BELLINGHAM - It's official: All personal fireworks use will be banned within city limits beginning in one year.
On a 4-2 vote Monday, June 17, City Council gave the personal fireworks ban ordinance the legally required second vote of approval, following up on their initial 4-3 vote at their June 3 meeting.
The votes in favor of the ban were the same both times: Stan Snapp, Cathy Lehman, Gene Knutson and Jack Weiss. Terry Bornemann and Michael Lilliquist were opposed. Seth Fleetwood, the third "no" vote on June 3, was absent June 17.
The year's delay in imposing the ban is required by state law. Once that ban is in place in June 2014, violators face a minimum civil infraction fine of $250, with court costs that could double the penalty.
City residents supporting the ban cited the sleepless nights, fire danger and pet distress caused by the detonation of powerful fireworks in the days surrounding the 4th of July.
Opponents of a ban argued that better enforcement of existing laws could solve the problem without spoiling everyone's fun, but a majority of the council sided with ban advocates, who were in the majority at the June 3 public hearing and in email comments to council members.
The previous city fireworks ordinance still in effect for summer 2013 was adopted in 2002 and amended in 2005. It limits use of personal fireworks in the city to Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and July 4. The existing ordinance also restricts the size of fireworks that can be sold and discharged even on those days. Fireworks considered legal under the city ordinance are sold at stands around town, operated by nonprofit organizations. They will lose that funding source next year.
Even with the new law still a year away, city officials are hoping to reduce the noise a bit for 2013 by a more stringent interpretation of the existing law to ban sale and use of devices known as "large cakes," which shoot rockets with loud explosions.