St. Clair Shores fireworks ordinance now in line with state law

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 26, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — When the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act of 2011 was signed into law, it changed the way Michiganders used fireworks.

Ushering in a larger category of fireworks that were allowed to be used by nonprofessionals, municipal governments and the state Legislature have, since then, made some changes in reaction to complaints from residents and municipalities that have been strapped trying to police the use of fireworks within their borders.

St. Clair Shores adopted its own ordinance in reaction to the state law shortly after it took effect in 2012, and on Aug. 19, the City Council once again made changes to its ordinance to reflect amendments to the state law.

“The state Legislature amended the fireworks law, which, back in 2011, basically created a … change where fireworks that had previously not been allowed were allowed, primarily during major federal holidays: the day of, the day before and the day after,” City Attorney Robert Ihrie explained.

About a year ago, he said, the state Legislature changed the law to allow municipalities to better regulate the ignition of fireworks in the city. The amendments presented to the City Council Aug. 19 were a reaction to that law.

“This ordinance in front of you restricts that to the bare minimum required by state law,” Ihrie said.

Now, instead of fireworks being allowed for three days on and surrounding 10 federal holidays, consumer fireworks will only be allowed after 11 a.m. on the following days:

• Dec. 31, until 1 a.m. Jan. 1.

• The Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding Memorial Day, until 11:45 p.m. on each of those days.

• June 29 to July 4, until 11:45 p.m. on each of those days.

• July 5, if that date falls on a Friday or Saturday, until 11:45 p.m.

• The Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding Labor Day, until 11:45 p.m. on each of those days.

Ihrie said that the ordinance effectively prohibits fireworks during every other day and hour of the year except during those times. While the state law prohibits a municipality from regulating the use of fireworks during those specific days spelled out above, Ihrie said that the provisions in St. Clair Shores’ ordinance stating that fireworks cannot be ignited within 200 feet of a residence or a car, by a minor or near an open flame will still be allowed.

“I don’t think that the state law ... means that we can’t take reasonable steps to protect the health of our residents and the property of our residents,” he said.

Until the city is challenged and loses in court, Ihrie said, “I would prefer ... that we err on the side of protection of property and health rather than err on the side of not protecting it.”

The fine for violating the law, he said, would be increased to $1,000 from the current $500 to be in compliance with the state law.

Councilman John Caron pointed out that the changes mean that residents cannot actually use fireworks on the Memorial Day or Labor Day holidays, just on the weekend days preceding those holidays. In addition, he said, the city can no longer use its noise ordinance to prohibit fireworks after 11 p.m. on the specific days. Instead, the ignition of fireworks is allowed until 11:45 p.m. across the state on those days.

St. Clair Shores will still limit the ignition of fireworks to a 20-minute window, Councilman Ron Frederick pointed out, as is spelled out in the “excessive use” portion of the ordinance.

“If somebody’s out there all day long, they would be in violation of this act,” he said. “They’ve got 20 minutes to shoot off all they bought. The clock’s ticking.”

City Council members unanimously voted to approve the amendments.