Public hearing set for proposed Holden consumer fireworks use ordinance

Posted March 13, 2014, at 6:07 p.m.

HOLDEN, Maine — Since consumer fireworks displays became legal in Maine in 2012, Holden residents have been allowed to shoot them off under the provisions set by state law.

During a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at the Holden Municipal Building, residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on a proposed ordinance that would allow for a longer quiet time on weekdays for the benefit of those who work early shifts and or do shift work while still allowing fireworks displays to be used.

The proposed ordinance also would set criteria for use of consumer fireworks based on “Fire Danger” levels.

A state law that took effect in 2012 allows displays of consumer fireworks on one’s own property — or on other property if the owner consents — from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The hours are extended until 12:30 a.m. the following day for the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, and the weekends immediately before and after those two holidays.

State law, however, also allows municipalities to limit or ban the use of fireworks.

After receiving noise complaints from some early risers in the community, town officials agreed to consider limiting the hours during which fireworks displays can take place, Town Manager John Butts said Thursday.

According to the proposed Holden ordinance, summer hours for fireworks displays would start on the first full day of Daylight Savings Time and end on the last full day of Daylight Savings Time. The hours that consumer fireworks may be used during that period would be noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday hours would continue to coincide with the state hours of 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Winter hours would start on the first full day that the time reverts back to Eastern Standard Time and end on the last full day of Eastern Standard Time, the document shows. The hours that consumer fireworks may be used during that period would be noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday hours would continue to coincide with the state hours of 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

With regard to fire danger levels, the use of consumer fireworks would be banned when the fire danger rating is Class 3 or above, the proposed ordinance states. Consumers would be responsible for verifying the fire danger level with the Holden Fire Department, the town office or the Maine Forest Service, which has Holden in Zone 4.

All other state provisions and restrictions would still apply.

If approved, the stricter rules would be enforced by the Holden Police Department. First-time violators would at minimum receive a verbal warning. Second offenses would result in written warning and third and subsequent offenses a summons and a $200 fine.

The proposed ordinance would take effect upon adoption by town councilors, which Butts said could happen as soon as Monday night.

Holden is not the only community grappling with fireworks-related issues.

In November, a group of Thomaston residents concerned that fireworks are disrupting people’s lives and scaring animals gathered enough signatures to force a town wide vote on whether to regulate them.

More recently, the Maine Senate on Wednesday upheld Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of fireworks.

The fireworks bill, LD 168, would have made the use of consumer-grade fireworks illegal before noon or whenever the governor issues a proclamation against outdoor fires. Violation of the new law would have constituted a disorderly conduct charge.

LePage opposed the bill because he said it was an attempt to unravel the law that made fireworks in Maine legal in 2011. The Senate voted 20-15 to uphold LePage’s veto, which is four votes short of the two-thirds threshold required to overturn a veto.

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