Neighborhood fireworks bans proposed by councilman

EVERETT — Fresh memories of Fourth of July displays may still linger when the Snohomish County Council meets Tuesday to discuss a new law that would allow people to create neighborhood-by-neighborhood fireworks bans.

The idea, proposed by Councilman Hans Dunshee, would be modeled after the county’s no-shooting zones. Get a majority of people in an area to sign on, and you get a ban. Otherwise, the festivities can go on.

“I think there’s a healthy debate for neighbors to have with each other,” Dunshee said.

The discussion of the proposed ordinance is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. as part of the council’s operations committee.

Council members have long been caught between opposing fireworks lobbying efforts. Fire department brass have pushed regularly for a full ban in unincorporated areas, while the fireworks industry has fought further restrictions.

On June 29, the council voted to give the county fire marshal emergency powers to ban fireworks in the county’s unincorporated areas during periods of extreme drought. That measure passed 4-1 and is set to take effect next year.

Separately, Council Chairman Terry Ryan wants to put an advisory vote on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters whether they support prohibiting fireworks in unincorporated areas. If they say “yes,” the council could enact a ban, as the cities of Marysville and Brier approved earlier this year. The Marysville and Brier bans start in 2017.

Dunshee thinks a more localized approach is the way to go.

“I’m inclined to not vote for a full county ban myself,” the Snohomish lawmaker said. “There are lots of people who like fireworks. There are neighborhoods where everybody joins in and everybody on the block loves it.”

The no-fireworks maps, in Dunshee’s vision, might resemble the county’s no-shooting zones. Places where gunfire is prohibited include areas bordering Tulalip, Arlington, Marysville, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and the unincorporated areas of southwest county.

Jerry Farley, a lobbyist for the Tacoma-based Consumer Fireworks Safety Association, has never come across similar proposals in other jurisdictions. To him, it seemed unfair to equate no-fireworks zones with no-shooting zones.

“Every gun, the bullet is going to carry a distance much greater than any firework is going to go,” Farley said.

He also wondered if council members would treat all fireworks the same, or would they differentiate between aerials and varieties that stay on the ground. Another concern is the potential for a regulatory patchwork, where one cul-de-sac allows fireworks and the next doesn’t.

“My anxiety is that it Balkanizes the county,” he said.

Snohomish County allows people to light off fireworks just one day per year, on July 4. In addition to newcomers Marysville and Brier, the cities of Edmonds, Everett, Gold Bar, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo and Woodway all ban fireworks.

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

Council fireworks discussion

The Snohomish County Council is scheduled to talk about a proposed ordinance that would allow people to petition for a fireworks ban for their neighborhoods. If passed, it would apply to unincorporated areas.

Time: 9:30 a.m. Tuesday

Place: Robert J. Drewel building, eighth floor, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett.

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