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City blocks new fireworks stores for 90 days
Council hopes to buy time to adopt zoning rules
Bottle rockets

To give the city time to adopt zoning rules, Statesboro City Council has imposed a 90-day moratorium blocking the creation or expansion of fireworks stores.

A state law, effective July 1, allows the sale of consumer fireworks, such as firecrackers and bottle rockets, which were previously prohibited in Georgia. Special permits with substantial fees are required both for permanent fireworks stores and temporary fireworks stands.

However, the state did not leave cities and counties much room to regulate fireworks, said Statesboro City Attorney Alvin Leaphart. Tuesday’s agenda described the proposed resolution as a “moratorium on fireworks sales,” but Leaphart said the city couldn’t do that if it wanted to.

“It is a moratorium so that we can get some idea where the permanent, retail sales facilities that sell these things will be zoned, what’s the proper zoning for these places,” he told the council. “The state law pre-empted almost all local regulation of the sale of consumer fireworks, except zoning.”

Because they were previously illegal, Statesboro’s current zoning law does not say anything about fireworks, confirmed City Planning and Development Director Mandi Cody.

To address “life safety concerns,” the Fire Department, she said, has recommended that the city consider rules such as separation between a fireworks retailer and a gas station.

“There are some pretty obvious things when you begin to look at the safety implications of selling fireworks, but our local ordinances, particularly zoning, do not currently provide for that,” Cody said. “So we need an opportunity to write those things into our ordinance and go through an adoption process.”

The resolution passed unanimously with all five council members present. It blocks “zoning permits, certificates of occupancy, occupational tax certificates” and other city permits “for permanent retail sales facilities, stores and variations thereof for the sale of consumer fireworks.”

An exception could be made in a hardship case, the resolution explains. It also allows for council to extend the moratorium to a 270-day maximum, but Cody said 90 days should be enough.

The rules should be ready “in time for sales of New Year’s Eve fireworks. That’s what I’m hearing,” commented Mayor Jan Moore.

Under the state law, temporary fireworks stands will be regulated separately, and the law says that the permits for these will only be issued beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

The law, which can be found as House Bill 110 at www.legis.ga.gov, states that the initial fee for distributors selling fireworks from one or more permanent stores will be $5,000 with a $1,000 annual renewal, payable to the state fire safety commissioner. The fee for a 90-day permit for a temporary stand will be $500 per location, payable to the city or county with jurisdiction.

Sparklers, snappers and other small fireworks-type devices previously sold in Georgia are exempt from the new law and can still be sold in other stores.

 

Firewood, not fireworks

In contrast to the fireworks store moratorium, the city has a regulatory holiday underway for temporary vendors such as Saturday flea markets and places that sell Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees.

Existing businesses viewed as temporary have been largely unregulated since June 2, when the mayor and council members instructed city employees to halt enforcement efforts for 90 days or until a new Temporary Vendor Ordinance is adopted.

Four business operators who are or have been temporary vendors spoke to the council during a work session that followed Tuesday morning’s regular meeting.

One vendor, who sells firewood, said he simply wanted to know the rules so he can comply. Moore told him there is a stay on the regulations right now.

“Firewood – but no fireworks,” she added.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

 

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