With a new state law going into effect on June 1, which will allow the sale and use of fireworks in Iowa from June 1 through July 8, individual cities are working to take action to regulate fireworks within their municipalities.
The Waukee City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would, among other things, limit the use of fireworks to nine days surrounding Independence Day. There will still be two more readings before the ordinance can be adopted, but the third reading may be waived at the next meeting, on May 30, after the second reading is approved.
The original proposal was to allow the use of fireworks for an 11-day period beginning five days before Independence Day and ending five days after.
The current proposal of nine days was created after having input from the city attorney and would allow fireworks to be used between June 30 and July 8 from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekends and on the Fourth of July. They would also be allowed from 9 a.m. until noon on New Year’s Eve and from midnight to 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Fireworks would not be allowed to be used on public property, such as in parks or other facility grounds and may only be used on a person’s private property, or of a person who has consented to the use of consumer fireworks on their property.
Planning and Zoning Director Brad Deets was at the meeting discuss the sales issue from a zoning perspective and said that the sale of certain fireworks in permanent structures and even more in “pop-up tents” that would be open for a limited amount of time.
“In terms of permanent use, in terms of permanent structures, of really limiting the sale of fireworks, specifically Class 1 fireworks, to our industrial zoning districts of M-1 and M-1A,” Deets said.
In terms of the temporary tents, an ordinance recently passed by the Waukee City Council says that regularly permitted uses for garden centers, food and beverage-type establishments, require review by city staff and a permit, but other uses, which would include fireworks, would need review by city staff and approval by the City Council.
“As it pertains to this year, I think it’s going to restrict our limit, just from a timing perspective of it already being the middle of May, to get through a staff review and a council review process for any sort of temporary tent for fireworks uses and display,” Deets said. “And also, again, it would still be limited to the industrial zoning districts.”
According to information provided by the City of Waukee, fireworks sold in a building are a fire code issue and the State Fire Marshal would be in charge of licensing sales vendors. Local fire code amendments and enforcement would also apply.
Deets said that a zoning ordinance, regarding the sale of fireworks will go to the Planning and Zoning Board for approval on May 23.
Councilwoman Shelley Hughes, who voted yes on the first reading, said she was in favor because people are buying fireworks elsewhere and are going to shoot them off anyways, and this would allow city authorities to take on bigger issues during the Fourth of July holiday.
“I’d rather our police department focus on, maybe more important, drunk drivers, things like that during those days than trying to drive down a street and trying to figure out which house is setting off which fireworks,” Hughes said. “I think it would be impossible to enforce if we were not to allow it.”
She said that her hope is that by allowing it, but restricting the time will allow those who want to use fireworks to “get it out of their systems” and get them to do it in a “more responsible manner.”
Councilman Charlie Bottenberg, who said that despite being a huge fan of fireworks, is a little uncomfortable with allowing fireworks use for nine days.
“That’s nearly a week and a half of disrupting people’s lives,” Bottenberg said. “Whether it’s animals, whether it’s small kids — I have both — whether it’s just me trying to get a good night’s sleep before a big day the next morning, an individual who has to work at 4:30 in the morning, I think we can do better than nine days.”
While he said he feels more comfortable with nine days than the originally proposed 11 days, he said he would feel much more comfortable with a 5- or 6-day period. He said that such a time frame would still allow fireworks users to use them over a weekend either before or after the Fourth of July.
Either way, he feels that a 5-day window is a good place to start for the first year.
“I think if it went well, that would be a good time to increase it if we thought it went well, or if it doesn’t go well, then we’re not disrupting people’s lives for a good 10 days,” Bottenberg said.
The City Council will take up the second and third readings of the use ordinance, which was discussed at Monday’s meeting, at an 8 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, May 23. Public hearings and action will be taken regarding the sale of fireworks, as well as the zoning ordinance, will be held during their May 30 meeting.