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Jan. 21, 2022

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Battle Ground moves toward limiting fireworks sales, use

Residents give city council feedback at hearing, in survey

By , Columbian Staff Writer

BATTLE GROUND — Battle Ground city councilors took a step at Monday night’s meeting toward limiting the number of days fireworks can be sold and discharged in the city.

Currently, the city allows the use of fireworks from June 28 through July 5, and from Dec. 27 through Dec. 31. Those are maximum days that state law allows for the sale and discharge of fireworks.

At their meeting, city councilors voted 4-3 in favor of asking staffers to draw up an ordinance limiting sales of fireworks to July 1-4 and discharge to July 3-4. There would be no change to fireworks regulations in the city around New Year’s. Councilors Shane Bowman, Adrian Cortes, Cherish DesRochers and Mayor Mike Dalesandro voted in favor, while councilors Brian Munson, Steven Phelps and Philip Johnson voted against it.

The councilors will vote on the new ordinance at their May 21 meeting, and if councilors approve, the new regulations will begin in 2019.

“A majority saw there was an issue and want something to be done,” Cortes said. “That was pretty loud to me.”

The council’s discussion followed a public hearing and release of results from a survey sent to residents in April.

The city received 764 responses, 167 of which were discarded because they came from people outside of Battle Ground and the urban growth area. Of those remaining, 37 percent of respondents wanted a ban on fireworks in the city, 31 percent wanted the city to leave the regulations as is and 20 percent wanted to limit the discharge days. Limiting the types of fireworks permitted, mandatory cleanup of debris by users and “other regulations” all received less than 10 percent support.

Most of the 10-plus people who spoke during the public hearing wanted councilors to ban fireworks outright or limit the days residents can use them. One said it doesn’t make sense to allow residents to launch fireworks from June 28 until July 5 because “Independence Day is one day, not eight.”

Gary Suda of Battle Ground said he’s lived in various parts of the country, and he’s never seen such massive fireworks use like he’s seen in Battle Ground.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said.

Suda said the fireworks are so loud and last so long, his wife has started leaving the city as it nears July 4 to get away from the noise.

In the survey, 53 percent said they are “very concerned” about fireworks use in the city, compared with 31 percent who have “no concern” and 16 percent who are “somewhat concerned.” Of the reasons listed for concerns, sound/noise was first, followed by distress to pets and property damage.

Others spoke up in favor of leaving the regulations like they are now. Talking points included how it’s a celebration of America’s history and freedom, and how limiting sales and discharge of fireworks can hurt fundraising by local nonprofit groups who sell fireworks.

Rich Rubin, an organizer for Battle Ground’s annual Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade float, was at Monday’s meeting with the current parade float court. While introducing the court, he said the fireworks stand is the biggest fundraiser each year for the float.

“Money from fireworks builds that float,” Rubin said. “It’s a 63-year tradition they’re throwing out the window.”

Councilors discussed other options, like including the ability to ban fireworks in times of extreme heat and dry weather or going to a “safe and sane” option that would allow fireworks that are neither projectile nor explosive, such as fountains, sparklers, smokeballs and pinwheels. They instead opted to just go for limiting the days for now.

Munson said he’d like to see a referendum so residents could decide themselves what they’d like.

Johnson said he doesn’t think it’s the council’s job to ban fireworks, and the fireworks don’t bother him. He said he could be convinced to go to limited days, but, ultimately, he knows that whereever the city council lands, a large portion of residents will be unhappy.

Bowman said the contrasting views on fireworks are as much a part of Battle Ground as the city name.

“We live in Battle Ground. Our name is Battle Ground,” he said. “We celebrate that every Fourth of July.”

Columbian Staff Writer