Iowa measure strips cities of regulating fireworks sales

cigaretteman

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A bill waiting for Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign into law would strip local city councils of regulating the sale of fireworks, frustrating efforts of cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City to crack down on the consumer explosives in response to citizen complaints and a rise in injuries.


In 2017, legislators ended a nearly 80-year ban on consumer fireworks in the state. Senate File 489 gave local communities the authority to restrict or continue banning fireworks from being set off, but required them to allow sale of fireworks regardless.


The measure permitted licensed retailers or community groups to sell fireworks to adults in permanent structures between June 1 and July 8 and between Dec. 10 and Jan. 3. Another provision allows temporary structures such as tents to sell between June 13 and July 8 each year.


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Some local communities responded to citizen complaints and a rise in injuries and fires by limiting the time frame for residents to set off fireworks or banning displays completely, establishing fines for violators that reach into the hundreds of dollars. Some communities took the crack down farther — limiting the outlets where fireworks could be sold to only certain zoning districts.


In this legislative session, Sen. Mike Klimesh, R-Spillville, proposed an amendment to Senate File 2285 he said was necessary because local communities were scorning the intent of state lawmakers by voting to limit where fireworks could be sold.


“What this bill does is provide a check to cities that are trying to use spot zoning as an attempt to do an end-run around the state law,” he said. “ … I’ve been a mayor of a small town for 20 years. You won’t find a much more staunch advocate of local control. However, there are times the Legislature needs to step in and say, ‘What you’re doing locally defies the very spirit of a law that we passed.’”


Klimesh said the State Fire Marshal’s Office would approve each fireworks outlet location, like it does now.


Democratic opponents said the measure is an example of the Legislature taking away cities’ ability act for the safety of their own communities.


“It doesn’t make any sense to put dangerous explosives on the Main Street of every Iowa downtown,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, during debate. “This is the ‘burn down every Main Street amendment.’”


In Cedar Rapids, fireworks are prohibited from being discharged in the city limits, punishable by a fine of up to $625. Sales of the consumer-grade fireworks are allowed in industrial zones only.​



In 2021, there was only one fireworks vendor in Cedar Rapids, according to Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Vance McKinnon III. McKinnon said he thinks having no restrictions on where fireworks can be sold is going to turn into an issue of more people setting off fireworks illegally.


“Just because fireworks could be sold anywhere does not mean fireworks can be set off here, and that’s my concern,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time from fire marshals, inspectors and the police department. It’s going to take a lot of our resources from more important calls.”


Last year, Cedar Rapids police received 477 fireworks-related calls for service between July 2 and July 5. Calls for service peaked on the Fourth of July, when Cedar Rapids received more than 230 fireworks-related calls, or almost one call every six minutes.


Local hospitals in Eastern Iowa including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s and Mercy Medical Center reported more than 30 fireworks-related injuries during last year’s Fourth of July.


McKinnon said he also has concern about the safety of where vendors may sell fireworks around the city.


“People may try to set up near a gas station. That’s why our current code has standards, but when the state takes local control away it makes it more difficult for us and creates a bigger issue.”


In Marion, firework sales are allowed only in certain industrial zones and firework use is permitted from noon to 11 p.m. July 4 and from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.


Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said the legislation is concerning.


“It is yet another case of the state Legislature taking away local control on matters that are best handled within the purview of local governments,” AbouAssaly said. “Issues of public safety don’t always have one-size-fits-all solutions and cities must have the powers to fulfill this basic function of local government. Fireworks have the potential to cause significant harm to people and property. We regulate far less dangerous items to a much higher degree.”


In Johnson County, there were 12 licensed sites selling consumer fireworks last year. Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty all ban them from being set off.


Illegally setting off fireworks in Iowa City is a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $250, according to city code. The sale of fireworks is limited to industrial zones, such as storage and factory facilities.


Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city “strongly opposes this legislation.”


“We know from experience that it will result in a higher number of resident complaints and create significant additional stress on our police and fire operations,” Fruin said. “Removing local control of firework sales locations will create additional problems, while at the same time handcuffing our ability to develop reasonable solutions that meet our own community’s expectations.”


More injuries possible​


Iowa City Fire Marshal Brian Greer said the city will likely see an influx of tent sales, as well as increased injuries and call volume to the police department.


“Given the availability, we expect to see more injuries,” Greer said.


Greer referenced a study from the UI Injury Prevention Research Center that found fireworks-related injuries increased after 2017. UI Hospitals and Clinics and Iowa Methodist Medical Center-UnityPoint Health in Des Moines treated 107 patients for fireworks-related injuries from May 2017 to the end of 2019. The three and a half years leading up to legalization, the two centers saw 43 fireworks-related injuries.


