Enforcement a sticking point for draft fireworks ordinance
Lincolnville — The Board of Selectmen offered ideas for modifying a draft consumer fireworks ordinance, even as they applauded the work that went into creating it, at their Monday, Jan. 27, meeting.
Consumer Fireworks Committee Chairman Don Heald presented the draft ordinance, with assistance from two committee members, Whitney Oppersdorff of the Lakes and Ponds Committee, and Fire Chief Ben Hazen. The charge of the ad hoc committee was to draft an ordinance that would regulate the use of consumer fireworks, especially around the town's lakes and ponds, but would stop short of banning them.
As drafted, the measure restricts the use of fireworks in the Harbor, Limited Commercial, Limited Residential, Resource Conservation, Resource Protection and Stream Protection zoning districts, which Heald referred to collectively as the “shoreland zone,” between April 1 and Oct. 31 to 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Individuals are allowed to use them for no more than one hour per night. There is an exception for the Fourth of July that allows for longer hours in all zones, including the General zoning district.
Fireworks may be used in the General zoning district year-round, and in the shoreland zone from Nov. 1 through March 31 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with an exception for New Year's Eve that allows for longer hours.
No fireworks will be allowed anywhere in town on Class 4 or Class 5 fire danger days, as determined by the Maine Forest Service. Fire danger ratings are posted on the Forest Service's website.
The measure provides for enforcement by “the Town’s duly authorized law enforcement provider or any other duly authorized agent of the Town approved by the Selectmen to enforce this Ordinance.” Law enforcement in the town is provided by Waldo County Sheriff's Department and Maine State Police. Heald said the committee also envisioned the town's inland harbor master and code enforcement officer possibly being authorized to enforce it.
For a first violation of the ordinance, there's a $500 fine; a second violation costs $1,000, as do any subsequent violations. Costs are to be added to all fines.
Selectmen took Heald up on his suggestion that “there many be room for tweaking” the ordinance. Selectmen Rosey Gerry, Julia Libby and Jason Trundy all said they were concerned about how it would be enforced. Trundy, a lieutenant with the Waldo County Sheriff's Department, said he had spoken to Sheriff Scott Story, who said neither his office nor the State Police could enforce a town ordinance without a specific contract with the town. He added that Story was reluctant to enter into such contracts, because many towns in Waldo County have no police departments, and the county cannot afford to enforce ordinances for all of its towns.
Gerry said he would not want the code enforcement officer to be visiting people's homes to enforce the ordinance, and he was unwilling to return to having a town constable. Libby also said she did not want enforcement of the measure to be expensive for the town. While they agreed that Inland Harbor Master Jason Twitchell would be a suitable person to enforce the ordinance, selectmen also said they were concerned about having untrained individuals dealing with potentially intoxicated, uncooperative persons.
Oppersdorff said Twitchell had been trained, and did an effective job of enforcing lake regulations without becoming confrontive. Heald noted if people are using fireworks late at night, they would be disturbing the peace, a violation of state law, to which sheriff's deputies or state troopers could respond.
Gerry also suggested the lake and pond associations ask their members who are landlords to state in their rental contracts that fireworks are prohibited, which he felt would be a more effective way to eliminate nuisance use of fireworks than the ordinance. Oppersdorff confirmed the committee had planned to ask the lake and pond associations to do as Gerry suggested.
Finally, the Board asked Town Administrator David Kinney to research how the ordinance could be enforced and report back at a future meeting.
In other business, selectmen received an update on the Lincolnville Community Library from Library Director Sheila Polson and Trustee Kathleen Oliver. They said the library has raised $208,000, all from private sources, for the renovation of its building and to fund its first year of operations. Also, it has been recognized by the Maine State Library Commission as a public library under its standards, and will therefore be able to get free Internet and discounted phone service beginning this summer, as well as numerous other benefits.
Oliver requested a streetlight in front of the building on Main Street, which will also serve the Boat Club across the street.
The library will officially open Saturday, Feb. 1, from 9 a.m. to noon.
“It's an incredible space. I can't wait,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Ladleah Dunn said.
Resident Alex Kuli appeared before the Board to discuss further his proposal to move the last 600 feet of Fernald's Neck Road so it is further from his house. He said he had consulted with Coastal Mountains Land Trust, owner of Fernald's Neck Preserve, and with his neighbors, V. O. Harkness and Kate Cole, and all said they do not want the road to become a private road, as selectmen had suggested to Kuli when he came before them Jan. 13.
Kuli said again, as he had two weeks ago, that he would pay for all costs associated with moving the road, which he proposes to relocate on land he owns. He said he had talked to Camden engineering firm Gartley and Dorsky, and they would have to do a topographical survey of the area in order to come up with a proposal for constructing the new portion of the road.
The Board directed Kinney to work with Kuli to prepare the documentation to bring to the Board an article that could be placed on an upcoming town meeting warrant outlining the terms and conditions for the relocation of the portion of road and any other items needed to facilitate the change.
A presentation from Archibald Gillies, chairman of the Islesboro Board of Selectmen, was on the agenda, but Gillies was unable to appear because of the weather. Islesboro had sought support from Lincolnville in its bid for a full environmental impact report on the Army Corps of Engineers' proposal to dredge Searsport Harbor.
Gerry and Libby said they did not want to take a position on the dredging, because it would have no direct affect on the town. Trundy moved to table the question until Gillies could appear before the Board to explain the town of Isleboro's position. The measure passed, 3-2, with Gerry and Libby opposed.
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.