving municipalities more power over the times, days, and circumstances under which consumer fireworks can be discharged.

“In 2013 they passed another amendment per se, or public act, which revised the state fireworks law which allowed local communities to regulate the use of consumer fireworks,” said Geyer.

While the proposed ordinance was fast tracked by the city due to a complaint received in August, Geyer believes the issue of a fireworks ordinance would have eventually been brought before the city to address the needs of the public safety department.

“This ordinance provides us with the ability to put some regulations and stipulations on basically when and where the consumer fireworks can be detonated or used,” said Geyer.

By state law, the city cannot prohibit the use of consumer fireworks on the day preceding, the day of, or the day after a national holiday. However, based on the city’s population, Gladstone is allowed to prohibit the discharge of consumer fireworks between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. on these days.

“We don’t want to, nor are we allowed to, impose any greater restrictions than what state law allows, which state law gives them the permission on those 33 days and those are designated in the ordinance,” said Geyer, referencing the 10 national holidays recognized and their adjoining days.

The proposed ordinance brought before the commission would limit the use of consumer fireworks to the 33 days protected by law and impose the overnight time restraints on discharging fireworks.

In addition, the ordinance would set restrictions on the use of fireworks when debris would fall on property not owned by the person discharging the fireworks, prohibit discharging fireworks while under the influence of alcohol or when a burn ban is in effect, and prohibit minors from possessing or being sold consumer fireworks.

The Dec. 9 Gladstone City Commission meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at city hall.