County Council won’t put fireworks ban on November ballot

EVERETT — An advisory fireworks vote won’t be lighting up the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Snohomish County Council decided Monday against asking voters whether they would support banning fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county. While the nonbinding vote would have had no bearing on areas governed by cities, it would have gone out to all voters in the county. That proved a sticking point for some council members and many of the 20 or so people who showed up to comment.

“My concern mostly comes from voter confusion,” Councilman Ken Klein said.

Klein, a former Arlington city councilman who now lives outside city limits, went on to say that, “I don’t want the people in the cities telling me how to live my life.”

Council Chairman Terry Ryan and Councilwoman Stephanie Wright said the results could have been sorted after the election to reflect incorporated and unincorporated areas.

“We won’t know unless we ask,” said Ryan, who headed up the effort to pass the advisory vote.

County civil prosecutors advised the council that they would be on better legal ground if they put the question to everyone countywide.

Ryan and Wright were on the losing side of a 3-2 vote. Councilmen Hans Dunshee and Brian Sullivan sided with Klein in the opposition.

Brier and Marysville enacted bans this year after voters signaled their wishes in advisory votes. The new restrictions are set to take effect in those cities next year. They’ll join a list of local municipalities with fireworks bans in place: Edmonds, Everett, Gold Bar, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo and Woodway.

During a hearing on Monday that lasted about two hours, a youth pastor from Park Ridge Community Church, a Bothell-area congregation that operates a seasonal fireworks stand, brought up a concern shared by many who oppose banning fireworks.

“The biggest thing is the ban, as proposed, doesn’t get at the heart of the illegal fireworks danger,” Stanton Wisner said.

Many fireworks complaints involve activities that are illegal. July 4 is the only day people are allowed to use fireworks in unincorporated Snohomish County. Firecrackers and bottle rockets are banned by the state, although they can be purchased legally at tribal fireworks stands such as Boom City in Tulalip, where federal laws apply.

Fire District 1 interim Chief Brad Reading said that in his experience, bans succeed in reducing the amount of fireworks and associated dangers. His district’s service area includes cities that prohibit fireworks as well as unincorporated areas where they’re allowed. The difference between them is “night and day,” Reading said.

Heidi Fursetch believes the unincorporated Machias community where she lives has become “a dumping ground” for blowing things up. Fursetch said she sees no reason why anyone would oppose an advisory vote, regardless of their stance on the issue. She and other speakers expressed sympathy for charities that make money selling fireworks, but suggested they find other ways to support good causes.

“We’re not voting to ban Girl Scout cookies,” she said.

The question on the ballot would have applied to selling, possessing or discharging fireworks. Professional pyrotechnics displays would have been allowed with permits.

The advisory vote was one of three new fireworks restrictions under consideration this summer at the County Council.

The council decided in June to grant the county fire marshal the power to prohibit fireworks in times of extreme drought. Separately, the council is considering whether to allow people to create neighborhood-specific fireworks bans by petition. The idea, modeled after the county’s no-shooting zones, is set for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 17.

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

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