St. Clair Shores Passes Amended Fireworks Ordinance

City Council voted to limit fireworks to 10 holidays, along with the day before and after, to match state law.

City Council passed an amended fireworks ordinance Monday which limited the ignition, discharge and use of consumer fireworks except for the day of, before and after a national holiday.

The move comes after the went into effect at the beginning of the year, repealing former sections of the Michigan Penal Code regarding fireworks and setting new regulations for their purchase, sale and use.

What local governments can do, however, is regulate the ignition, discharge and use of consumer-grade fireworks, which include firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles.

“People are pretty passionate and upset over this issue,” said Mayor Kip Walby, who stated that he has received more correspondence on this issue than any other item as an elected official. “I haven’t had anything like this.”

St. Clair Shores joined other cities including, , and passed similar ordinances.

The new ordinance, also established general restrictions on the use of the fireworks including:

  • Not allowing the ignition of fireworks within 20 feet of an open flame;
  • Restriction of excessive use of fireworks for more than 20 minutes;
  • No ignition, launch or discharge of fireworks with 50 feet of a residential building or vehicle;
  • Fireworks can not be discharged from public property including schools, streets and medians.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie, who stated she thought that the state legislation was a “bad law” which was “hastily passed,” disagreed with the 20-minute usage part of the law.

“I think it is arbitrary and vague,” she said.

While the state law was written to allow the ignition of fireworks during the three-day period, St. Clair Shores also has current laws to which can be used if the fireworks become a nuisance including:

  • Disturbing the pulbic peace;
  • Trespassing, which could include spent fireworks landing on a resident’s property;
  • Nuisance.

Deputy Police Chief Glenn Bowlin said last year the department received 26 calls for service last year on the Fourth of July, and expects to have “double or triple” the number of calls this year.

He added that extra officers will be called in on overtime to enforced the city ordinances over the holiday.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie, who stated she thought that the state legislation was a “bad law” which was “hastily passed,” disagreed with the 20-minute usage part of the law.

“I think it is arbitrary and vague,” she said.

Other members of council described how they were personally affected by the fireworks usage in their neighborhood including Anthony Tiseo, who had a firework land in driver’s seat of his car. It did not cause any damage.

Chris Vitale, said a firework recently exploded near his dry grass, which he was concerned about the embers igniting his lawn. He also stated that his dog jumped through a screen and was hiding under a car due to the fireworks.

“You have a right to freedom of expression,” said Vitale, who also had to pickup numerous spent fireworks from his lawn. “They end when I have to clean up your mess. “

Resident Joseph Backus was the lone person to speak against the amended ordinance, and saw it a restriction of “freedom of expression.”

The majority of residents who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the amended ordinance.

Marianne Courey stated that she has had to give her dog a daily tranquilizer due to the fireworks; run her air conditioning due to the late night fireworks and been yelled by neighbors who were setting off pyrotechnics.

“I support this ordinance 100 percent,” she said. “There is an old saying ‘Good fences make good neighbors. ‘ I would include good ordinance make good neighbors.”

Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 01:55 AM
One final note: Please let the state legislators know how you feel. Write them, call them. They put us in the position of having to quickly pass ordinances to address the situation they created - when our ability to even do so at all, let alone what exactly we can do and how far we can go - is unclear. Under a technical reading of the statute, we're not allowed to do regulate firework usage on the 30 days at all! Personally, I think we have a possible argument that despite this provision our ability to invoke "police powers" may give us some ability to regulate as to the safety concerns (how far you have to be away from something to ignite, for example), but that only goes so far, in addition to the usual statutory construction issues of usage of vague or ambiguous terms like "excessive." Anyway, it's a terrible situation to put our cities in, to have so many residents demanding action but we're not sure if we're on steady legal ground to take any action at all, let alone what we can and cannot do.
DJG July 04, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Candace, My post was dead on, anonymity of the Internet has nothing to do with it. Do you not find it odd you were the only one, rambling over and over after the police office AND city mayor said that 20 minutes would be hard to abide by, but you had it stuck in your head when all other council members got past it. Your objection was noted. Do you think it made any difference that it was noted 10 times instead of one? It didn't. All you did was annoy anyone watching it. And by the faces and sighs, it was more than just the citizens watching in person and on public access. If you want a perfect law...dream on. It will never, ever happen. You do what is in the best Interest for the majority...you can't get everything perfect. But you have to start somewhere. @ SDS... So sorry you can no longer light them off like you want to for days and days on end. Maybe one day when you grow up, you'll understand. SCS is not the only city taking action to poor legislation from Lansing. Plenty are against 24/7/365 lighting of fireworks. Don't let the door hit you on the way out of the city. As Thomas said. It won't be perfect, majority rules. Anyone who's read the boards, read the news, attended the meeting and/or watched the meeting can CLEARLY without any hesitation say the large majority is against all the noise, nuisance and fireworks going off. Hats off to the council members who supported this, not just someone talking out both sides of their mouth.
Thomas Licht July 04, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Thank you for your kind and prompt reply. I am not an attorney, but I am of the understanding that the only time the 20 minute clause would actually be a problem is if and when a person were to actually be charged under that part of the law. So, with that in mind, is it then wise to sacrifice an entire legal action for a small set of words that may never be used and/or may never find itself as part of a challenge because other, larger parts of the law are more important and effective. Is something better than nothing? I ask not so much for the recently passed ordinance (as I sit listening to the war around me), but for other, possible even more important issues.
DJG July 04, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Candace, We get it. You objected to one item on the whole bill, and you made a big deal of it. Not only a big deal, it was over, and over and over again. I'm glad you're for the bill, but the residents and council had better things to do with their time instead of beating that dead horse. That was my whole point all along. While I understand you took an oath, etc., etc., when you are the only one in the room making one item a big deal, not even a sticking point and hard to prosecute it...do you think your time was well spent dwelling on it? I hope not. If me being critical of your meeting causes you to think I'm being "cruel", perhaps politics just isn't for you.
Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 02:19 AM
@DJG, I wanted to make sure my point was understood, and that it wasn't that I'm in favor of dogs being scared every night, fire hazards, and litter, and everything else that was being mentioned as the reasons we needed an ordinance. Sometimes these points fly over people's heads (no pun intended), and I wanted people to understand where I was coming from and, maybe, to understand the problems with the ordinance. On some of these more technical legal issues, I've found that explaining may help with this. I was also trying to explain this to my fellow decisionmakers so that maybe their decision would be influenced in a positive way. It wasn't, but you don't know that until it happens. Quite frankly, I don't think my time spent explaining a technical legal issue was any worse spent than hearing in detail how annoying fireworks can be, and their personal experiences with fireworks, but every councilmember spent time doing that. We may disagree on this point, and that's okay. Criticism is fine, but the "hot poker" and "pathetic" comments were a bit uncalled for in my opinion.
DJG July 04, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I, along with any of the others, would've been fine making your point understood. You went way, way overboard. I appreciated the council's own personal stories and remarks. It hits home with voters and citizens who support this amendment. As I write this, I just came back in from outside where neighbors all over, 30 feet away....just lit off a firework that should have went in the air and instead exploded on the ground. Luckily, no one was hurt. But did that stop? Nope...still going. Hot poker and pathetic may have been overboard, maybe not...but my point was made and it didn't take me 10 times to write it.
Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 02:33 AM
@Thomas, thanks for your reply. If the provision can't be enforced, I don't think it should be included in the ordinance "just because." Given that it is in the ordinance, it is enforceable, and it may be strictly enforced. I'm sitting in my house listening to fireworks from a nearby house that have gone on for over 20 minutes continuously right now. I've also seen ordinances applied when they shouldn't be applied, and that's one of the times that a challenge may be brought. The "intermittent or continuous" language is pretty confusing as to when the time window closes for that 20 minutes and a new one begins, and I could see the law being applied pretty creatively. Unfortunately, I think all of the provisions in the new ordinance will be hard to enforce, quite frankly, given how hard it is sometimes to locate where the noise is coming from and to catch the people doing it. I don't envy our cops one bit for having to deal with this issue at all.
Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 02:40 AM
@Thomas, As to other issues, I have voted for things where I have disagreed with the wisdom of certain parts of it. This year's budget, for example. There are certain line items I disagree with, but I voted for it. There have been other votes where I may disagree with certain aspects of an ordinance but I have voted for it. The snow shoveling ordinance, for example, I had a issue with the administration fee that was set. Allowable sizes of signs under the sign ordinance. Certain contract points in a purchase agreement for a city-owned house. Disagreeing with arbitrary detail like the cost of a fee or the size of a sign or a point in a PA, and strongly believely that something is unlawful for us to do, are two entirely different things. I can accept details I disagree with, and I have, but I can't morally pass and impose a law on people that I strongly believe (based on my education and professional experience) is illegal. Even if I'm told the likelihood of it being able to be enforced are pretty slim, I don't want to be a part of codifying anything that in my estimation is unlawful. I take my duties on this aspect and the promises I've made very seriously. We also have to remember that another set of higher up duly elected officials, in their wisdom, decided to pass a law granting their electorate these rights - however dumb it may be. PS - Still listening to fireworks noise coming from a nearby house, and it is absolutely obnoxious. :-/
Thomas Licht July 04, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I actually expect a lot of noise the night before and the night of the 4th. I kind of plan for it. My problem is this year, the weeks preceding it, but whatever. It is here to deal with. Anyway, we both agree that this is an awful situation for the police and fire officials. I would rather have them pay attention to real crime than "made up" crime. Happy 4th all!
Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Personally, I'm hoping once some of the novelty wears off, things quiet down. I think part of the excess may be the "newness" of being able to purchase and use these things here legally. I just hope the novelty wears off quickly.
Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 02:50 AM
@Thomas, no matter the date, I'm still not used to seeing/hearing so many of the larger fireworks! Happy and safe July 4th to you, too! :-)
Nicole G July 04, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Well it is 11:30pm and it just doesn't matter what the law say's !!! People are just outright rude. Why ? what is the reason for the bombs, I feel like I am in war torn country !!!!
dave July 04, 2012 at 03:39 AM
So it hasn't made the evening news yet but here in Clawson the city decided to enact an ordinance that completely bans class c fireworks at all times, including the the day of, day before, and day after. I know this because I had a clawson cop threatening me with multiple tickets repeatedly in front of my kids because I was setting off fireworks. So most of you obviously do not support legal fireworks but what about those of us that do? This law allowing the sale and use of fireworks was approved with the full knowledge that a majority of the voting public approves a reasonable use of these items and there are provisions in the law allowing for local governments to limit the impact on those of you that do not like them. If you think your city is setting itself up for a showdown on your law can you imagine whats going to happen to mine? (and its finances?)
Candice B. Rusie July 04, 2012 at 03:41 AM
@Nicole, if you want, don't forget you have the right to call the police non-emergency line if you know where it is coming from and you think it may be violating the noise ordinance, disturbing the peace, etc. 586-777-6700
Opus July 04, 2012 at 09:43 AM
Bringing in extra officers and paying the Police overtime to enforce the ordinance restricting lawful fireworks over the 4th of July? Are you kidding me? How much in overtime will it cost us for an officer to put a 20 minute stop watch on someone's firework display? I have small children to put to bed and believe me, the noise is causing a disruption in their sleeping patterns. However, it's the fourth of July people! Get over it! America is a country of complainers! Opus
Opus July 04, 2012 at 09:45 AM
Happy 4th of July! This is how we roll!
Opus July 04, 2012 at 09:46 AM
It's the 4th of July! Enjoy!
Thomas Licht July 04, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Opus, I believe that is what is referred to as "free speech" and one of the many things listed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution that we celebrate today. This is how we roll! Happy 4th of July!
DJG July 04, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Opus, $500 fines for lawbreakers and adoption of the city ordinance will pay for the police OT and presence. You're right...it is the 4th of July. However, it wasn't the 4th of July back in mid May when all these fireworks started and haven't stopped since. The mayor said this is the most complained about and talked about issue since his tenure in office started. That should speak volumes right there. I have no problem with responsible fireworks for 3 days of Memorial, 4th of July and Labor Day holidays. Even squeak them in on New Years. Do we really need fireworks on Thanksgiving and Christmas? C'mon... Candice, perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. I too hope the novelty wears off. It is ridiculous and out of control, period. 3 days is fine, 6 weeks is not. You say America is a country of complainers, I say on some parts you're right. However, I also say people abuse and misuse the system more often than not, which is really what the country has become. Any way to find a loop hole, cheat or go around the system, that's the American way, and it's a shame. Candice, I agree...the legislation written by Lansing was horrible. It was built on the right idea, keep the revenue in MI. But the policies and practices behind it were poor and not well thought out. Does anyone realize the first draft made it legal for minors to use commercial fireworks. They can NOT buy them, but can use them. Of course they amended it...but that's my point about detail...
