County clears way for creation of localized fireworks bans

EVERETT — People who want it to be illegal to set off fireworks in their neighborhood should soon be able to petition Snohomish County for a localized ban.

The County Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance that outlines the procedure. It applies to unincorporated areas. To succeed, a petition must attract support from at least 51 percent of registered voters in a given area. The area must include 50 or more single-family homes or cover at least one square mile.

The idea, modeled after the county’s no-shooting zones, came from Councilman Hans Dunshee of Snohomish. It passed 4-1.

“The purpose of this ordinance is, hopefully, to create discussion and conversation among neighbors,” Dunshee said. “Discussion might actually, in and of itself, help to avoid conflicts.”

Councilman Brian Sullivan, of Everett, voted against the proposal.

Opponents from the fireworks industry and local stand operators argued that the new rules would sow confusion about where fireworks are allowed and where they aren’t.

As is, they’re only allowed in unincorporated Snohomish County for 15 hours on July 4. They’re illegal at all other times. State law also prohibits many fireworks that are allowed under federal law and can be readily purchased at stands on tribal land.

No localized bans could go into effect under the new ordinance for at least a year from now because of a state law that delays city and county fireworks restrictions.

The ordinance creating no-fireworks zones is the second new fireworks restriction that the council has adopted this summer.

In June, they granted the county fire marshal the power to impose emergency bans on fireworks during times of extreme drought.

In August, Council Chairman Terry Ryan was unable to persuade a majority of his colleagues to put an advisory vote on the November ballot asking voters whether they approve of prohibiting fireworks in unincorporated areas. That’s a step that Marysville and Brier took before their city councils adopted fireworks bans this year.

The county’s localized bans would not impact the ability to sell fireworks. An amendment to Wednesday’s ordinance clarified that fire districts can ask the council to approve bans for specific areas, which was possible before the new legislation passed.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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