By Tim Darnell
With sales of more kinds of fireworks set to become legal in Georgia on July 1, Sandy Springs has declared a moratorium on businesses that sell the merchandise.
State Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), said that retail sales of fireworks in the city are not listed as an approved type of business. At least 90 days are needed for the city’s planning commission and city council to draft the proper ordinances.
“Previously, the only type of fireworks that were allowed for sale were smaller ones, like sparklers,” said Willard, who voted against House Bill 110. “This moratorium allows us the time to draft the right zoning ordinances and business classifications.”
The moratorium was adopted on June 2 and expires on September 2.
Brookhaven and Dunwoody had not considered any similar measures by early June, but Brookhaven’s police chief expressed concerns about the new law’s potential impact.
Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis said his city has not enacted any additional regulation measures.
“We don’t view the recent fireworks law as a huge issue requiring the city to enact extra legislation on top of what the state passed,” Davis said. “We’ll keep a close eye on the sale and use of fireworks within Dunwoody, especially in and around the July Fourth holiday.
“Should we determine possible public safety concerns or issues related to the sale of fireworks exist, we’ll discuss potential actions to address them.”
City spokesman Bob Mullen also said Dunwoody is working with the DeKalb County Fire Marshal’s office on reviewing and enforcing local permitting and licensing.
Regulating retail fireworks sales also has not made it onto Brookhaven’s agenda, but police spokesman Officer Carlos Nino said the department is concerned about public safety.
“The No. 1 concern is responding to some sort of horrific accident where fireworks are blamed, such as a house fire or someone severely injured because of the sale of fireworks in the city,” he said. “And in the past we’ve responded to callers who weren’t sure if it was gunshot or fireworks they heard.”
Nino isn’t sure whether the new law will create safety problems within the city.
“It’s really too early say. If the public is careful about them, it will minimize its impact on the department and it will improve the local economy,” he said. “We were fully staffed during last year’s Fourth of July and we will be again, this year.”
When he signed the new law, Gov. Nathan Deal said Georgia should reap the financial benefits of fireworks sales.
“People in our state are crossing state lines and buying fireworks,” Deal said. “We have so many neighbors around us that already authorize the sale of fireworks, this just made sense. And we have taken every precaution we can to try to eliminate any injuries associated with it.”
The law will allow businesses and nonprofits to pay a $5,000 licensing fee to sell some previously banned fireworks such as firecrackers, torpedoes, Roman candles and skyrockets. That money is designated for public safety purposes, and the law also creates a new excise tax of 5 percent on every sale.