published Saturday, August 13th, 2011

East Ridge forms own planning commission after fireworks rules deferred

Attendees watch fireworks at a Fourth of July celebration at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. Tennessee legislators have approved fireworks sales for East Ridge starting July 1, 2012.
Attendees watch fireworks at a Fourth of July celebration at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. Tennessee legislators have approved fireworks sales for East Ridge starting July 1, 2012.
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When it comes to city planning, East Ridge is going independent.

The city no longer will rely on the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to weigh in on its city planning decisions after the City Council voted Thursday night to form its own planning commission.

The sudden vote came after the Regional Planning Commission decided Monday to defer action for 60 days on a proposed ordinance setting out building codes for East Ridge fireworks retailers. East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert described the Regional Planning Commission’s move as “obstructionist.”

“We have no elected representation on the commission, and we just felt like we didn’t have a voice,” he said. “The move seemed very political.”

During the Regional Planning Commission’s vote, several members insinuated that they would try to indefinitely delay action on the fireworks ordinance to discourage sales.

“I don’t know if they’re misunderstanding that the state Legislature has already passed this law allowing the city to do this,” Lambert said. “We need to go ahead and set codes in place. We don’t just want people selling fireworks out of their vans at the grocery store.”

Earlier this year, Tennessee legislators approved fireworks sales for East Ridge starting July 1, 2012.

State law mandates that, before a city can change zoning laws or define building codes — such as rules for fireworks retailers — a city planning agency must research and review the data and a commission must vote on recommendations.

“Forming their own agency gives them more control over the city planning and zoning,” said Ron Darden, municipal management consultant with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee, who consults for cities in Hamilton County.

Other Hamilton County cities, including Signal Mountain, Red Bank and Collegedale, already have their own planning commissions.

For cities, the advantage to relying on a regional planning agency is that it saves money and time, Darden said.

  • photo
    East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble.
    Staff File Photo by Patrick Smith

East Ridge can hire its own city planner, work with another planning agency such as the Southeast Tennessee Development District or go through the Regional Planning Agency, though it could now cost them a fee, City Manager Tim Gobble said.

The city will not lose any funding by going out on its own, Gobble said, but it will likely have to budget extra dollars for city planning.

East Ridge plans to allow fireworks sales at Exit 1 off Interstate 75 and in the Ringgold Road corridor, areas that Regional Planning Commission member Tim Boyd said are too densely populated to allow the sale of what he calls “explosives, not fireworks.”

“If the leaders of East Ridge want to circumvent the planning commission, I don’t think that’s good for Hamilton County,” said Boyd, who also is a county commissioner.

Boyd said he pushed to defer the fireworks measure because he wasn’t satisfied with the safety codes recommended by the planning agency. He said he also was concerned that East Ridge officials were “focusing only on sales tax dollars,” not safety.

“Who wants to live in an area and have their kids riding in front of a retail store selling explosives?” said Boyd, who lives in East Ridge.

East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble objected.

“The ordinance is actually more stringent than what is actually in national codes for fireworks retailers,” he said.

Gobble said the city wants to follow recommendations made by the Regional Planning Agency researchers, which suggested fireworks must be sold out of permanent structures equipped with sprinkler systems and set away from other buildings at a distance determined by fire inspectors.

The city has no regulations for fireworks retailers, which is why Gobble said it needs to approve codes before building starts.

The council will vote Aug. 25 on a second reading of the ordinance to form the municipal planning agency, and then will appoint members to the five-person commission.

“That’s their decision,” said Boyd. “But they’re going to have to sleep with it if there’s ever an accident that hurts someone.”

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328Kwebsite said...

No one in East Ridge wants fireworks sales. No one.

Not only do these sales need to stop before they start, we need to ensure that this does not happen again. This is some back door deal from State Reps who need to be held accountable for this nonsense.

We need to pass a state law that allows massive tax breaks for the establishment of loan shark check-into-cash stores and tattoo parlors in Nashville's most expensive suburbs. Maybe then they'll get the message.

Grand Ole Opry and Tattoo Salon. Country Music Television's own Payday Lenders. Beer-Bread-Ice-Milk Governor's Mansion Mini-Mart and Fireworks Warehouse.

August 13, 2011 at 5:56 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Next time fireworks wake you up, call your councilmen right then. Wake them up out of bed. Let them know how dissatisfied you are about not being able to sleep due to their fireworks BS.

I fully expect someone to wake Darwin Branham up in his Florida condo as soon as the first noise ordinance gets violated.

We'll find a copy of the Tennessee Blue Book and figure out where these people sleep, so that we can call them at 2 a.m. with our noise complaints.

We look forward to cursing these idiots out the next time they wake us up from a dead sleep with their stupidity. When legislation destroys our peace and quiet, it's time to call government leaders. That includes calling them at home at 2 a.m.

August 13, 2011 at 6:24 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

What East Ridge needs are some tight conditions on the sale of fireworks. While the state has passed whatever saying the pyrotechnics can be sold, it's time to counteract that with a similar good-ole-boy trick: making the "how" almost impossible.

Like take Combined Federal Regulation 49 CFR, for instance. It's the Federal law that covers HAZMAT. All gunpowder-based items fall under that. Even the raw ingredients, when not in explosive forms, are considered HAZMAT because of their strong oxidizing characteristics.

Where is our local compliance safety program? How do we know that vendors will store explosives in a way that prevents major accidents and spills?

Where is the HAZMAT training for employees that will show that the employees are aware of the hazards?

The existing safety systems and training for most gas station employees are built around the specialized problems of bulk liquid HAZMAT sales. Gunpowder is a solid. It has its own kinds of hazards. It requires its own kinds of safety structures, like blast walls and generous isolation distances.

Fires involving explosives like gunpowder require an isolation distance of 1/3 of a mile.

The US DOT ERG calls for isolation distances or 1/3 to 1/2 of a mile for spills involving explosives not in class 1.4. How do we know that vendors will have adequate safety systems in place, including isolation distances, when they are selling these items?

What about bulk storage of these materials? How much is too much? Just because we allow the sale of these fireworks does not mean that we should have a massive stockpile of these materials.

We should probably limit the volume for storing fireworks to be sold within a 24 hour period to what can fit in a 2' X 2' X 1' box.

Anything bigger and heavier than an employee can reasonably pick up and carry in one trip is obviously too much to safely isolate quickly and conveniently during common business tasks. Not only should the people be able to escape in an emergency, but businesses should not have more of this HAZMAT on hand than they can reasonably contain and maintain. One box of stuff, max.

Vendors can have a storage area in a rural place that they can commute to daily if they need to restock. We invite them to build that explosives storage area someplace else.

Perhaps our lawmakers who thought this was a good idea are in the liability insurance business. Selling fireworks at gas stations on the state line is just dumb. There is so much wrong with this that we should probably avoid electing the legislative masterminds who thunk this up to anything ever again.

No fireworks in East Ridge. Remove all fireworks sales from Hamilton County. Vote out all politicians who voted for this.

August 13, 2011 at 9 a.m.
zwest74 said...

I don't understand why East Ridge doesn't try to take advantage of the restaurant businesses. I would like to see a o'Charlies or Applebees at exit 1. Camp Jordan is right there and with all of the events going on there. HELLO, $$$$$$$. I call East Ridge, the new East Lake. Ringgold Rd. Is the new Rosssiville Blvd. The new Getto. East Ridge use to be like Ooltewah. Everyone wanted to live there. Now the home values have gone down and people want out, but can't sell their home. I know how to fix this. East Ridge City should buy everyone's homes so East Ridge can be turned into one giant check Into cash and Chattanooga dump.

August 13, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
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