Several residents shoot fireworks simultaneously on the Fourth of July last summer in the Sequim area. Starting in 2018, if the Sequim City Council approves, it will be illegal to shoot off any fireworks in the city limits. (Bob Lampert)

Several residents shoot fireworks simultaneously on the Fourth of July last summer in the Sequim area. Starting in 2018, if the Sequim City Council approves, it will be illegal to shoot off any fireworks in the city limits. (Bob Lampert)

Sequim City Council to consider ban on fireworks discharge

By Matthew Nash

Olympic Peninsula News Group

SEQUIM — City council members will discuss and possibly vote on banning the discharge of consumer fireworks when they meet later this month after an advisory vote found that most Sequim residents approve of such a ban.

Voters overwhelmingly urged the Sequim City Council to ban the discharge of consumer fireworks within city limits beginning in 2018 in an advisory vote on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The latest count of ballots Wednesday found that 2,633 voters, or 65.63 percent, approved the action, while 1,379 voters, or 34.37 percent, opposed it.

The council has said it would abide by the advisory vote. Only consumer discharge of fireworks would be banned. Public displays could be approved. Retailers would be allowed to sell consumer fireworks.

Sequim City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said Monday that she plans to bring an amendment to the Nov. 28 meeting for council members to discuss and vote on about banning discharging fireworks. By state law, a ban cannot be effective until one year after its adoption.

The push to bring a vote to residents began with Deputy Mayor Ted Miller who suggested bans on fireworks within the city limits a few times over his tenure but it was only on July 25 that the council unanimously agreed to place the advisory vote on the ballot.

Miller expected a majority vote in favor of a ban.

“The reason I think it did that is because we made the proposal reasonable,” he said Monday.

“The city of Sequim is a small city, so most of the sales are from out of the city. Why curtail that? The compromise is to shoot them outside of city limits.”

Proponents of the ban had said that fireworks are dangerous and disturbing in densely populated areas such as Sequim with risks of fire, injury and property damage along with fireworks’ noises negatively affecting animals and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Councilwoman Pam Leonard-Ray said she was surprised by the results but glad the proposed ban received support.

“Like many people, it has to do with pets for me personally,” she said. “I’ve lived lots of places with fireworks but never any place they were so close to me. It upsets my animals and a lot of other people’s animals.”

Councilwoman Candace Pratt previously said she felt banning the discharge of fireworks but allowing the sales seemed “dysfunctional.”

“The people have spoken,” she said Monday. “The ones who really cared about it voted.”

Pratt said she voted for the ban despite her reservations.

“Allowing sales comes from a good heart,” she said. “Let’s not ban this opportunity for sales to benefit kids.”

Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson said the vote showed how strongly the public feels about fireworks.

“If that’s the way the community wants it, then that’s the way it should be,” he said.

Nelson-Gross said fireworks sales would continue in city limits from June 28 through July 5 by up to four groups, usually local churches/service groups, in designated areas. The city of Sequim charges a $100 licensing fee each year per booth.

Pastor Randy Hurlbut with Sequim Valley Foursquare has sold fireworks for several years in the city and said he’s saddened by the vote.

“It doesn’t clarify a situation clearly,” he said. “We can sell them here but not shoot them here. It makes criminals of our people.”

Pastor Jonathan Simonson, also with Sequim Valley Foursquare, sells fireworks at another booth than Hurlbut but plans to advise customers by handing out maps of city and Clallam County boundaries.

“It is, of course, the responsibility of each citizen to follow the laws in the rightful areas designated,” he said.

Last summer, city staff recommended the City Council investigate financing a public fireworks display if a ban were put into effect.

Nelson-Gross said the city would need to budget about $25,000 for a 20-minute show.

________

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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