September 12, 2012 - Taxpayers should be outraged that the Orion Township Board is spending their money to "break the law," according to resident Michael Mahan, owner of Lake Orion Fireworks.
Ann Warren and Brad Cline check out fireworks. Photo by T.Keiser (click for larger version)
Mahan stood before the board once again at the Sept. 04 meeting pleading with them to re-look at the township's fireworks ordinance that was passed at the Aug. 20 meeting. Mahan believes the township's ordinance is wrong on several points such as forbidding minors to light fireworks.
"Minors are not forbidden by state law to light fireworks, only to buy them," he said. "A 10 year old kid can go hunting and shoot a 12 gauge shot gun or a 30 odd 6 rifle that travels over three miles into the woods. He buys a rocket that launches 1,000 feet into the air, but he can't light a firework? All I am asking for is fairness."
The local ordinance forbids "fireworks of any nature" to be permitted on school or church property, which Mahan also argues is violating state law. He says state law allows for fireworks on both school and church properties, as long as the school or church gives permission.
Mahan's biggest complaint of the local ordinance is the restrictions that are placed on the national holidays. According to the local ordinance, fireworks are limited the day before, the day of, and the day after a national holiday during the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 11 a.m. with continuous or intermittent ignition not exceeding 20 minutes at a time.
"That is in complete violation of state law, which states you cannot regulate those three days around the holiday," he said. "According to their ordinance they are allowing me to setup fireworks at 3 a.m. and shoot for 20 minutes. That's how ridiculous this is."
Mahan suggested the use of fireworks on every day that is not a holiday to be shot off an hour and 15 minutes after sunset, which would allow for 15 minutes to set up and an hour to shoot off, no longer than 20 minutes at a time.
"Everybody knows when the sun sets, or can get information to when it sets," he said. "Any minute after that, sure call the cops and let them write a ticket."
For those worried about their pets, the Humane Society Website has a link describing how to help animals cope with lightning, thunder, fireworks and loud noises, noted Mahan.
He also suggested the township require users to have a fireworks permit, like other communities have done.
"We have to go to the township to get a burn permit and a building permit, why not a fireworks permit," he said. "Allow people to get a permit from the township, maybe they need to come out and inspect your area. Maybe it's a $25 cost to make sure it's OK for their time and effort to get out there."
Mahan said he received an e-mail from the state fire marshal who said they were looking at the township's ordinance. Mahan hopes he doesn't have to take action against the township.
"I just want to be fair about it," he said. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to work with the township and work with the people and most of all the safety of it."
On a side note, Mahan said he would like to be able to shoot off fireworks at the Lake Orion High School Football games.
When Lake Orion Dragons make a touchdown I would shoot one white and one green firework and then a couple white flash booms," he said. "I figured it would get the players and the fans more excited, it would be like playing in the pros."
He is also planning on setting up a fireworks safety class that is free to the public, where they go through each scenario and maybe have some sort of "fireworks safety certificate" that can be given out.
""I want to work with the township," he said. "I am willing to do whatever it takes to make everybody happy, as well as, for me to be a successful business and promote fireworks in a safe and fun way."
Mahan said if people have questions feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com
Trustee John Steimel who voted against the ordinance, agrees it should be looked at again, but doesn't think the rest of the board could be convinced to re-look at it.
"My comments are the same I think it's (the ordinance) too much and went way too far," he said. "It's way to long and encompasses a lot of extra stuff I don't think it needs too."
He also stated that Mahan may not get everything he's wanting, even if the board did look at it again.
"It's been voted on and passed," added Steimel. "If he (Mahan) feels something is wrong with it obviously he'll challenge it."
Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel said since Labor Day she has received a number of phone calls, e-mails and comments from folks in the community from different neighborhoods all concerned about the hours that Mahan was shooting off fireworks outside his store.
"The concern was the close proximately to the road commission garage where they have fuel tank and the people at Speedway gas station were concerned about it," she said. "There have been a number of different people who have raised concerns about the shooting off of fireworks and the problem they have with timing, noise, safety factor and that he seems not to be using good judgment."
Mahan admits he did shoot a firework off as a part of his store grand opening, as well as one in the middle of the night.
"I lit a firework off the other night at 12 a.m. and the police showed up and I showed them the law. He (the officer) understood the ordinance and didn't even know the ordinance was in effect yet," said Mahan. "When I showed him the law, he asked me to please stop and I did."
Van Tassel said, Mahan is the only one who has raised an issue with the township about the ordinance and the township has tried to work with him.
"Our first concern has got to be health, safety and welfare of the residents and the businesses here in the township," she added. "We're not trying to keep Mr. Mahan from making a living and having a business here, but we got to be concerned with everybody in the township rather than one or two."
She also said they have no plans of changing their ordinance until they are shown that it is wrong.
"Just him coming to a meeting and saying it doesn't make it wrong, that's just his opinion," said Van Tassel. "I don't know if our ordinance is any more stringent than any other community, so we'll just go from there."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.