Highlands East councillors voted 3-2 to prepare a bylaw restricting fireworks in their municipality to certain holiday weekends.

Acting fire chief Chris Baughman presented a bylaw draft at the Feb. 11 council meeting in response to direction from council last September. That direction was to investigate the introduction of a bylaw prohibiting the use of fireworks.

Baughman included that option in his presentation, but noted that, to his knowledge, there is not a total ban on fireworks anywhere in Ontario. He therefore added two other options for council’s consideration: restrict fireworks use to certain holiday weekends and times, or maintain the level of regulation already in place.

“We rarely find the events or the person who set [fireworks] off,” said Baughman as he described the difficulties in enforcing a fireworks bylaw.“[It] is my opinion that public education and messaging regarding current restrictions and safeties may be more beneficial than the introduction of a bylaw.”

Mayor Dave Burton and councillors Suzanne Partridge and Ruth Strong voted for the holiday restrictions option. Deputy mayor Cecil Ryall and councillor Cam McKenzie wished to see the bylaw written differently, such as including special occasions permits, and voted against the option.

With the vote, Baughman will bring forward a new draft of the bylaw for approval at a future meeting, which will restrict fireworks.

Baughman’s first draft, written with bylaw enforcement staff, addresses the holiday restrictions option. It states that use of consumer fireworks would be banned at all times except: Victoria Day, Civic Holiday and Labour Day between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the weekend preceding and including the statutory holiday; New Year’s Eve from 7 p.m. to New Year’s Day at 1 a.m.; and Canada Day between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the weekend prior to Canada Day, the weekend directly following Canada Day or on July 1.

“It used to be I would not leave my dog unattended” on holidays where fireworks were used, said Partridge. “Now it’s gotten to the point where it’s every weekend … it’s happening all the time. I don’t see having any special exemptions, just sticking to the holiday events.”

Other restrictions in the draft included the location of the fireworks, and permit and certification requirements for public fireworks displays. Flying lanterns will be banned from both sale and use. Anyone who contravenes the bylaw would be liable to pay an administrative penalty of $100 upon issuance of a penalty notice.

Two studies have been done regarding fireworks restrictions in Highlands East, Baughman reported. A township website questionnaire gathered 174 votes for a total ban, 174 for restriction to holiday weekends and 228 for maintaining current regulatory levels.

A Billings Lake Association survey covered 54 of 85 occupied cottages on the lake. Of the 48 responses received, 10 were for a total ban, 24 were for restriction to holidays and 14 favoured the status quo.

During an hour-long discussion, councillors considered Baughman’s three options and whether the bylaw draft should be amended in any way if the holiday restrictions option were chosen. Topics included eliminating time restrictions and allowing for special occasion permits.

“If we were to come up with a way to come up with permitting [for special occasions] as an option I would be totally in favour,” said Cecil Ryall.

Chief administrative officer Shannon Hunter noted that amendments may be made to the draft. Baughman confirmed he will amend the draft and bring it back to council.

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Joseph Quigley is a staff writer with The Highlander. Joseph is always digging hard for news stories and covers all the latest happenings in the County of Haliburton. He believes in the importance of local news, finding more to every story and listening to marginalized voices. When he’s not working on news, Joseph finds himself getting all-too engaged in social media and cheering on his favourite Toronto Maple Leafs.