Gainesville is pushing ahead with a plan to restrict where fireworks can be sold after the Planning and Appeals Board gave its support to a code amendment Tuesday night.
But the proposal does come with some exceptions for large retailers and other businesses that sell fireworks in addition to general goods.
Fireworks can now be sold from brick-and-mortar stores following the passage of a state law this year, but local governments retain the power to regulate where they can be sold through zoning ordinances.
The proposed code change, which the City Council will consider next month, only applies to retailers primarily selling large “consumer” fireworks, such as bottle rockets, Roman candles or black cats.
These sellers would be restricted to operating in neighborhoods zoned for light industrial uses.
According to planning staff reports, “These types of facilities are typically within warehouse structures located along interstates and within light industrial areas.”
Zoning restrictions for fireworks retailers is being done in the name of safety.
“That’s really the main push here,” said Community Development Director Rusty Ligon.
Officials worry about the danger presented by storing large amounts of explosive fireworks in confined spaces.
The code change would not prevent major commercial retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger in Gainesville, from continuing to sell large fireworks because most of their business comes from other sales.
Xtreme Xplosives Fireworks popped up on Riverside Drive just as the state law took effect in July, and it can remain in place for similar reasons.
The store does have to meet specific fire codes and regulations, however.
And permitting for temporary tents, typically located in the parking lots of big box stores and strip malls, to begin selling large fireworks will likely come next year.
Before the new law, only what are called “safe and sane” fireworks like sparklers, snappers and other items that do not launch or explode could be sold in the state.
Gainesville Planning Manager Matt Tate described the language of the state law as confusing, adding that city planning staff worked with attorneys to guide the code amendment proposal.
State restrictions also include a ban on explosions between midnight and 10 a.m., except on holidays like July 4 and New Year’s when the curfew is 2 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Enforcement, however, is another issue altogether.
Hall County fire officials warn those lighting off fireworks to wear safety glasses, have a fire extinguisher handy and for spectators to keep a safe distance.