Peachtree City leadership made it clear Thursday that they consider the state law legalizing the use of fireworks on private property to be a dud.
As of July 1, fireworks will be legal in the state of Georgia, and there will surely be fewer clandestine trips to the Alabama border.
Peachtree City Fire Chief Joe O’Conor injected some snark in his presentation to council Thursday, and the council members themselves were not pleased with this decision by state legislators.
O’Conor said House Bill 110 “dramatically changed the definition of legal fireworks in the state of Georgia,” and this will have a far reaching impact.
“In the past you could not have any firework that flew or blew up. Those days are gone. Pretty much if you can buy it, you can blow it up,” O’Conor said.
The law only applies to the use of fireworks on private property, whereas a city can restrict their use on city-owned property. When it comes to private property, however, O’Conor said the law is very specific in forbidding local governments from placing any restrictions on firework use beyond what are included in the state law.
The new state law will allow the use of fireworks on any day of the year from 10 a.m. to midnight.
That timeframe will be extended to 2 a.m. on July 3 and 4, as well as December 31 and January 1.
O’Conor noted that the city can grant special use permits outside of those time frames for a maximum fee of $100.
As for the sale of fireworks, O’Conor said the state fire marshall does not anticipate that Peachtree City will be a “huge market” for temporary fireworks stands, but does project at least one this year. He noted the city had already had a temporary stand for sparkler-type fireworks in the past and had been “comfortable with it.”
O’Conor said nobody from the city had yet spoken to major retailers like Wal-Mart about their plans for fireworks sales.
Council Member Mike King had a helpful suggestion for residents looking to set off fireworks late into the night.
“Please inform everybody that if they want to blow up fireworks until 2 a.m. to blow them up in close proximity to any legislator that voted for that,” King joked.
As to what the real impact will be, O’Conor said he would anticipate increased noise complaints and potentially an increase in injuries. He granted that fireworks prohibitions in Georgia had never been observed by many citizens, but this would still likely cause an increase in incidents.
“The reality is, and this may be shocking, but things flew and things popped inside the state in spite of state law,” O’Conor said. “We’ve had a couple of really good years in a row now without a serious fireworks injury. We certainly hope to continue that.”
Council Member Eric Imker was perplexed as to why the state legislature made this move.
“This is going to be a bunch of turmoil. I can’t believe the legislature did this,” Imker said.
City Manager Jim Pennington noted that his staff follows the actions in the state legislature closely and that this bill had been a surprise.
O’Conor said an important step will be public education, informing citizens about exactly what they can do, and how to do so safely.
According to the discussion, local noise ordinances cannot override the new law.
“We’re going to educate the citizens that the idea of complaining that one’s dog is upset, as much as it seems terribly inconvenient, if they’re on private property they’re allowed to use fireworks,” O’Conor said.
He said a public education will be forthcoming leading up to the law’s first effective date on July 1.