TRAVERSE CITY — The movement to limit fireworks in Leelanau County is taking flight, and the fight may have the potential to help change state law.
Dozens of residents fed up with late-night booms and fireworks debris that litters the county’s scenic beaches appeared before the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners in April. They want a county-wide ordinance to reduce or ban fireworks in the county.
County officials explored the explosive issue and learned law prevents them from passing a county-wide law.
“According to Michigan law the county has no authority to pass an ordinance with fireworks,” Administrator Chet Janik said.
But that doesn't mean the fireworks restraint effort has fizzled.
Leelanau officials decided to forward a fireworks limitation draft ordinance to township and village officials for their consideration. State law allows villages and townships to tackle fireworks, and it appears there’s a willingness to do so in several townships.
“We absolutely would put it up for consideration,” said Suttons Bay Township Supervisor Rich Bahle.“I’m also aware that there are more individuals in the Lake Leelanau area who are interested in seeing some sort of controls.”
Leelanau Township Supervisor Doug Scripps said he's willing to present the draft ordinance to the township board.
"I can promise we’d bring it to the board," Scripps said. "We have had some complaints in some parts of our township, but not nearly to the degree folks in Glen Arbor and Empire seem to have."
The draft ordinance is modeled after an existing law one in St. Clair Shores. The ordinance bans the ignition of consumer fireworks except on the day preceding, day of, or day after a national holiday. Those holidays include New Year’s, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Fireworks also would be banned on public property. They cannot be ignited within 200 feet of a residential building or vehicle. Fines would range from $75 to $500.
Michigan politicians eased fireworks regulations in 2012, when they agreed to allow year-round fireworks sales and the use of previously banned fireworks. The law change prompted several northern Michigan communities to enact their own fireworks ordinances. Blair, Peninsula and Acme townships, along with the city of Traverse City, passed ordinances last summer. Violations are considered civil infractions and could result in fines from $100 to $500.
State Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, is working to change state fireworks laws, given the outcry in Leelanau County and other communities. He wrote the to county officials in April and noted the law's original sponsor, Rep. Harold Haugh, is willing to revisit the issue.
Franz said there is a “preliminary agreement” to change the law.
“Most of these changes empower more local control and include reimbursement from the (state) fireworks fund for both local inspections and local enforcement,” Franz wrote to the county.
Franz could not immediately be reached for comment.
Julie Chai, an Elmwood Township resident, advocated for a county-wide ordinance. She said she's encouraged by the movement's apparent traction, even if a county-wide ordinance isn't possible.
“I’m happy. I feel like our issues (are being) addressed and we were listened to,” Chai said. “I want them banned. I think they are an abomination to earth, creatures and people.”