Allendale Township considers new firework ordinance

By Anya Zentmeyer | 7/15/12 8:06pm


GVL / Eric Coulter
Allendale Firefighters put out a grass fire in Hillcrest Apartments caused by the misuse of fireworks

by Eric Coulter / Lanthorn

In the wake of a national holiday that is known for it’s vast array of firework displays across the U.S., Allendale Township, which contains Grand Valley State University, is considering an ordinance much like ones passed across the state of Michigan following the January legalization of “novelty firework” use.

New ordinances prohibit the use of these fireworks outside of the 10 major national holidays, and the days before and after each. So, for the July 4 celebrations, citizens of cities with firework ordinances like Grand Rapids could light off fireworks on their own property on July 3, 4 and 5 – all other use of fireworks until labor day are a violation of these local ordinances.

“I anticipate that we will pass a new ordinance,” said Jerry Alkema, township supervisor, who noted that the topic was discussed at the township board’s most recent meeting.

As it stands, Allendale does have an ordinance dealing with fireworks possession, displays, shows, demonstrations, storage or sale that was passed in 2010. The ordinance regulates the use of all fireworks, and asks anyone planning on lighting off a “fireworks display, show or demonstration” to submit an application to the township at least 60 days prior to the event to secure permission from the township board.

“Outside of novelty fireworks like sparklers and snap caps and those types of things, if you want to light fireworks at your own residence you still have to go to the township to get a permit,” said Sgt. Dean DeVries of Ottawa County Sheriff Department, who deals with Allendale Township.

The ordinance that calls for a permit applies only to people who light fireworks during the day – after 11 p.m. and before 7 a.m., DeVries and his patrol deal with firework calls in Allendale, an offense that is currently covered under the townships noise ordinance and can only result in a violation and subsequent misdemeanor if a noise complaint is made by someone who is willing to give their name.

“Our policy is if somebody calls in with a fireworks complaint, if they don’t want to give their name and their not a complantiff, there’s not going to be a report, because we have to have a complantiff to have a complaint,” DeVries said.

DeVries did not have specific numbers available for the amount of firework complaints officers respond to throughout Allendale and the off-campus apartment complexes, but said though calls are frequent, charges are hard to make because of people’s reluctance to formally report a complaint with their first and last name, and also because of the nature of the offense.

“The hard part is figuring out where it’s coming from – unless we know where they’re coming from were just driving around,” DeVries said.

On GVSU’s campus, fireworks are grouped in with firearms and weapons and are illegal on “proper” campus grounds. Section 215.00 of the university student handbook outlines: “possession or use of firearms, firecrackers, explosives, toxic or dangerous chemicals; other lethal weapons, equipment, chemicals or materials; or anything that can be construed as a weapon that operates based on spring, gas or air is not permitted on University property or in University housing at any time…”

Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of the Grand Valley Police Department, said the university can identify it’s own rules and regulations in specific to fireworks, and said there’s an “inherent danger involved” with student use of them, especially in the recent bout of hot, dry weather across the state. He added, though, that GVPD hasn’t had any issues in on-campus living complexes or dorms with student firework use since the winter semester ended in late April.

Allendale ordinances, however, still don’t have much control over what happens in the off-campus apartment complexes. Since complexes like those along 48th Avenue near GVSU’s campus are private complexes, they set the standards and regulations for specific firework use on their properties. For example, Meadows Crossing on 48th Avenue, a popular complex for students attending GVSU.

Karen Bier-Hobbs, property manager for Meadows, said currently there are no specific rules written into the lease regarding the use of fireworks on their complex, but students should be under the impression that the use of fireworks are prohibited on Meadows’ property, much like the existing rules regarding firearms.

Though next years’ lease agreements have already been signed, Meadows Crossing is planning on writing new restrictions on student firework use into their lease agreements for fall 2013 to accommodate the emerging ordinances throughout the state.

Many residents, including DeVries, think Allendale is in need of some kind of higher regulation – especially in residential neighborhoods and complexes where neighbors share walls and there are no backyards.

“Yes I do (think Allendale needs an ordinance), because we’ve been taking – well, sheriff departments all over the county –we’re getting fireworks calls all of the time,” DeVries said. “Fireworks here at the township all day and all evening on the 4th of July and there were fireworks going off at 1 and 2 in the morning.”

Like Alkema, DeVries said Allendale is currently discussing the possibility of a fireworks ordinance like the one passed by Grand Rapids earlier this summer, limiting firework use to the 10 major national holidays.

“Allendale will be looking at doing the same thing that the other municipal counties are doing by outlawing those fireworks,” DeVries said.

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