The Rev. Randy Hurlbut of Sequim Valley Foursquare Church speaks to the Sequim City Council about why he is in favor of firework sales in city limits. — Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group ()

The Rev. Randy Hurlbut of Sequim Valley Foursquare Church speaks to the Sequim City Council about why he is in favor of firework sales in city limits. — Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group ()

Sequim City Council shelves talks on fireworks law changes

SEQUIM — Any possible changes to the city of Sequim’s fireworks policies for next year fizzled out after recent talks to ban and/or limit them in city limits.

City Council members Monday discussed options for possible changes to policies for the Fourth of July beginning in the summer of 2017.

But they couldn’t reach consensus on what direction to take.

The council’s discussion stems from an update to the city’s municipal code from August 2015 that goes into effect Aug. 14.

It prohibits sky lanterns, which already are illegal in Washington, and allows the city’s fire marshal or city manager to ban fireworks in times of high or extreme fire danger.

The updated ordinance doesn’t ban fireworks in the city limits.

But that was not known to opponents and proponents of fireworks who spoke prior to council discussion.

Pastor David Westman of the Sequim Worship Center said he’s part of a group that has sold fireworks for more than 40 years and found it disconcerting that fireworks would come up as an agenda item when the group possesses permits for this season.

“We’re trying to get on board,” he said. “We just want to know what we’re getting on board with.”

Proponents spoke about the benefit of fireworks stands supporting youth activities, saying they create a sense of community, while opponents felt fireworks are disruptive for humans and animals, and can be dangerous.

The Rev. Randy Hurlbut of Sequim Valley Foursquare Church said he’s been selling fireworks for 14 years and they promote safety.

“I’m a pyro and I’ve always loved the Fourth of July,” he said. “I stand before you with all my toes, all my eyebrows and my hair . . . I can tell you we promote safety, safety, safety.”

Hurlbut said banning fireworks could lead good people to becoming criminals.

“They are going to run to the reservations and buy the insane stuff, not the sane stuff,” he said.

City resident Anne Goetzman isn’t a fan of fireworks in her neighborhood.

“I love Sequim 51 weeks out of the year and then I have fireworks week,” she said. “I’m starting now to prune all my landscape. I have to prepare for the fireworks that are going to go off where I live.”

She suggested a sponsored public display as an alternative to individual fireworks discharges in city limits.

Councilman Ted Miller emphasized that the updated ordinance doesn’t ban the sale of fireworks.

But he said he would like to regulate where fireworks can be set off.

“You’ll be able to buy anything short of a nuclear bomb so long as it’s allowed by the federal government or the state government,” he said.

Miller said the issue to him is noise and that pets and humans can be terrified.

“It doesn’t make sense to set them off in a highly dense area,” he said.

Miller, who has suggested bans and/or fireworks limitations before within city limits, suggested there are many spots in the county to discharge fireworks.

Councilwoman Candace Pratt said she and her family love fireworks but that she understands noise has become difficult for many people.

She recommended that the time and dates fireworks could be discharged be reduced.

Fellow council members Genaveve Starr and Pamela Leonard-Ray said they would be open to reducing fireworks discharge hours but not banning them entirely.

“I don’t really like fireworks, but I don’t want to tell our citizens they can’t use legal fireworks,” Starr said.

“I’d like to reduce the number of days they can be used in city limits,” Leonard-Ray said.

“I assume many of the people who buy fireworks don’t live in the city limits.”

Councilman Bob Lake liked one resident’s suggestion to allow fireworks in a controlled area, like a park, during certain times.

Mayor Dennis Smith felt banning wouldn’t work, given the city’s proximity to fireworks sales in Blyn.

“Saying we want a ban isn’t going to work,” he said. “It’ll increase the workload on the police department.”

If the City Council did want to push for changes in 2017, they would have needed to ask for a special meeting and draft ordinance by June 22. Nothing was set.

City Manager Charlie Bush said any changes or discussion after June would relate to 2018.

Miller said he considered the topic dead but recommended council members talk to constituents to see if it’s worth pursuing further.

In the city of Sequim, fireworks are sold from June 28 to July 5.

They can be discharged from noon to 11 p.m. June 28, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 29-July 3, 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 5.

Fireworks are banned within the city of Port Angeles.

In Clallam County, they can be discharged from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 29-July 3, 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 5.

Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson said last year, the police department received 25 calls about fireworks, nine in 2014 and 12 in 2013.

Of those calls, he said a majority were about illegal fireworks.

He said the call load didn’t require more officers on duty but he added that reserve officers do provide extra help by patrolling for illegal activity.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]

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