EVERETT — Voters in Snohomish County will have a say on a potential fireworks ban.
The Snohomish County Council voted unanimously Wednesday to add a nonbinding, advisory question to the November ballot asking all residents whether they favor a prohibition of fireworks countywide.
The decision followed an hour-long public hearing during which more than 20 people, the majority in favor of a ban, shared their opinions.
“I think some sort of ordinance in Snohomish County is long overdue,” said Ray Mitchell of Lake Stevens. “Anything the council can do to put this on the ballot and let the citizens of Snohomish County decide this very serious quality of life issue.”
While the council was in agreement in adding the vote, they disagreed on how the question should be worded.
On the ballot, the yes-no question will now ask: Should the Snohomish County Council enact an ordinance prohibiting the discharge of consumer fireworks in the unincorporated urban growth areas of Snohomish County?
The sale and possession of fireworks were removed from the general election question, after a 3-2 vote amending the proposal. Councilmembers Brian Sullivan and Stephanie Wright were opposed to the change.
“I want to hear from the voters on whether they want fireworks,” Councilmember Sam Low said. “I am not opposed to when we look at this in the fall after the vote, to ban the sale and possession, but I just want the voters to have their say on whether they want fireworks or not.”
Councilmember Nate Nehring questioned how the county could enforce a ban on fireworks possession, citing concerns that the sheriff does not have the staffing to do so.
Sullivan and Wright echoed citizen concerns that removal of “sale and possession” from the question will only serve to create confusion.
“Does it make sense to ban smoking and then to sell cigarettes?” Sullivan said after the meeting.
The advisory vote first proposed earlier this month will not be decisive and any potential ban implemented by the county would not apply to incorporated cities, as that decision lies with each city.
However, by law, every voter in the county will have a say in the vote, leaving the council with the responsibility of interpreting how best to follow the will of the electorate.
“I’ll be considering the results of a vote, if this does pass, precinct by precinct as opposed to one vote for all the county,” Nehring said.
In the city of Marysville, after a similar advisory vote in 2016 that showed voters in favor of a ban 59.25% to 40.75%, the council passed an ordinance outlawing possession, sale and use of fireworks within city limits beginning in 2017.
Fireworks are banned in Brier, Edmonds, Everett, Gold Bar, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo and Woodway.
Opponents of the ban do not believe that prohibition is the answer.
“An outright ban doesn’t necessarily mean that fireworks are going to go away or any of these issues are going to go away,” said Jason Trout, a regional manager with TNT Fireworks.
He asked the council to consider alternative solutions, such as limiting the time when fireworks can be used or the type of fireworks allowed within the county.
Under state law, an ordinance forbidding fireworks implemented after the advisory vote could not take effect until the Fourth of July 2021. A year must pass from the date an ordinance is enacted until it becomes law.
In addition to citizens, officials from South County Fire, Fire District 7 and Lake Stevens Fire District 8, supported the ban Wednesday.
Last month, South County Fire submitted a formal request to the council asking for a ban of fireworks within its unincorporated areas.
“We are really happy with their vote,” said Doug Dahl, interim fire chief of South County Fire. “At the end of the day, we’ve got what we want, ‘Do our citizens want fireworks or not?’ I think that question and that underlying vote will be loud and clear.”
Adding the advisory vote to the Nov. 5 ballot will not cost the county additional money, due to the size of the ballot already.