Marysville council votes to ban fireworks starting in 2017

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville City Council on Monday passed an ordinance that would ban possession, sale or use of fireworks within the city, starting January 2017.

The measure establishes fines for civil violations that range from $103 during the first year the ordinance up to $513 after two years.

In addition, selling fireworks, and setting off commercial-grade or dangerous fireworks, would be considered misdemeanors.

Due to the way state law is written, any local ordinance that is stricter than state law has a one-year waiting period before it becomes effective. The law is intended to protect people and businesses who purchase large amounts of fireworks in advance from having the figurative rug pulled out from under them at the last minute.

The measure is the latest step in a years-long process that has seen gradual tightening of the rules.

In November, an advisory measure asked voters whether the council should ban fireworks. The measure passed 59.25 percent to 40.75 percent, with 10,004 ballots cast.

That followed the hot and dry summer of 2015. Numerous brush fires were caused by fireworks.

But that didn’t make the decision any easier for the council members. The Mountain View Assembly of God Church sells fireworks — the church’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

The fireworks revenue will just leave the city, youth pastor Brandon Hart said. “Many people at Boom City will still be selling fireworks like crazy, but those that are trying to do it for a good reason are gone,” Hart said.

Many people testified about their neighborhoods becoming war zones several days in advance of and following July 4, even though the current city code restricts fireworks to Independence Day and New Year’s Eve.

Fireworks also are getting larger and louder, Marysville resident Robert Weiss said.

“At this point I don’t think anything short of an outright ban will have any effect,” Weiss said.

Councilman Jeff Vaughan said he was torn, because he agreed in part about the potential for danger.

“I love fireworks. I love shooting off fireworks,” Vaughan said. “I am scared to death to be away from my house on the Fourth of July.”

Nevertheless, Vaughan voted against the ban, along with Rob Toyer and Kamille Norton.

Councilman Stephen Muller, in supporting the ban, said that he’d lost a dog who ran away one Fourth of July. He also said that money issues — whether a church raises funds with them or people shop at Boom City on the Tulalip Indian Reservation — are beside the point.

“I used to leave town on the Fourth with my dog, but I can’t leave for three weeks,” Muller said. “It’s gotten out of control. It isn’t about the money; it’s about the quality of life.”

He acknowledged that a ban won’t solve all the city’s fireworks problems, but it would give the police the ability to enforce the most problematic incidents.

Vaughan also raised the prospect that an outright ban on possession would punish people in Marysville who buy fireworks elsewhere to set off outside the city if they happen to be caught with them in their car inside the city limits.

Police Chief Rick Smith said that enforcement would be focused on those who intend to shoot off fireworks within city limits.

“There’s the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. Certainly we’ll consider the spirit of the law in moving forward,” Smith said.

He added the ban on possession is necessary to give police the ability to confiscate any fireworks they come across, such as when people are setting them off and drinking.

Some people, as well as Vaughan, said the city might consider designating an area away from neighborhoods where people could set off small fireworks. That suggestion wasn’t taken up Monday, but could be revisited.

The Legislature also is considering amending state law to remove the one-year waiting period, but even if that occurred, the Marysville council would need to pass another ordinance amending the city code if they wanted to enact the ban earlier.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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