Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 2, 2014

Residents hope ordinances keep fireworks from booming

TRAVERSE CITY — No July 4 sky would be complete without dazzling sparks of fireworks and the smoky tendrils that linger after the colors fade from a professionally produced show.

But impromptu, backyard fireworks displays can be tiresome and a bit worrisome to many local residents, particularly so since 2012, when the state legislature lifted a ban on more powerful, loud fireworks and put the onus on local municipalities to craft their own restrictions.

"The rationale was, 'We can make money,'" said Joseph Hubbell, Leelanau County prosecutor. "The downside is municipalities, including townships and villages, had fireworks going off all the time. Many people who live up here were quite upset about it."

Those residents asked Hubbell and the county sheriff's department -- and similar agencies and officials across the Grand Traverse region -- to help come up with a enforceable ordinances to manage fireworks. In doing so, Leelanau officials followed in the footsteps of Traverse City and some Grand Traverse County townships whose leaders enacted restrictions soon after the state law was passed.

Sheriff's deputies and others are authorized to enforce the ordinances, depending on the township. Hubbell said he's never had to prosecute anyone for shooting off fireworks, although he has the ability to do so.

Mary Sharry is among Leelanau County residents who supported an ordinance that limits personal fireworks displays to certain times and dates. Today, such restrictions apply throughout the county, other than in Solon and Kasson townships.

“In our little village people were firing off fireworks where we are on very narrow lots. We had fireworks debris landing on our rooftop, our skylight, our deck,” said Sharry, of Empire.

Peter Zirnhelt, a Long Lake Township resident who lives along the Grand Traverse County lake, said he hasn't seen much of a difference since the township enacted its own fireworks ordinance last year.

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