County in no hurry to restrict fireworks

Commissioners want more input despite November advisory vote

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Clark County is facing a deadline if it wants to limit the sale and use of fireworks within unincorporated land.

Commissioners have until the end of the month to decide whether to restrict the sale and discharge of fireworks in order to have the code changes in place by the 2015 Fourth of July. State law says a jurisdiction must set limitations on fireworks a year ahead of when they’d take effect.

There will be no new restrictions for the upcoming fireworks season. County residents passed a nonbinding advisory vote in favor of tightened restrictions on fireworks in November, so it’s up to commissioners to implement the actual change in code. Commissioners say they are behind schedule in potentially drafting a new ordinance to do that.

With the clock ticking for next year, the commissioners haven’t shown signs of urgency in drafting any code changes, saying instead that they need more information about what specific limitations they should enact — if any.

Commissioner David Madore has called for more public input before he can make an informed opinion about changing the county’s fireworks policy. The current policy allows fireworks to be sold from June 28 to July 4. People can set fireworks off on the same days, during specific windows of time.

“Do we do what people said on the ballot measure, just simply the way it’s stated, or do we consider that a starting point and maximize the feedback?” Madore said. “We want to hear from the community.”

He suggested again gauging the public’s willingness to having more limitations on fireworks, using an online survey or vote. That would come on top of November’s advisory vote.

The advisory vote’s language spelled out what the specific restrictions would be. They included limiting the discharge of fireworks to one day, July 4, and sales to July 2, 3 and 4.

Those restrictions would bring the county’s fireworks policy in line with the city of Vancouver’s new ordinance, which goes into effect this year.

The advisory vote on fireworks was one of six that appeared on ballots in November, most of which focused on transit-related projects.

Former Commissioner Steve Stuart championed the advisory vote, saying that after years of receiving mail about noisy explosions he thought it was time for residents to tackle whether they wanted additional restrictions. It passed with roughly 65 percent of the vote, which the commissioners characterized as a surprising turn.

Commissioner Tom Mielke said before the county changes its fireworks code, commissioners should first look at how to do so in a business-friendly manner.

Madore agreed, saying he’d be more inclined to ramp down the number of days people could discharge fireworks, while at the same time not having such a drastic reduction in sales dates. Fireworks stands tend to be some of the top fundraisers for county nonprofits.

Commissioners have also discussed having different sales and discharge dates for rural and urban areas, with the timeframe shortened in more populated areas.

“I’m inclined to open it up, so the community can inform us of the parameters rather than say, ‘One size fits all,’ ” Madore said.

They also want to look at sales and discharge dates in cities in the county. Another discussion on fireworks is tentatively scheduled to take place at the commissioners’ Wednesday afternoon board time meeting.

The county has not set a hearing date.