TOPSHAM — The town ban on sale and use of consumer fireworks faces a Nov. 6 challenge at the polls.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Sept. 20 to send the question to next month’s referendum.
Selectman David Douglass, who launched a petition in June to overturn the ban, had 468 signatures certified as valid. He needed 459, 10 percent of Topsham residents who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.
Douglass’ petition would allow the sale and use of fireworks in accordance with state law. Under that law, fireworks were permitted in Topsham from Jan. 1-June 12, when a referendum vote enacted the ban.
Two ballot questions on June 12 each presented voters with three choices on fireworks. The first question asked about the sale of consumer fireworks, while the second involved fireworks use. Voters were asked to pick one of the three options presented under each question.
Question 1A asked whether the town should “neither regulate nor prohibit the sale of consumer fireworks and therefore permit the sale of consumer fireworks in accordance with state law?” That question received 436 votes.
Question 2A asked the same thing, but in respect to the use of consumer fireworks, and received 419 votes.
Question 1B asked voters if they wanted to enact a zoning ordinance regulating fireworks sales, which 227 voters favored. Question 1C asked whether an ordinance prohibiting those sales should be enacted, and 565 – the majority – voted for that option.
The second and third parts of Question 2 also involved ordinances to either regulate fireworks use, or ban it. Two hundred fifty-nine voters favored regulation, while 540 preferred prohibition.
If the first two parts of each question – which called for some kind of legal sale or use – were added together, their total be greater than the third, which called for a ban on the sale or use, Douglass has argued. Fifty-four percent voted for some kind of sale, while 56 percent supported some manner of use.
“In my opinion a majority, because it was split three ways, essentially didn’t get what they were looking for,” Douglass has said.