Madison HeightsJuly 24, 2012
Madison Heights ramps up fireworks regulations
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
Things should be quieter for a while.
In response to public outcry over the constant and widespread fireworks activity this summer, Madison Heights City Council adopted an ordinance on second reading July 23 banning the use of consumer fireworks for most of the year, starting Aug. 2.
Specifically, consumer fireworks are banned on all but 30 days where state law says they must be allowed. Those 30 days are the day of, before and after 10 national holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Exemptions can be granted to those who pay a fee and meet safety and insurance requirements. Among the requirements: No fireworks usage between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.; no fireworks usage on public, school, church or personal property without permission from the property owner; no use of consumer fireworks or low-impact fireworks while under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance; at least 75 feet of separation between spectators and any consumer firework with aerial shells; and so on.
City Council also authorized a resolution to the state expressing concern over the fireworks situation, citing resident complaints as early as May, and asking legislators to revisit the new state law, though not requesting any changes in particular.
“I think the resolution is important because we need to notify the state that not everything they approve is approved by cities as well,” said City Councilwoman Margene Scott. “We are trying to respond to our own citizens’ request about the fireworks, to notify legislators that this is a problem in our city, and they should really reconsider it.”
The so-called Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, prohibits cities from regulating the sale, display, storage, transportation and distribution of consumer fireworks, as well as protecting their use on the 30 days specified.
The act’s goal was to generate an estimated $30 million in revenues from taxes and licensing fees. The state has already issued 966 licenses for fireworks, generating $600 to $1,000 per permit. One supplier indicated they delivered over $20 million worth of fireworks to Michigan and exhausted their stock before July 4.
“The whole thing started because of the money,” said Mayor Pro Tem Robert Corbett. “So they (the state) went ahead and did it, but I don’t know sufficient concern was given to the effect downstream.”
Problems include fireworks startling pets, infants and the elderly; debris clogging up drains and littering yards; and potential fire hazards and bodily harm, with one man in Hazel Park losing a leg due to improper handling.
At the ordinance’s first reading July 9, Madison Heights resident Robert Levitt shared his distress over the fireworks.
“My little dog is going to have a heart attack. Many of my neighbors feel the same way,” Levitt said. “I don’t dislike fireworks; I don’t like them either. But people just do not use common horse sense.”
He said he called police when a nearby church was unwittingly launching fireworks in the direction of his home.
“I was livid when they were shooting fireworks at my house,” Levitt said. “I told (police), ‘Officer, I’m going to wrap a crowbar around someone’s head if you don’t get here soon, because I don’t want my house to burn down.’”
Corbett said he was backpacking in the woods up north when the worst of the fireworks happened around July 4. Resident complaints found him even up there.
“I’m going down the trail, three miles from anyone, other than the trout laughing at me from the stream. There’s nobody for miles,” Corbett said at the July 9 meeting. “My phone goes off; I didn’t realize I had it in the backpack. It’s updating my emails, and I had 10 emails regarding the fireworks issue, and the first six were not very polite, and then they got nastier from there.
“It (the fireworks) really got out of hand this year,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult to enforce. It’s only going to be as enforceable as the willingness of neighborhoods to stand up and point out people who are at 2 in the morning setting them off and so forth. Otherwise, police don’t have the resources to wait in the neighborhoods for someone to shoot something off. All this law will do is when someone is located who won’t modify their behavior, it gives police a tool to enforce it, to make them comply with the rules.”
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