Mary July 04, 2012 at 11:51 PM
I do not ever remember getting a chance to vote on the issue of fireworks to be for sale as a voter so I do not know how it could be said that the majority favor this. The fact that this noise has been going on since May proves a point that something needs to be done about this. People have not acted responsible. People continue to bring up the freedom of speech issue but this is not speech it is noise pollution plain and simple.
Thomas Licht July 05, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Mary, I agree with you about the noise pollution, but I'm not sure that every issue brought before the Legislature needs to be voted on by the people. That's why we send people to Lansing and have a representative form of government. The question for me is, "Whose best interests were being considered when the law was passed?" The Fireworks Lobby or the people of the State of Michigan? I don't recall seeing this issue in ANY newletter from ANY representative in government, yet we get information about the picnics they attend. Now that is BIZARRE! Since when to picnics rise to the importance of this kind of legislation? Anyway, you said this isn't speech, this is noise. The way the Supreme Court rules lately (e.g. money is speech and corporations are people), I wouldn't be shocked if they rule that noise is speech. I agree with you - just sayin'
Christopher Gadsden July 05, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Candace you wanted to be a councilperson and meddle in the lives of others. Until your people are able to rescind the first amendment residents can say any damn thing they want about you. It was the refusal to tolerate tyranny that lead to Independence Day. Perhaps we should not ignite fireworks on July Fourth but not because little dictators like Candice say we cannot. Look at the little cowards here and everywhere else that elect people like Candice. Many people want "something done" any time they are inconvenienced. Every time "something is done" some of our freedom is lost. We have no business celebrating freedom from a tyrannical, oppressive government while wehave elect and suppost a tyrannical, oppressive government.
Christopher Gadsden July 05, 2012 at 06:29 PM
People who do not like those in power may enjoy the anonymity of the internet because it prevents vindictive city officials from making their lives difficult.
Candice B. Rusie July 05, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Elected official or not, the comments still hurt and I have the right to say that. My opinion. People have a right to say what they want to or about me, and equally I have a right to respond. God bless America and the First Amendment.
Jim Dy July 05, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Lets not forget why this law was passed, bottom line as always, Money. Safety Tax, sales tax, should put a usage tax also on them. Come on Snyder, can't believe you missed this one. Of the people, by the people, For the people, what a bunch of B.S. Money, Money, Money for who ????
BGD July 06, 2012 at 02:24 AM
We are and have been for years. Now someone else gets to hear for acouple nights, what our service men and women listen to for a at least a year everynight. Sleep tight...
Thomas Licht July 06, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Yeow! Uh, no people can't say any damn thing they want about you. The Constitution doesn't go that far. Various laws limit peronal freedom. Slander laws limit what you can say about others and libel laws limit what you can write about others. Read and learn about your government. It is not without limits on your liberties. You cannot harm others and their property and peace. For those who seem to think there was something unconstitutional done, challenge it in court. That is always open to you as an avenue if you think you are still right. Until then, majority rules. Also, regarding what our soldiers experience in battle, God bless them, but those battles are fought to keep the peace here, not to bring the battle home.
DJG July 06, 2012 at 07:23 PM
@Christopher...You're WAY off base. Sorry. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Read up on that. Tell me how much happiness is experienced with fireworks going off for months, day in day out at all hours of the night. When I can't sleep, even with the AC cranked and a loud fan for back ground noise, yeah....I'm happy. I'm even more so happy when my own dogs, large dogs, are afraid to go outside. The law was a good idea, poorly written, poorly regulated and poorly thought through. If you feel so oppressed because you can't light off fireworks, which effect others around you...please feel free to move to another city, or better yet another country that will allow you to express those rights. Oh, that's right...people come here for that reason. Good luck on that.
CJA July 13, 2012 at 10:44 PM
To SDS who thinks our voted politicians are gestapo and is whining because he can no longer impose his stupid antics on other residents...You can always move...please do so...your lack of respect for the people that share your community is disgusting. We live close...lots are small and people simply dont enjoy listening to people express themselves for two months prior to a holiday. Maybe you need to look at buying acreage...somewhere way far away from here. And to those who supported the majority of citizens who were being audibly abused by the barrage of fireworks...thank you for listening...that is if your ears stop ringing long enough to hear :)
Karen July 17, 2012 at 04:12 AM
CJA, Thank you! I could not have said it better myself! If SDS thinks that not being able to use noisy, disruptive, dangerous fireworks is losing "freedom", then perhaps he/she should go elsewhere ASAP. I am also stunned by the words I've seen thrown around on various message boards-"Nazis", "police state", "tyranny", "gestapo"-really? Do you have even the most remote concept of history? Your ability to use your precious fireworks have nothing to do with your "freedom" or constitutional rights. Have you been dragged away from your home and sent to a death camp? Have you been asked to show your papers while walking through your community? Is your every movement being monitored? Has your home/business been destroyed because you do not fit the government ideal of the "perfect" citizen? Hmmm...thought not. P.S.: to those who suggest we drug our dogs because they are fearful-WRONG! I will continue to speak up until this debacle ends.


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