Topsham planners back tighter restriction on sale of fireworks

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TOPSHAM — The Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday to change its recommendation about where consumer fireworks should be sold.

The board now supports restricting the use of fireworks to the Topsham Fair Mall area, instead of allowing fireworks in several parts of town.

The Board of Selectmen, which sent the matter back to the Planning Board April 5, is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday on ordinances concerning the use and sale of fireworks. Topsham residents will vote on those rules on June 12.

Proposed ordinance language governing the sale of fireworks had originally allowed their conditional use in five town zones. But selectmen earlier this month expressed a desire to restrict sales to the Mixed Use Commercial Zone, but decided to first seek another recommendation from the Planning Board.

Selectmen on Thursday are expected to amend the language to reflect the Planning Board’s new recommendation.

The MUC Zone includes the Topsham Fair Mall and Park Drive, but does not include businesses with frontage on Route 196.

The two June 12 ballot questions each present three choices. The first question asks about the sale of consumer fireworks, while the second involves fireworks use. Voters will be asked to pick one of the three options in each question.

Question 1A asks 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?”

Question 2A asks the same thing, but in respect to the use of consumer fireworks.

Question 1B asks voters if they want to enact a zoning ordinance regulating fireworks sales; 1C asks whether an ordinance prohibiting those sales should be enacted.

The second and third parts of Question 2 also involve ordinances to either regulate fireworks use, or ban it.

Selectmen voted last December to take no action on a fireworks ordinance until it could develop language for Town Meeting. The board opted last month to instead send the matter to referendum.

Consumer fireworks are currently legal in Topsham under the state law that took effect Jan. 1.

An online town survey posted late last year, seeking input from residents about local fireworks regulations, drew mixed results. Respondents voted 105-104 that Topsham should not prohibit the sale, and 95-91 that the town should ban the use.

The Board of Selectmen is also scheduled Thursday to hold a public hearing on items to go on the May 16 Town Meeting warrant. Among other things, Town Meeting will vote on the fiscal 2013 budget.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.