A boy lights fireworks in the Pinehurst neighborhood of Everett on July 4, 2018. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A boy lights fireworks in the Pinehurst neighborhood of Everett on July 4, 2018. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

County considers asking voters if fireworks should be banned

The Snohomish County Council could use the non-binding results to shape future decisions.

EVERETT — Debate about whether fireworks should be banned might be headed from the cul-de-sacs to the ballot box.

The Snohomish County Council on Tuesday discussed the possibility of adding a nonbinding advisory vote to the November ballot to gauge voter opinion on a potential fireworks ban in unincorporated urban growth areas of the county.

The yes-no question, which could be amended, now asks: Should the Snohomish County Council enact an ordinance prohibiting the sale, possession and discharge of consumer fireworks in the unincorporated areas of Snohomish County?

Councilmember Sam Low proposed the vote during an operations committee meeting. He said he’s not normally in favor of advisory votes, but with the council having no clear direction, letting citizens vote may provide clarity.

“I think this gives voice to a lot of people to share their views,” he said afterward.

Under state law, an ordinance banning fireworks 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. As a result, Low said the council has ample time to review the results of an advisory vote before making a decision on a ban.

“I want to be clear, I am not for banning fireworks,” Low said during the meeting. “It’s not something I am for, but in the same breath, I understand some residents want relief in certain areas.”

While the vote itself would not be decisive, two members of the council, Low and Chairman Terry Ryan, said they would act in accordance with the wishes of their constituents.

“I think it’s reasonable now to have the citizens have their say here and just tell us if they want a ban or not,” Ryan said. “It’s a nonbinding vote, but I’d honor what the citizens ask for.”

In 2016, Ryan proposed a similar advisory vote that the council rejected on a 3-2 vote.

The city of Marysville took a similar approach in 2015 when it placed an advisory vote on the ballot. It passed 59.25 percent to 40.75 percent, with 10,004 ballots cast. The city council then passed an ordinance banning possession, sale or 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.

Tuesday’s discussion took place two weeks after South County Fire submitted a formal request with the county council to ban fireworks within its unincorporated areas.

Should the advisory vote signal that a majority of voters are in favor of a ban, the council could then take a deep dive into the results. It would look into whether a ban would be just for South County or for all of unincorporated Snohomish County.

“I thank everybody for recognizing that our county is very diverse and what works in one area might not work in another,” councilmember Stephanie Wright said.

Despite a potential ban affecting only unincorporated areas, every registered voter in the county will be asked the advisory question. The council could examine the precinct results of specific areas when making decisions.

Questions still remain, including how a ban on fireworks sales and possession would be enforced.

What’s next: The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday is expected to schedule public comment for July 24 on whether to put on the November general election ballot an advisory vote to ban fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county. A decision must be made by Aug. 6.

Adding the advisory vote to the Nov. 5 ballot would not cost the county additional money, due to the size of the ballot already.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3449; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com. Twitter: IanDavisLeonard.

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