Informing city residents of the rules surrounding fireworks also will be important, especially with the university student population changing often, Greer said. It’s a concern, he said, that it might be confusing seeing fireworks sold more broadly but use still being prohibited.


Coralville does not allow use of fireworks and voted in 2021 to restrict fireworks sales to industrial zoned property. Individuals who illegally set off fireworks face a minimum fine of $250 and can be held liable for damages caused.


Dave Johnson, the city’s community development director, said the city began evaluating operations and site conditions of fireworks sales operations in 2020 after receiving complaints from residents.


“The city learned fireworks sales operations typically include a storage and distribution component that better lends itself to industrial zoning districts,” Johnson said in an email.


The city adopted an ordinance restricting sales to industrial zoned property, Johnson said. But Johnson said the state legislation has the “potential to introduce sites and operations incompatible with adjacent residential and commercial uses in Coralville.”


“I would also anticipate the same concerns expressed by residents prior to the adoption of our local ordinance to resurface,” he said.
 

Keehawk

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"It doesn’t make any sense to put dangerous explosives on the Main Street of every Iowa downtown,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, during debate. “This is the ‘burn down every Main Street amendment.’”
I agree with the dems on this one. It should be the cities decision. However, is this guy for real? Talk about being over dramatic! Lol All his quote is missing is "Period. Full stop." at the end. Lol
 

Urohawk

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Raise your hand if you support this law.
uaeuoftpz8x21.jpg
 
Mar 11, 2020
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1. The annual trip to Missouri is a right of passage for many Iowans.


2. Let the cities decide. If someone from Des Moines wants the bigbanger9000 but can't buy it in DM let them go buy it in Clive instead of Missouri and keep the tax dollars here.
 

sober_teacher

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Mar 26, 2007
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I agree with the dems on this one. It should be the cities decision. However, is this guy for real? Talk about being over dramatic! Lol All his quote is missing is "Period. Full stop." at the end. Lol
Yeah, hyperbole like that doesn’t help your argument on bit. Not that it likely did any harm either, given the healthy GOP majority in Iowa currently.

im glad they finally did away with the ban on firework sales in Iowa a few years back. I’m also okay with having regulations in place regarding the more dangerous ones that are on the market.
 

CLUB215

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Apr 28, 2015
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Iowa City
1. The annual trip to Missouri is a right of passage for many Iowans.


2. Let the cities decide. If someone from Des Moines wants the bigbanger9000 but can't buy it in DM let them go buy it in cline instead of Missouri and keep the tax dollars here.
Rite

It definitely should be a local decision. I would go a step further and say a city should have power to ban sales entirely.
 

sober_teacher

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Mar 26, 2007
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Rite

It definitely should be a local decision. I would go a step further and say a city should have power to ban sales entirely.
I don’t really agree with a blanket ban, as others have noted, people will just drive to the next town or state over. I wouldn’t be opposed to mandatory safety instructions for the more dangerous ones, to at least try to protect people from themselves. Can’t fix stupid for the garden variety accidents we hear about every year unfortunately.
 

SSG T

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Yeah, hyperbole like that doesn’t help your argument on bit. Not that it likely did any harm either, given the healthy GOP majority in Iowa currently.

im glad they finally did away with the ban on firework sales in Iowa a few years back. I’m also okay with having regulations in place regarding the more dangerous ones that are on the market.

Agree with both and would add, I'm also completely fine with the time limitations of when they can be fired.

And I got to watch a vouple of months ago as the city cop (who lives behind me) ticket the people 2 houses north of him for firing them off outside of the allowed time frame. His response when I asked him how it went..."They deserve a ticket for being stupid enough to do it when they know I live about 100 feet from them and they knew the allowed time" as he shook his head.

And yes, the people he ticketed are as dumb as they sound.
 
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IA_HAWKI

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Cedar Rapids looked like a damn flea market with firework tents set up all over the place when fireworks became legal.

does the law allow people to shoot them off wherever? Cities should be able to regulate the use of them (but dont think they have enough resources to enforce it)

I guess if a city has to let them be sold, can they require them to be sold in a permanent structure and not in some white trash circus tent in a parking lot?

