Lehigh Supervisors Move Closer To Amending Fireworks Ordinance

Supervisors in Lehigh Township discussed conditions in a new draft ordinance that would set restrictions on firework displays within the township at their July 25 meeting, following complaints from residents about disturbances from fireworks in the township.

Solicitor David Backenstoe presented supervisors with modifications to the township’s current restrictions on firework displays. He described the ordinance change as an attempt to “further regulate” when and how fireworks are shot off in the township.

Under the new amendment, firework displays would have to conclude by 10 p.m. Exceptions will be made for holidays such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. Fourth of July Fireworks must be concluded by 11 p.m., according to Backenstoe. New Year’s Eve fireworks must commence by 1 a.m., he said.

The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors will also consider exceptions for local residents and businesses, which will conclude at a time agreed upon by the board.

“Obviously, we’re making room for special exceptions here,” said Supervisors Chairman Darryl Snover.

Backenstoe also revealed that firework displays will be limited to a certain amount of time. If approved, firework displays in the township will be limited to a half hour in duration.

“The firework display should not exceed 30 minutes,” he read from the draft ordinance.

Keith Hantz, a supervisor on the board, said township Police Chief Scott Fogel noted that enforcing the length of displays would be challenging for the police force. Backenstoe noted that digital recordings provided by citizens could help police enforce violations of the new time restriction.

Also likely to be included are recommendations brought forward by a township resident. Backenstoe said that it was requested that any applicant seeking to be approved for a fireworks display name the Pennsylvania state-licensed operator on the application, and require that the state-licensed operator will be present during the display.

“I personally don’t have a problem with it. It seems to make really good sense to me,” Backenstoe said. “My only caveat was… I went and researched the state law, and the state law does not really authorize that.”

Backenstoe continued that because state law only requires a “competent person” to be available during a display, there is a chance the township’s more stringent regulations could be overridden.

“The state statute says that a ‘competent person’ must be available,” he said. “I guess if the board feels that strongly about it I’m going to tell you to put in the licensed operator and if somebody wants to fight about it they can file a lawsuit against the township and try to get that removed. It makes sense to have a licensed operator.”

Backenstoe also said he would be okay with a state-licensed corporation sending a company representative who may not be personally licensed to operate fireworks.

“If ABC corporation is a licensed operator for fireworks and they send Dave Backenstoe, who is one of their competent people, then he’s under the auspices of that license,” Backenstoe said, using a hypothetical example.

Backenstoe said he would take the draft ordinance and resident suggestions and present a final draft ordinance for supervisors to consider for a vote at their next meeting on August 8 at 7 p.m.