After months of discussion and with the clock ticking on the July 4 holiday, the City and Borough of Juneau moved a step closer to changing the city’s firework ordinance at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
On May 24, the City Assembly will hear public comments and vote on a proposed ordinance that bans loud, mortar-style fireworks in Juneau’s neighborhoods and imposes limits on the types, times and locations where residents can use fireworks.
The measure is more permissive than the ordinance that Assembly Member Michele Bonnet Hale initially proposed in February. It would have banned sales and put strict limits on what could be used and when.
The current proposal is the result of months of negotiation and several amendments by committee members. If passed, the ordinance will go into effect 30-days after passage, in time for the revised rules to apply for America’s upcoming 245th birthday.
“People have complained about the mortars. By removing one type of firework, we satisfy 90% of complaints,” said Assembly member Wade Bryson.
Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly member Loren Jones disagreed with Bryson’s perspective on the compromise, saying that the proposed rules are overcomplicated and difficult to enforce.
“The only thing that’s going to be enforceable is a complete ban,” Jones said. “This ordinance will complicate the lives of our police officers and citizens. You will not be rid of this ever.”
Jones predicted that efforts to communicate the nuances of the rules would not be effective.
“No one will pay attention to your flier. They will shoot off whatever they want and hope the cops are busy with other public safety issues. It’s going to boom off West Juneau and right into my bedroom. We’ve overcomplicated this. It should be a complete ban. That’s the only thing that is enforceable,” Jones said.
Before the committee voted to move the ordinance forward, Weldon proposed scrapping the current version in favor of making tweaks for this summer and sending the question back to the committee for additional work. However, her counter-proposal did not get traction.
Voicing the perspective of the committee’s majority, Hale said that she thought the current incarnation represented a good compromise position and could be communicated effectively to residents in advance of July 4.
The proposed changes do not affect permitted public displays or regulatory use for public safety or wildlife control.
Imposing sales tax
The CBJ Assembly also agreed to consider an additional ordinance to require that all sellers of fireworks collect sales taxes on all firework sales that take place in the city or borough.
If passed, this would affect sales by the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, an organization that is generally exempt from collecting sales tax. Last year, Tlingit and Haida sold fireworks for personal use ahead of the July 4 holiday.
The assembly will consider that question on a separate timeline.
“Whoever sells fireworks needs to collect taxes to provide for the public safety response they require,” Jones said as he introduced the proposal.
Summary of proposed regulations
The proposed ordinance and definition of each type of firework is available in the Assembly section of the city’s website at juneau.org.
According to the proposal, the use of fireworks is banned in the City and Borough of Juneau with the following exceptions:
Concussive fireworks, defined as a firework launched from a tube with an inside diameter larger than ¾ of an inch or has a mortar as a feature, may be used on private or public property with permission from the properties owner, outside the fire service area, and only during certain hours on New Year’s and July 3 and 4. This means that the loud, mortar-style fireworks are banned from Juneau’s neighborhoods.
Holiday fireworks may be used on private property with permission from the property owner inside the fire service area only on December 31 and January 1 and July 3 and 4, during certain hours. They may also be used outside the fire district area year-round between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. each day.
Allowable fireworks may be used on private property with the property owner’s permission or on designated public property on December 31 and January 1 and July 3 and 4 during certain hours and year-round from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Concussive, holiday and allowable fireworks may be used on private property outside the roaded service area year-round, with permission from the property owner.
•Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-308-4891.