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City mulls fireworks rules

R.J. Wolcott • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:35 AM

New regulations recently approved by the Michigan Legislature redefines what are considered fireworks, and municipalities are now faced with the question of how to regulate the changes.

Public Act 256 took effect Jan. 1, rebranding fireworks into three separate categories: display, consumer and low-impact.

The big change from Act 256 comes from the legalization of the sale of consumer-grade fireworks in the state. Consumer fireworks include bottle rockets and firecrackers, which were previously illegal in the state.

Grand Haven City Council began the task of determining what changes, if any, are made to existing ordinances.

According to Act 256, section 7(2), “A local unit of government may enact an ordinance regulating the ignition, discharge and use of consumer fireworks. However, an ordinance enacted under this subsection shall not regulate the use of consumer fireworks on the day proceeding, the day of, or the day after a national holiday.”

The city is left with three options, according to the city's public safety department: forego any further ordinances and allow residents use fireworks freely; adopt an ordinance that would make discharging fireworks during non-holiday periods a misdemeanor of city code or a civil infraction; allow fireworks on not only national holidays, but during certain festivals and community celebrations such as the Coast Guard Festival.

Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said the department is recommending the third option. In a memo to the city manager, Hawke said it would preserve peace and tranquility for Grand Haven residents, as well as allow people to use fireworks during holidays and special occasions.

City Council seemed split on how to handle the situation at Monday night's meeting.

Councilman Michael Fritz agreed with Hawke that residents should be allowed to use fireworks during special occasions. Fritz said not regulating the use of fireworks would allow emergency dispatchers to focus on situations that are more important.

Councilman Bob Monetza said the legislation passed by the state was "obnoxious." Monetza advocated for a continued prohibition of fireworks in Grand Haven, aside from holidays — which, he said, the city could not restrict, according to the new law.

City Manager Pat McGinnis advocated for a compromise. He said council could write an ordinance that would only allow for fireworks displays on state-regulated days, excluding the days immediately surrounding the second Saturday of the annual Coast Guard Festival.

Council is expected to make a decision later this month.

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