GUILFORD, Maine — The Guilford Planning Board held a second hearing Jan. 29 on a proposed fireworks ordinance for the community, but interest has apparently waned since the first session.
Only four people showed up at last week’s hearing including Town Manager Tom Goulette and Sangerville First Selectman Tom Carone. In November, more than 35 people packed the fire station meeting hall, with attendees endorsing everything from an outright ban to restricting fireworks to the town’s commercial districts.
So at last Wednesday’s meeting, planners recommended that the Board of Selectmen give voters two choices: a ban on fireworks except for Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve; and an ordinance that would limit pyrotechnics to weekends only, except July 4 and Dec. 31.
Under the restricted proposal, fireworks could only be set off between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 9 to 12:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.
Planning Board Chairman Matt Holland went through the four-page document, noting that there were many safeguards in the proposal, such as a ban on commercial-grade fireworks such as skyrockets and use of any explosive devices on days when the Maine Forest Service determines a high fire hazard rating.
But Wendy Bradford, one of the residents who favored an outright ban at the first meeting, said that even allowing limited use is wrong.
“It’s not going to make my neighborhood better,” Bradford said. “I’ve lived there since 1984, and then I have somebody who moves in [nearby] who has no compassion. I’d like to sit in my home on weekends watching TV and not have my living room windows rattle.”
Carone told the board that his town had problems with someone shooting rockets across Center Pond “where they landed in someone’s yard. Some people just don’t have brains when it comes to things like this.”
Holland also noted that there were only a handful of Guilford residents who set off fireworks on a regular basis “but I can see where people can get upset about it.”
Goulette said that he’ll ask selectmen to list the most restrictive ordinance first on the town meeting warrant. “If that one passes, then there’s no reason to debate the other one,” Goulette said.
There were few comments during the other public hearing that would give the Board of Selectmen authority to issue land use and building permits and charge appropriate fees for them. “There has never been a fee for permits so far, but we thought if the town could charge at least a nominal fee, it would recoup some of the cost to the taxpayers and charge the people who are using them,” Holland said. One suggested fee was a flat $15 for a building permit, which Holland said “was a lot less than most other towns are charging.”
Board member Lou Sidell said that courts have struck down some permitting fees that were deemed excessive. “Some communities thought that the fees were a good way to fill the town coffers, so they charged excessive fees to build up the revenue,” Sidell said. “The fees have to be based on the cost of issuing the permit … You just have to be cautious and not over-zealous.”
Guilford’s annual town meeting is Monday, March 10.