Those hoping to get a good night’s sleep in Southwest Harbor have supported a proposal to ban the sale and use of unlicensed fireworks at the annual town meeting. While all can sympathize with the intrusion from people lighting off firecrackers, rockets and other noisy displays, particularly late at night around the Fourth of July, law enforcement personnel would find enforcement of the ban nearly impossible.
The crux of the problem is that possession of consumer fireworks remains legal in Maine. Merely catching someone with fireworks is not enough to summon them to court. Proving who lights the fuse is nearly impossible. Complainants call police after being awakened. Unless the irksome use is continuous and obvious, police are unlikely to catch perpetrators in the act.
A change that has helped Bar Harbor crack down on noise and parties on properties owned by absentee landlords is the disorderly house ordinance. After several warnings about noise and disruption, the owner of the property, not the tenants, now can be ordered to appear in court and pay a fine. Property owner are responsible for keeping the muffler on noise.
The threat of being evicted by a landlord in a tight housing market strikes more fear into the hearts of noisy tenants than a $25 fine.
A similar regulation might work in Southwest Harbor. Callers would need only to identify which property is the source of the noise. Police then could more easily confirm the problem and deal with it. In the event of fireworks from pleasure and fishing boats in the harbor, the statute could be structured to make the owner of the vessel responsible. The possible loss of mooring or anchorage privileges would be even more powerful as an incentive for boat owners to keep noise down.
A disorderly property ordinance might provide the town a useful tool to help deal with out-of-control parties, amplified music and other disruptions, as well as fireworks.