Royal OakJune 25, 2012
Fireworks retailer, city sue each other
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — The legal fireworks are flying, but the actual bottle rockets and Roman candles were not for the past two weeks as a local vendor worked to meet local ordinances so they could do business, resulting in two lawsuits.
Crazy Fireworks, originally set up at Woodward Avenue and Fourth Street June 6, was forced to relocate to Woodward Avenue, just north of Webster, because the original parking lot site was not appropriately zoned for retail business. However, now that the business is in a correctly zoned area, it still needed to obtain electrical and building permits, which has become an issue of dispute between attorneys for the business and the city.
“Their attitude initially was, that since they have a state permit to sell fireworks, that they didn’t need to abide by local ordinances,” Royal Oak City Attorney David Gillam said June 20. “They eventually did come in and apply for the building and electrical permits. They said they didn’t have to, but they would rather than fight with us.”
The city filed a lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court against Crazy Fireworks June 12 after the business failed to relocate from the original site. This spurred Crazy Fireworks to move shortly after and, with the belief that Crazy Fireworks would obtain the proper permits, the city allowed it to open for the weekend of June 16-17. However, Crazy Fireworks then filed a counterclaim lawsuit against the city June 18.
“We were ready to drop the lawsuit because it had to deal with zoning and then they filed a counterclaim,” Gillam said, noting the business was not open as of June 20.
The two parties were expected to be in court June 21, but that didn’t happen. Gillam said a June 20 electrical inspection and June 21 building inspection passed, allowing Crazy Fireworks to reopen for business.
“The business passed electrical and building permit inspections at its new site yesterday, and is now open for business,” Gillam said via email June 22. “The Circuit Court case is still pending, but I expect that it will be dismissed without costs to either party within the next few weeks.”
Crazy Fireworks attorney Robert Horvath approached the City Commission June 18 during public comment of the City Commission meeting and reiterated his client’s wishes to work with the city despite the lawsuit he filed earlier in the day.
“My clients are very willing to work with the city. We would like to continue and finalize these discussions to do what is necessary to open for business,” Horvath said. “So that’s what we’re interested in, in working out these problems. I haven’t run across one fire marshal in the state of Michigan that we’ve had a problem with and most of the cities are using our model and our standards as something that they go by.”
Horvath also said the reason Crazy Fireworks did not initially relocate when asked, which resulted in the city filing suit, was due to a communication error on the city’s part.
“We agreed to remove the container there to further north,” Horvath said. “Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the message didn’t get down to the police. When we tried to remove the premises that evening, we were told by the police that we couldn’t do so, so that delayed us to the following day. The following day, I believe my client had over 10 individuals work over 24 straight hours to remove the premises from the place where the city didn’t want it to a place where they did want it.”
Now open for business, Gillam said Crazy Fireworks’ setup is more than just a folding table under a tent. That’s why it required additional permits after the move.
“They’ve taken a big metal shipping crate and they’ve cut a door in one end and a door in one side. They’ve converted them into a showroom with shelving units,” Gillam said. “Regardless of the state fireworks act, you have to comply with the other codes. We’re not anti-fireworks at all. The suit that they filed against us is alleging that our interference with them has cost them (monetary gain).”
When Horvath spoke to the City Commission, he pleaded ignorance to the permit requirements, citing his client’s work with other nearby cities and that state permits supersede anything local.
“When I spoke to Mr. Gillam, I informed him that those in the firework industry and those who have been working in the industry for many years, in particular during the last six months on a daily basis, were not informed and had no idea that we were required to a local unit of government to secure permits or any other document because the state had pre-empted the fireworks area and had required us to submit various permits, as well as maintain $10 million in liability insurance, as well as file an affidavit compliance that the operator of the business was complying with state, as well as federal laws, relating to the sale, storage and display of consumer fireworks,” Horvath said.
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