Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 2, 2013

Some Leelanau residents want to restrict fireworks

BY GLENN PUIT gpuit@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — SUTTONS BAY — Mary Sharry doesn’t think Leelanau County is the best place to set off loud fireworks.

The Empire resident said smoldering firework shells launched by her neighbors landed in her backyard and even on her roof last summer and fall.

“We had a neighbor setting them off at 2 or 3 in the morning during the drought,” Sharry said. “I think there’s the potential for a major fire.”

Sharry is one of several Leelanau County residents who will appear at the county Board of Commissioners meeting on April 8 to ask commissioners to pursue a fireworks-noise ordinance.

Julie Chai, of Elmwood Township, is a leader of the group. She said powerful fireworks should be greatly limited in the county because pyrotechnics at her neighbors’ properties scares her and frightens her and terrifies her dog.

“They just blast you out of bed,” Chai said. “When they are close by, the decibels are so loud that I wake up and my heart’s racing, (thinking) someone’s propane tank just blew up.”

George Shaw, of Bingham Township, is circulating a petition in favor of a fireworks ban to present to county commissioners. Shaw gathered 65 signatures so far.

“I’m talking big-time fireworks,” Shaw said. “I’m not talking sparklers.”

Michigan officials last year eased fireworks regulations and allowed year-round fireworks sales and the use of previously banned fireworks like roman candles and bottle rockets.

The law change prompted several northern Michigan communities to enact fireworks ordinances of their own. Blair, Peninsula and Acme townships, along with the city of Traverse City, passed ordinances last summer to confine fireworks to the day before, day of and day after the 10 national holidays. Violations are considered civil infractions and could result in fines from $100 to $500.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said he supports some kind of fireworks ordinance. He said fireworks usage, especially in the county’s residential neighborhoods with water frontage, can be “relentless” in the summer.

“I’m not a killjoy,” Borkovich said. “I totally understand the Fourth of July traditions and maybe we could have a five- or 10-day period where maybe it’s acceptable ... but I’m definitely a supporter of reasonable control.”

Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes said the city ordinance has worked well and deterred the volume of fireworks detonated in city limits.

“My feeling at the time was there are no positive benefits to community or society at large from this state legislation allowing the expansion of fireworks,” Estes said. “I still firmly believe that.”

Leelanau County Commissioner Tom Van Pelt said he’s prepared to look into the matter.

“I’m going to talk with our sheriff and see if he has issues with this,” Van Pelt said. “I’m open to it. I know that there’s been some concerns about late-night activities.”