Bloomfield Township amends fireworks ordinance

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 16, 2013

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Following a move by the Michigan Legislature last month to allow municipalities the ability to regulate the use of fireworks during overnight hours, Bloomfield Township took steps to amend its own fireworks ordinance.

Under the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, which passed in 2011, local governments could not put any restrictions on the discharge, initiation or use of consumer grade fireworks on the day before, the day of or the day after national holidays.

House Bill 4743, which passed June 12, was designed to give some control back to local governments in regulating the use of consumer fireworks.

“Before, it was pretty much determined that the state had preempted the field and that local ordinances may not be enforceable,” said Township Attorney Bill Hampton at the July 8 regular Board of Trustees meeting.

The amendment to the township fireworks ordinance allows for discharge of fireworks on the day before, the day of and the day after 10 holidays specified in state law, but restricts it to between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m., with the exception being New Year’s, 1 a.m. to 8 a.m.

The holidays include New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

“This has been a real problem; the Police Department has expressed even as much as a year ago when the new (law) went into effect, about the number of complaints about people discharging fireworks in the middle of the night,” Hampton said.

“The amended ordinance does make it clear that display fireworks must be in accordance with the township’s fireworks policy, and a permit is required from the board before you can display fireworks, such as what is happening in some of the country clubs and in some of the neighborhood associations.”

Bloomfield Township Police Chief Geof Gaudard said his department received 48 fireworks-related complaints between May of 2012 and May of 2013, with the vast majority occurring in June and July.

“Of those 48, I think 38 were during those two months,” he said.

“If you look at this year, we’ve had 22 complaints so far in June and July. It’s not that we don’t receive fireworks complaints throughout the year; it’s more the issue of those we responded to, we had to comply with state law, and state law allowed them throughout the year.”

Gaudard added that most complaints start rolling in from 10 p.m. and later.

“I think that follows people’s normal sensibilities, when they are starting to go to bed or if it’s way past their bedtimes and people are still firing those things off. That’s when we get the complaints.”

Trustee Brian Kepes asked Hampton if it was possible to move the time restriction to 11 p.m. instead of midnight, and extend it forward from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

“Most communities are saying midnight. I suppose you could go to 11, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Hampton said.

“If you take the Fourth of July, it doesn’t even get dark until almost 10:30.”

Unmanned free-floating devices such as sky lanterns, which are propelled by fire and not moored to the ground, are prohibited, but the ordinance does allow for the use of novelty and low-impact fireworks such as toy pistols with caps, toy cannons, toy snakes, paper caps, toy smoke devices and sparklers.

All consumer-grade fireworks are prohibited from use on public school, church or private property of another person without the express written permission from the person or entity. No person under the age of 18 is allowed to possess, discharge or ignite any consumer fireworks at any time.

Beverly Hills Manager Chris Wilson said Village Attorney Tom Ryan is currently drafting a similar ordinance that will allow for better fireworks enforcement.

“We did have less fireworks complaints this year than we did last year. Last year, we received complaints from people with animals, dogs in particular, who were very startled by the fireworks,” he said.

“This year, I think people were a bit more respectful of their neighbors and were shutting it down before midnight.”

Wilson said the new language should come before the Village Council sometime in August.