East Ridge fireworks rules deferred

East Ridge fireworks rules deferred

August 9th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in News

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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Proposed East Ridge fireworks regulations fizzled out Monday during a zoning meeting, as officials poured cold water on an effort to launch new building codes for rocket retailers.

The delay could cause problems for anyone wanting to open a fireworks business in East Ridge, one city official said.

At a meeting of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, member Tim Boyd successfully pressed the commission to defer judgment for 60 days until the city can revise its safety and zoning rules to accommodate fireworks retailers.

"These are explosives; these aren't just fireworks," said Boyd, who's also a Hamilton County commissioner.

Commission member Jack Benson, a Chattanooga city councilman, was more blunt.

"I don't want this agency to do anything in any way that encourages the sale of fireworks," he said. "If they sell them in East Ridge, they'll be shooting them in East Brainerd."

Tennessee legislators have approved fireworks sales for East Ridge starting July 1, 2012. Currently, the city has no rules for such retailers, although East Ridge officials have said they want them to be in permanent structures, not temporary ones.

East Ridge plans to allow fireworks sales at Exit 1 off Interstate 75 and in the Ringgold Road corridor, areas that some planners say are too dense to sell bottle rockets and Roman candles.

The 60-day delay may leave developers hard-pressed to prepare new buildings in time for grand openings just before Independence Day, said Tim Gobble, East Ridge city manager.

"I won't say it's impossible, but it puts a little pressure on anybody who wants to build," Gobble said.

Any new rules for fireworks stores must receive a recommendation from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission before they hit desks at the East Ridge City Council. With the 60-day delay and about a month set aside for first and second readings of any fireworks ordinances, the earliest the city could approve the rules would be at least three months away.

If regulatory delays drag on too long, retailers will be allowed to start selling fireworks on July 1 with no rules in place, said city attorney John Anderson.

Regardless of what form the rules take, Tennesseans aren't likely to stop shooting off fireworks anytime soon, argued Commission member Bobby Scott. Residents drive long distances to purchase fireworks, then drive back home with the explosives in the car, he said.

"I think that's a lot more unsafe than selling them out of a building designed for it," Scott said.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6315.