published Friday, September 30th, 2011

Lawsuit challenges East Ridge fireworks

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.

A group of East Ridge residents staunchly opposed to fireworks sales in their city has joined two major East Tennessee fireworks retailers to file a lawsuit against the city.

In a 23-page complaint filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court on Wednesday, the residents claim that a new state law allowing fireworks sales inside East Ridge city limits is detrimental to their safety and property values.

The fireworks retailers, meanwhile, decry what they call inconsistency in the law that could hurt their business.

Both groups call the new law unconstitutional.

Instead of challenging the Tennessee General Assembly, which passed the fireworks bill May 21, the group has aimed its complaint at the city, which they say is implementing zoning ordinances based on a faulty law.

East Ridge residents listed as plaintiffs are Dennis and Karen Massengale, Carnell Storie, Roxie Davis and Crissy Lawson. All say they are longtime residents worried about fireworks sales disrupting their peace and safety.

The Massengales added that fireworks sales will harm their business, ChattaMusic. It's on Ringgold Road, part of the corridor that East Ridge has designated for fireworks sales.

"I'm a concerned citizen of East Ridge, and I want what's best for the city," said Dennis Massengale, who referred all questions related to the suit to the group's attorneys, Christopher Varner, of Chattanooga, and Jeffrey Yarbro, of Nashville.

"We believe we're right on the law," Varner said Thursday. "We fail to see how this statute is in the best interest of East Ridge and its citizens."

He declined to comment further about the case.

Marion-Bradley Fireworks Retailers and Wet Willy's Fireworks Supermarket of Tennessee Inc. claim they have structured their businesses for rural counties, and the East Ridge law "undermines the business model of these existing fireworks sellers."

Wet Willy's Fireworks demands a declaration as to whether it "could engage in fireworks sales to urban counties" because of the East Ridge exception.

For more than 50 years, state legislation has barred fireworks sales in Tennessee counties with populations higher than 200,000 residents. Hamilton County has more than 336,000 people.

East Ridge is the first exception to the rule, setting what the lawsuit calls a problematic precedent that "would likely have the unforeseen consequence of eliminating the general statutory prohibition on fireworks sales in urban counties."

The suit also claims that "suspending the general law for the benefit of individuals in just one municipality is unconstitutional."

East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert declined to comment Thursday, saying he received a copy of the full complaint minutes before City Council's agenda session that evening. He said the city will hire an attorney through the Tennessee Municipal League.

On Sept. 16, the East Ridge City Council voted on first reading to adopt an ordinance that would open the door to fireworks retailers. The vote on a second reading was slated for Thursday evening, but was postponed to Oct. 13.

The city has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
328Kwebsite said...

It's the state that controls in which counties fireworks get sold. There's little point in quarreling with East Ridge when the state gets its say. We have little doubt, though, that the larger operations will swiftly move to make money off of this recent change in state law allowing fireworks sales in East Ridge. That, by itself, is good enough reason to oppose the move. Local residents are unlikely to benefit from this change in the law. Instead, we will have to deal with the cost. Meanwhile, already established operations will exploit their opportunity to sell gunpowder in a paper tube at a significant markup.

September 30, 2011 at 3:34 a.m.
brholt1975 said...

I personally believe that fireworks are illegal and to possess, fire,or shoot or sell is illegal in the Great State of Tennessee. Why don't we keep it this way. When you buy them any officier will arrest you, and/or take the firework and give heavy citations for just having them, if you are in automobile and during a traffic stop, police have been well known to arrest people in the automobile and seize the fireworks and the automobile. I have always thought in Tennessee that "Firework Shows" were a breach of breaking the law. When me and my friends recieved notice that owning fireworks,or shooting fireworks or just something like a small rocket going off and making a bang in Soddy-Daisy it was illegal. It made the City of Soddy-Daisy and the City of Chattanooga look like felons when I saw them fire larger rockets during the Fourth of July. If it is going to be illegal it will be illegal to sell and even firemen to fire off fireworks. City officials are not above the law. Lets ban the fireworks shows in Tennessee period. I understand the dangers of fireworks and there has actually been injuries due to "Firework Shows" than any other incedents.

September 30, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.
brholt1975 said...

Ethically and morally sounding lets "BAN ALL FIREWORKS SHOWS IN TENNESSEE". I Believe the "United Ststes Marshalls Service" has the right of expression to arrest all "Firemen,Mayors, City Officials" for owning fireworks,selling fireworks,or fireworks presentations in The Great State of Tennessee. It is against the "Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech" to be illegal for citizens and yet be permissiable for "City Officials" to fire off " Firework Shows". Do It.. Most Residents feel right about this!!!

September 30, 2011 at 8:57 a.m.
brholt1975 said...

Lets take Salecreek and Bakewell, Tennessee for example The Rievley's sell illegal fireworks to residents of Hamilton County and Rhea County for decades and then Police arrest or seize or give citations to residents who have bought them. Recieve this again let Rievley's Are The Police Hardliners!!!! Where are the true arrests being made. That made the law enforcement look like felons making felons!!!!

September 30, 2011 at 9:09 a.m.
brholt1975 said...

If its illegal to possess, fire or shoot it going to be illegal to sell!!!! What are other residents thinking of ethical and moral standards!!!! I go to Colorado Techical University working on my Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology are there any other academics out there with a good sense of judgement- Brian LeLand Holt, Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee resident>

September 30, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.