Ever since the statewide ban on the sale and use of such fireworks was lifted four years ago, Scarborough has been one of the few local communities to allow them within the town limits.

But there’s been ongoing talk about whether to impose further limits on fireworks or ban them all together, and now, the Town Council is taking up the issue once again in a workshop slated for Wednesday, after the Current’s print deadline.

The goal of the meeting is to talk over a recent widely distributed survey that shows the majority of residents who responded want the rules governing the use of fireworks to be more restrictive.

Until Jan. 1, 2012, it was against state law for people to either purchase or set off consumer fireworks. When the state changed the laws four years ago, though, it allowed individual communities to decide whether to institute their own local ordinances that would control the use of such fireworks.

Cape Elizabeth and South Portland instituted an all-out ban on the use of consumer fireworks, as did Saco and Old Orchard Beach. But a similar effort in Scarborough failed in a close vote. However, the debate has never really died.

Under Scarborough’s ordinances, fireworks can be let off five days a year – Dec. 31, Jan. 1, and July 3-5. The idea was to allow residents and visitors to celebrate New Year’s and the Fourth of July by using consumer fireworks.

In addition, Scarborough has two stores that sell consumer fireworks. One, Phantom Fireworks, was billed as Maine’s largest fireworks store when it opened in the late spring of 2012. The store is located in the Gateway Shoppes, off Payne Road in the same shopping complex as Cabela’s.

At the time Phantom Fireworks opened, Bill Weimer, vice president of the Ohio-based chain, told the Current his company specifically targeted Scarborough as its first Maine location as part of a new strategy to open near Cabela’s stores. The other fireworks store in Scarborough, Atlas Fireworks, also opened in the spring of 2012 at 374 U.S. Route 1.

Jeff Graham, manager of the local Phantom Fireworks store, was not available for comment prior to the Current’s deadline, although an assistant manager said the company was aware of the council workshop scheduled for Nov. 16.

Going into the workshop, Bill Donovan, the council chairman, said there “are no specific recommendations. This is designed to be a clean slate and an open process” to discuss if the town’s governing body even wants to change the rules governing consumer fireworks and if so to what.

“I see this as one more chance for people to voice their concerns and also to let councilors express what they’ve heard from their constituents,” he said. “The idea would be to give the Ordinance Committee direction if there is a consensus or a common view of what should be done.”

Nearly 1,000 residents responded to an online survey that the town put out in recent months to gauge what the community thinks about the current fireworks ordinance. And the results show that a majority want a ban on consumer fireworks or to limit fireworks displays to professionally run shows only.

A memo provided to the council before this week’s workshop stated that “while 56 percent of respondents wanting greater restrictions is significant, the survey does not allow us to know if multiple responses were submitted by the same person.”

The memo acknowledged that the survey results “show that this is an issue of interest to residents of Scarborough,” though the council was cautioned against using the “inconclusive results … as the base for any substantive policy changes.”

Donovan said that if the council agrees to make changes to the town’s fireworks rules, the goal would be to have any new regulations in place by next summer. He said the use of consumer fireworks to celebrate the New Year appears to be negligible, compared to the number set off in honor of the Fourth of July.

Phantom Fireworks, in the Gateway Shoppes plaza in Scarborough, is the state’s largest purveyor of consumer fireworks. It opened in the spring of 2012 following the lifting of a statewide ban on the sale and use of such fireworks.

An online survey in Scarborough shows that 56 percent of respondents are not happy with the town’s current rules on consumer fireworks and want further restrictions.


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