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Fireworks ban divides Scarborough Town Council

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Fireworks ban divides Scarborough Town Council

SCARBOROUGH — It remains unclear if the town will join some nearby communities and ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks.

On the recommendation of the three-member Ordinance Committee, the Town Council approved a first reading of the ban on Wednesday.

But two councilors, Jessica Holbrook and Richard Sullivan Jr., opposed the prohibition completely, while Councilors Judith Roy and Ron Ahlquist voted to move the ban forward, but said they aren't entirely sold on the action.

Holbrook said Scarborough is different than other nearby municipalities that have banned consumer fireworks, because the town's population density is lower. That makes fireworks less dangerous, she said.

"These communities are very different from us," Holbrook said. "Even our most dense neighborhoods are nothing compared to these cities."

A state law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2012, allows the possession, sale and use of consumer fireworks – like bottle rockets, morning glories and roman candles – throughout the state. But it allows municipalities to pass ordinances regulating or prohibiting the sale or use of the fireworks.

Portland, South Portland and North Yarmouth have enacted bans. Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Biddeford are considering local restrictions.

Councilors Carol Rancourt and Karen D'Andrea, who serve on the Ordinance Committee with Holbrook, were the most vocal supporters of the ban on Wednesday. 

Rancourt said making Scarborough's noise ordinance mesh with the new state law would be nearly impossible. The noise rule is strict enough to rule out fireworks, but vague enough to eliminate the need for additional police training and decibel detectors. 

She also said that if the town allows fireworks while all nearby towns ban them, Scarborough would effectively become a "problem neighbor."

D'Andrea made a simpler argument.

"Fireworks are dangerous," she said, "... and we don't need these extra dangers in Scarborough."

The attempt to ban the products comes two months after an informal council discussion, when Fire Chief Michael Thurlow suggested the town allow the sale of fireworks as long as dealers had adequate sprinkler systems in their buildings.

Sullivan, who opposes the ban, said the same thing Wednesday that he did in September.

"Let's just give it a year and see what happens," he said.

The council will hold a public hearing on the issue and take a final vote on Nov. 16.

In other business Wednesday, councilors:

• Approved an order to accept, with the Eastern Train Management District, a $150,000 grant to design, engineer and develop cost estimates for a nearly 1-mile gap in the Eastern Trail from the Nonesuch River to the border with South Portland. The gap is the last unfinished piece of the Kennebunk-to-South Portland trail in town.

• Approved implementation of impact fees for the Haigis Parkway/Route 1 intersection. Developers will be charged $990 per vehicle trip estimated to be generated at the intersection. The fee will be used to pay down debt incurred by the town for recent infrastructure improvements in the area.

• Said goodbyes to Councilor Michael Wood, who attended his last council meeting on Wednesday. Wood is resigning due to a recent change in employment that sends him to New Hampshire every day. He said he will continue to live in Scarborough.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.