Muskoka Lakes Council has shown interest in possible regulation of firework sales within the township.
The idea was discussed at the Wednesday council meeting following the continued refinement of the Township firework prohibition.
Originally passed earlier this year, council enacted a prohibition on fireworks within the Township for all days except Victoria Day weekend, Canada Day and New Year’s Day/Eve. The prohibition has not been completely successful, and council has publicly focused on attempts to gain greater public awareness.
But several councillors highlighted the confusing dynamic of a township ban on fireworks, while fireworks themselves can be bought in many stores in Muskoka Lakes year-round.
“I can tell you that it’s very confusing when they can walk into a store in Bala or Port Carling and buy them,” said Councillor Glenn Zavitz.
Muskoka Lakes Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Robert Kennedy and Fire Chief Ryan Murrell both informed council that the municipal act does provide council with the authority to regulate or possibly prohibit the sale of fireworks. This notion received support from councillors.
Mayor Phil Harding expressed interest in township staff reviewing the issue as the status quo is confusing.
“I think that our bylaw staff might look at some kind of regulation because I would agree that if I can buy fireworks at Foodland today, I’m probably going to try and set them off tonight,” Harding said.
Councillor Allen Edwards went further stating that he would support stopping the sale of fireworks.
“I would definitely support stopping the sale,” Edwards said.
Council did take any clear action on regulating firework sales within the township but requested that staff look into options for potential regulation of sales.
The firework bylaw amendment before council on Wednesday dealt with the removal of the exemption provision. In the original bylaw there was a provision which allowed residents to apply for exemptions to the bylaw, although special events such as birthdays or weddings were stated to not be acceptable grounds for an exemption.
At the August council meeting, the first exemption requests were put before council. There was confusion about what grounds council was supposed to use to determine if an exemption was justified. Several members of council expressed confusion about the exemption process, and why exemptions were before council at all.
The prohibition has not been completely successful, partly due to a lack of public awareness which councillors said they wanted to improve upon. Several councillors discussed possible ways to increase local awareness of the prohibition. Councillor Barb Bridgeman discussed possibly adding a description of the firework prohibition on municipal fire danger signs which highlight the danger of starting fires.
Murrell said that he would be willing to consider the measure. He added that it could save the fire department time in searching for firework use.
Mayor Phil Harding commented that while work still needs to be done to achieve greater public awareness of the new prohibition, he has heard from residents that there are fewer fireworks being set off.
Councillor Donelda Hayes requested that the amended bylaw specifically include sparklers. She stated that with fire conditions in the township being high she was concerned that people may think sparklers are allowed because they are not mentioned by name in the prohibition.
“If the fire rating is high, our people should not be using them at all,” Hayes said.
Murrell stated that sparklers are qualified by the definition of firework, but if greater clarification would help public awareness then he said he would be happy to add the term sparklers to the bylaw.
After the sale of fireworks in stores within the township was discussed, Kennedy stated that staff has been working on distributing small signs for local businesses which sell fireworks to display the new prohibition details.
Council amended the bylaw to remove the exemption provision and committed to investigating measures to increase public awareness.
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