Crowd fired up over pyrotechnics

Amidst the cheers, Langley City Council took one step closer to making it illegal for private individuals to light off fireworks within city limits.

The council was treated to a packed room Tuesday night, as nearly 30 citizens arrived to voice their opinions about the drafting of a new ordinance banning fireworks in Langley.

Some had previously written personal memos to the city council; others carried printed versions of their prepared comments, eagerly shifting in their seats and filling the hallway of city hall in anticipation.

Many seemed to share the same sentiment in their support for the ban. Mayor Tim Callison said 45 letters had come in as of the night of Feb. 18 supporting the new ordinance.

Council members, reading the room, made the decision to limit public comment and get right down to the discussion.

Council Member Dominique Emerson referred to the ordinance as a “slam dunk,” believing the majority of her fellow council members to be in agreement with the new ordinance.

But Council Member Thomas Gill disagreed with the ordinance, saying what he believed to be the loudest fireworks are already illegal to use.

“Regardless if we have fines, regardless if we ban them, they’re still going to occur,” Gill said. “The biggest issue we have are the ones getting firecrackers, which are already illegal in the state of Washington. The aerial fireworks are relatively quiet.”

His fellow Council Member Craig Cyr, who first brought the council’s attention to the pending ban this year, pointed to the “dozens of emails” they had received from Langley citizens asking for a ban.

“I think the value of this is that it sets the expectation that fireworks are not welcome and they’re not allowed and they’re against the law in Langley,” Cyr said.

Resident Walt Blackburn addressed the council, saying he believed the fine for a first infraction, which is currently set at $50 in the ordinance, is too low for offenders.

“I’m not looking to hammer people, but I am looking to discourage them,” Blackburn said.

Council Member Peter Morton suggested the ordinance may help pave the way and “set an example” for Island County to consider a ban. He agreed the $50 fee for a first time infraction was “absurd.”

Callison said he had been looking at regulations of other municipalities for guidance. He reported Chelan and Kirkland had set fines for first-time infractions at $1,000 and suggested Langley may choose to do the same.

Police Chief Don Lauer said an infraction would be handled similarly to how a traffic ticket is currently handled.

“For us, it’s just a matter of enforcement, the same way we would do with traffic or other violations in the city,” Lauer said.

He also added that it would be very likely that issuing citations would cost the city more than what it would receive back, as with parking citations, because it pays court, attorney and filing fees.

“If the fine itself is not sufficient to cover those fees, that comes out of the general fund,” Lauer said.

The first reading of the ordinance was approved 4-1, with Gill opposed. A decision on the fine is still open for further discussion.