Friday, March 7, 2014
AUGUSTA -- City councilors, concerned someone could fill a warehouse with fireworks in Augusta, enacted a six-month moratorium on commercial fireworks storage Thursday.
Councilors voted to ban fireworks warehouses for six months to give city officials time to consider whether to allow them in the city and, if so, how to regulate them to make sure they are safe.
The moratorium was prompted by an inquiry from a real estate broker, asking what the city's regulations are pertaining to a fireworks warehouse.
Late last year city councilors approved an ordinance banning the use and sale, but not possession, of consumer fireworks, after a statewide ban was lifted.
"The point is not to figure it all out now, it's to pass a moratorium to give us time to figure it out," City Manager William Bridgeo said Thursday. "Nobody has addressed this before because, until last year, there was nobody looking to stockpile fireworks in Maine."
Councilors approved the moratorium unanimously. No members of the public commented.
"Obviously there are health and safety risks," to consider about a fireworks warehouse, city attorney Stephen Langsdorf said Thursaday, but the city should also consider the potential benefits of allowing such a business.
Bridgeo noted any regulations on warehouses proposed in the city and put in place following the moratorium wouldn't necessarily ban the commercial storage of fireworks in the city.
Steve Marson, owner of Central Maine Pyrotechnics and Pyro City fireworks retail stores in Manchester, Edgecomb, Winslow, Ellsworth and Presque Isle, who did not attend Thursday's council meeting, said Wednesday the real estate broker inquiring about the city's fireworks regulations was doing so because Marson had asked him to help find a warehouse in central Maine where he could store the fireworks sold in his stores.
Marson said a fireworks warehouse would be safe. He said he's looking for about 20,000 square feet of space. He stores fireworks in trailers at his business's property in Farmingdale.
Bridgeo said it is ironic that Augusta, which despite the vocal objections of some residents at the time, banned the sale and use of fireworks, could end up as the location of a warehouse where fireworks would be stored to be sold to residents of surrounding communities where fireworks can be sold and used.
The city's ordinance banning the use and sale of consumer fireworks initially, in early drafts, also banned their possession. However the city removed that language banning possession after some councilors expressed concern it would impact someone driving through Augusta with fireworks in their vehicle, or keeping fireworks in their home in Augusta, even if those people intended to use the fireworks where they are legal, elsewhere.
Keith Edwards -- 621-5647