It was obnoxious for people firing them off at midnight two weeks before july 4th when the alarm was set for 4am for work.
 

sober_teacher

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Mar 26, 2007
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Cedar Rapids looked like a damn flea market with firework tents set up all over the place when fireworks became legal.

does the law allow people to shoot them off wherever? Cities should be able to regulate the use of them (but dont think they have enough resources to enforce it)

I guess if a city has to let them be sold, can they require them to be sold in a permanent structure and not in some white trash circus tent in a parking lot?

It was obnoxious for people firing them off at midnight two weeks before july 4th when the alarm was set for 4am for work.

Idk that it would be cost effective to have permanent locations for those businesses. It’d be like the various costume stores that show up for a month around Halloween.
 

IA_HAWKI

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Idk that it would be cost effective to have permanent locations for those businesses. It’d be like the various costume stores that show up for a month around Halloween.

Thats what i would be thinking of. Would be a workaround for the city if the bill goes through.

all the circus tents selling fireworks in parking lots made the city look trashy
 

sober_teacher

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Thats what i would be thinking of. Would be a workaround for the city if the bill goes through.

all the circus tents selling fireworks in parking lots made the city look trashy
The big differences is that there’s a much bigger market for Halloween costumes than fireworks. I highly doubt those big buildings would be cost effective with how many fireworks actually get sold, considering the tented areas can squeeze into one corner of a parking lot.
 

Tom Paris

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A bill waiting for Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign into law would strip local city councils of regulating the sale of fireworks, frustrating efforts of cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City to crack down on the consumer explosives in response to citizen complaints and a rise in injuries.


In 2017, legislators ended a nearly 80-year ban on consumer fireworks in the state. Senate File 489 gave local communities the authority to restrict or continue banning fireworks from being set off, but required them to allow sale of fireworks regardless.


The measure permitted licensed retailers or community groups to sell fireworks to adults in permanent structures between June 1 and July 8 and between Dec. 10 and Jan. 3. Another provision allows temporary structures such as tents to sell between June 13 and July 8 each year.


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Some local communities responded to citizen complaints and a rise in injuries and fires by limiting the time frame for residents to set off fireworks or banning displays completely, establishing fines for violators that reach into the hundreds of dollars. Some communities took the crack down farther — limiting the outlets where fireworks could be sold to only certain zoning districts.


In this legislative session, Sen. Mike Klimesh, R-Spillville, proposed an amendment to Senate File 2285 he said was necessary because local communities were scorning the intent of state lawmakers by voting to limit where fireworks could be sold.


“What this bill does is provide a check to cities that are trying to use spot zoning as an attempt to do an end-run around the state law,” he said. “ … I’ve been a mayor of a small town for 20 years. You won’t find a much more staunch advocate of local control. However, there are times the Legislature needs to step in and say, ‘What you’re doing locally defies the very spirit of a law that we passed.’”


Klimesh said the State Fire Marshal’s Office would approve each fireworks outlet location, like it does now.


Democratic opponents said the measure is an example of the Legislature taking away cities’ ability act for the safety of their own communities.


“It doesn’t make any sense to put dangerous explosives on the Main Street of every Iowa downtown,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, during debate. “This is the ‘burn down every Main Street amendment.’”


In Cedar Rapids, fireworks are prohibited from being discharged in the city limits, punishable by a fine of up to $625. Sales of the consumer-grade fireworks are allowed in industrial zones only.​



In 2021, there was only one fireworks vendor in Cedar Rapids, according to Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Vance McKinnon III. McKinnon said he thinks having no restrictions on where fireworks can be sold is going to turn into an issue of more people setting off fireworks illegally.


“Just because fireworks could be sold anywhere does not mean fireworks can be set off here, and that’s my concern,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time from fire marshals, inspectors and the police department. It’s going to take a lot of our resources from more important calls.”


Last year, Cedar Rapids police received 477 fireworks-related calls for service between July 2 and July 5. Calls for service peaked on the Fourth of July, when Cedar Rapids received more than 230 fireworks-related calls, or almost one call every six minutes.


Local hospitals in Eastern Iowa including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s and Mercy Medical Center reported more than 30 fireworks-related injuries during last year’s Fourth of July.


McKinnon said he also has concern about the safety of where vendors may sell fireworks around the city.


“People may try to set up near a gas station. That’s why our current code has standards, but when the state takes local control away it makes it more difficult for us and creates a bigger issue.”


In Marion, firework sales are allowed only in certain industrial zones and firework use is permitted from noon to 11 p.m. July 4 and from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.


Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said the legislation is concerning.


