Big Boom: Fireworks Tents Unleashed

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

It’s a City Planner’s nightmare.

A new law went into effect on January 1st called the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, which essentially allows the sale and use of consumer grade fireworks throughout the State of Michigan.  In a nut shell, consumers over the age of 18 can now purchase “off the ground” exploders like firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, mortars, and comets here in Michigan, instead of traveling south to Ohio or Indiana.  The primary reason for the new regulation was to ease bureaucratic red tape and capture the sales tax revenues historically lost to neighboring states.

I know what you thinking.  Hey, what’s wrong with that?  I like fireworks!

Oh, I left out one very important detail … The new Act expressly prohibits municipalities from regulating the “sale, display, storage, transportation, or distribution” of these fireworks.  Huh?  What does that mean?

Well, it means that a retailer may set up a roadside stand for fireworks sales anywhere in the City of Auburn Hills.  No local zoning approval is necessary.  All a retailer needs is a $10 million insurance policy and $600 to obtain a license from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.  The law does require that these locations be inspected by the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services prior to opening, but those officials are not here every day to ensure a safe environment.

Unbelievably, firework sales in roadside tents have now obtained favored “exempt” zoning status in Michigan.  It’s like the Wild West.

Regardless of the obvious aesthetic concerns of potentially having fireworks sales tents pop-up all over our community, there are other important considerations.

What about the things that folks never think about?  Who’s looking at compatibility with adjacent land uses, setbacks of structures, signage, bathroom facilities, parking, traffic circulation, lighting, noise, hours of operation, etc.?   The general public just assumes that someone is dealing with all these things.

So, to say that this new law has a few flaws would be an understatement.  Unregulated fireworks sales will not bring doom and gloom, but will predictably have some unintended consequences.  The City of Auburn Hills plans to be proactive and work with these retailers with the primary goal of creating a safe environment.

We hope they listen to us.  Sadly, they do not have to.