ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Southwest Harbor fireworks ban starts June 1



SOUTHWEST HARBOR –— At the end of the month, the use and sale of consumer fireworks will no longer be legal in the town.

Voters at the polls May 3 voted 173-140 to adopt a consumer fireworks ordinance. The ordinance goes into effect June 1.

Under the ordinance, no one “shall use, display, fire or cause to be exploded consumer fireworks within the town of Southwest Harbor.” Violators are subject to a fine of $100 for each occurrence.

The Southwest Harbor Police Department will enforce the ordinance.

Police Chief Alan Brown said he expects his department to make people aware of the new ordinance before any violators are issued a summons.

“We’ll initially hand out warnings and copies of the ordinance,” Brown said.

Possession of consumer fireworks became legal in Maine in January 2012. Since then, more than 80 communities statewide have adopted ordinances that ban or otherwise regulate their use. On Mount Desert Island, Southwest Harbor joins Bar Harbor and Mount Desert in prohibiting use of fireworks.

Several residents came before selectmen late last year asking for a fireworks ordinance to be put before voters at the May town elections. Chief among their concerns were the noise and fire danger. Several selectmen argued that a local ordinance would be difficult to enforce and that state law regarding consumer fireworks, which applies in the absence of a local ordinance, was adequate.

The new ordinance does have an exception. Consumer fireworks can he used by someone who obtains a fireworks display permit from the state or the town. That is not an easy process. The town currently has no permit system in place, and state requirements would discourage the average fireworks user.

The state requires a person to apply for a permit at least 20 days in advance of the proposed fireworks display, to obtain $1 million in liability insurance to cover the event, submit a site plan and pay a $30 display fee and a $111 fee for inspection of the site.

How serious the problem is in Southwest Harbor is unclear. Brown, at a selectmen’s meeting earlier this year, said there had been about 20 fireworks complaints made to police during 2014 and 2015, but in some instances, it is unclear whether the complaints were gunshots or other sources of noise.

 

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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