Council to hold fireworks hearing

October 26, 2017 GMT

Eugene city councilors are one step closer to outlawing the use of Piccolo Pete and other noisy fireworks that now are legal within city limits.

City councilors voted Wednesday to schedule a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would ban the use of all consumer fireworks that are “plainly audible” from at least 50 feet. The public hearing date hasn’t yet been set.

The vote was 6-2. Councilors Mike Clark and Greg Evans voted no.

The proposed ordinance also would shrink the window during which residents can use legal fireworks to July 3 and 4, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. The city now lets residents use legal fireworks June 23-July 6 as well as the two winter dates.

Finally, the ordinance would restrict large fireworks displays to July 3-5. The city currently allows these displays June 23-July 6, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

It appears the only display that could be affected by this change is the one by the Eugene Emeralds. The team has its popular display at the end of the home game closest to the Fourth of July holiday, which would be prohibited under the proposed change if the game didn’t occur July 3-5. But the proposed ordinance gives City Manager Jon Ruiz or his designee the ability to authorize a fireworks display that falls outside that window.

Violators of the proposed ordinance could be fined up to $500.

City councilors are looking to restrict the use of legal fireworks as residents continue to complain about the noise, which can traumatize combat veterans and pets, and put people and property at risk.

The city already bans fireworks that are illegal under state law, defined as devices that fly, explode or travel more than 6 feet on the ground or 12 inches in the air.

By and large, legal fireworks, such as wheels, sparklers and ground bloom flowers don’t produce much noise. The exception is some types of fountains, tubes or boxes that emit colorful sparks. Some fountains, including Piccolo Petes and others, emit loud pops and whistles.

The proposed ordinance does not ban or in any way regulate the sale of the fireworks within city limits that city councilors are looking to prohibit. Legal fireworks would continue to be sold June 23-July 6 as allowed under state law.

Fire Chief Joe Zaludek said after the meeting that officials would use flyers, social media and media coverage to educate the public about restrictions, if councilors approve them.

Councilor Emily Semple noted the discrepancy between dates fireworks can be sold and dates they can be used. “I guess that’s how it has to be, but I see that as a sort of stumbling block,” she said.

Councilors Claire Syrett and Alan Zelenka noted that the aim of the noise restriction is to give a measure of peace to residents.

“If I’m sitting inside and someone is out there on the sidewalk or end of their driveway (using fireworks), I shouldn’t be able to hear it,” Zelenka said.

In voting no, Clark characterized the proposed ordinance as “absolutely silly.” “It doesn’t do a thing to fix the problem, which is to stop people from lighting things (illegal fireworks) that blow up and fly through the sky. We’re not doing anything to help those whose job it is to enforce that stuff better,” he said.

Evans suggested anything less than a total fireworks ban falls short.

Councilor Betty Taylor, who has sought a total fireworks ban, said that while she partly agreed with Clark, she thought that limiting the time period to use legal fireworks would be beneficial.

In recent years, city officials have attempted to rein in the use of fireworks — legal and illegal — that regularly draw complaints from residents.

The efforts include increased enforcement and an illegal-fireworks amnesty turn-in.

Follow Christian on Twitter @RGchill . Email christian.hill@registerguard.com .