“It is yet another case of the state Legislature taking away local control on matters that are best handled within the purview of local governments,” AbouAssaly said. “Issues of public safety don’t always have one-size-fits-all solutions and cities must have the powers to fulfill this basic function of local government. Fireworks have the potential to cause significant harm to people and property. We regulate far less dangerous items to a much higher degree.”


In Johnson County, there were 12 licensed sites selling consumer fireworks last year. Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty all ban them from being set off.


Illegally setting off fireworks in Iowa City is a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $250, according to city code. The sale of fireworks is limited to industrial zones, such as storage and factory facilities.


Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city “strongly opposes this legislation.”


“We know from experience that it will result in a higher number of resident complaints and create significant additional stress on our police and fire operations,” Fruin said. “Removing local control of firework sales locations will create additional problems, while at the same time handcuffing our ability to develop reasonable solutions that meet our own community’s expectations.”


More injuries possible​


Iowa City Fire Marshal Brian Greer said the city will likely see an influx of tent sales, as well as increased injuries and call volume to the police department.


“Given the availability, we expect to see more injuries,” Greer said.


Greer referenced a study from the UI Injury Prevention Research Center that found fireworks-related injuries increased after 2017. UI Hospitals and Clinics and Iowa Methodist Medical Center-UnityPoint Health in Des Moines treated 107 patients for fireworks-related injuries from May 2017 to the end of 2019. The three and a half years leading up to legalization, the two centers saw 43 fireworks-related injuries.


Informing city residents of the rules surrounding fireworks also will be important, especially with the university student population changing often, Greer said. It’s a concern, he said, that it might be confusing seeing fireworks sold more broadly but use still being prohibited.


Coralville does not allow use of fireworks and voted in 2021 to restrict fireworks sales to industrial zoned property. Individuals who illegally set off fireworks face a minimum fine of $250 and can be held liable for damages caused.


Dave Johnson, the city’s community development director, said the city began evaluating operations and site conditions of fireworks sales operations in 2020 after receiving complaints from residents.


“The city learned fireworks sales operations typically include a storage and distribution component that better lends itself to industrial zoning districts,” Johnson said in an email.


The city adopted an ordinance restricting sales to industrial zoned property, Johnson said. But Johnson said the state legislation has the “potential to introduce sites and operations incompatible with adjacent residential and commercial uses in Coralville.”


“I would also anticipate the same concerns expressed by residents prior to the adoption of our local ordinance to resurface,” he said.
Party of small government.
 

Tom Paris

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Agree with both and would add, I'm also completely fine with the time limitations of when they can be fired.

And I got to watch a vouple of months ago as the city cop (who lives behind me) ticket the people 2 houses north of him for firing them off outside of the allowed time frame. His response when I asked him how it went..."They deserve a ticket for being stupid enough to do it when they know I live about 100 feet from them and they knew the allowed time" as he shook his head.

And yes, the people he ticketed are as dumb as they sound.
That sucks. When we were kids the guy who shot the most fireworks, up the street, was a sheriff.
 

IA_HAWKI

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Dec 1, 2021
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The big differences is that there’s a much bigger market for Halloween costumes than fireworks. I highly doubt those big buildings would be cost effective with how many fireworks actually get sold, considering the tented areas can squeeze into one corner of a parking lot.
Thats why i asked if it would be a work around for a city to take if this bill passes and the city doesn’t want a bunch of tents set up all over like there was in CR that first year
 

SSG T

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That sucks. When we were kids the guy who shot the most fireworks, up the street, was a sheriff.

If they were firing them off the day after, it wouldn't bother me.

But 2 months after the cutoff, at 10pm on a work day and it goes on for 20 minutes...no. The town cop walked into their back yard as they were doing them.
 
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sober_teacher

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If they were firing them off the day after, it wouldn't bother me.

But 2 months after the cutoff, at 10pm on a work day and it goes on for 20 minutes...no. The town cop walked into their back yard as they were doing them.

Yeah, I’ll give a little leeway depending on when the holiday falls, especially if it’s a midweek occurrence.
 

ICHawk-I

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The older I get the more content I am to watch someone else light off a good show, not just a bunch of drunken clowns make a bunch of noise after 10pm at night.

Also, get off my lawn!
 
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joelbc1

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you can’t always get what you want!
1. The annual trip to Missouri is a right of passage for many Iowans.


2. Let the cities decide. If someone from Des Moines wants the bigbanger9000 but can't buy it in DM let them go buy it in Clive instead of Missouri and keep the tax dollars here.
1. Meth in southern Ioway is evetybit the quality offered folks in Mizzery.
2. The Iowa GOP knows what is best for Iowans....just trust them!