WESTBROOK- Westbrook officials are drafting a new ordinance regarding use of consumer fireworks in the city after a Committee of the Whole meeting on the subject Monday brought strong opinions from residents in attendance.

“I know a lot of the complaints come from noise and litter from the fireworks,” said City Councilor Victor Chau, who referred the issue to the committee after receiving a number of complaints.

The issue has emerged after a change in state law last year lifted a ban on so-called “consumer” fireworks, or firecrackers, bottle rockets, and other non-industrial fireworks. Local communities were given the option to decide whether to enact bans of their own.

Some communities, such as Portland and South Portland, have issued bans. Westbrook, meanwhile, passed an ordinance permitting the sale, but created no ordinance governing use.

More than 20 people attended Monday’s meeting, all speaking about noise complaints, worries about safety, and concerns about the rights of property owners.

Jackie Ledoux, a Forest Street resident, said a spike in use of fireworks in her neighborhood has turned the past few months into “the summer from hell.”

Noise, she said, was a problem, but with the recent hot, dry weather, she also worries that fireworks will ignite trees near her home.

“It’s just been a nightmare thinking those trees would go up,” she said.

Lisa Willey, a Kennard Street resident for the last five years, said trees weren’t the only flammable things to worry about, especially with homes packed closer together, like in her neighborhood.

“If something is misfired, it could very easily hit a neighbor’s house,” she said.

Kim Noonan, who has lived on King Street for 11 years, cited noise as a big problem.

“For the last 11 years, minus the last three to four months, it’s been quiet, and I’d like it to go back that way,” she said.

Not everyone reported problems with fireworks.

Helen Black, of Cottage Street, said “We’ve never been awakened by fireworks,” and said she worried that a ban would infringe on her rights as a property owner.

“I want the right to shoot off a firecracker on my son’s birthday,” she said.

Randy Axelsen, a Cardinal Street resident, directly addressed the night’s complaints about overuse by saying, “I guess I’m the only one here who likes to have fun.”

He went on to say that he understands that pets don’t like them, but there are other solutions besides a citywide ban.

“My dog doesn’t like them. We put her in the basement,” he said.

Axelsen added that with no statewide ban, only local ordinances, the public will continue to buy and use fireworks, regardless of what action Westbrook takes.

“If you think banning them is going to stop it, you’re crazy,” he told the crowd and the committee.

Councilor John O’Hara agreed with Axelson, saying, “The genie is out of the bottle, and you will never get it back in.”

Other councilors, like Chau, favored a ban. Chau said this issue has brought more public comment to his door than any other, with safety being a priority.

“The big ones, they go up, they go everywhere, and they don’t always land where they’re supposed to,” he said.

Councilor Mike Foley said he could see both sides, noting concerns about safety and noise, but also acknowledging that sometimes a small number of troublemakers ruin it for law-abiding property owners who aren’t looking for trouble. He suggested looking to communities like Scarborough, which permits use on certain days, but otherwise bans them. A similar partial ban, he said, could “create some sort of ‘happy medium.’”

“I’m not inclined to outright ban them,” he said.

The committee took no votes on the issue Monday, but referred it to the city administration to write a draft of a usage ordinance, which would be taken up by the committee at a future meeting.


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