Panel denies vendor new fireworks lawThe idea: Buy the former H&H Marine building, make a $400,000 investment to improve its appearance and bring it up to code, and open a fireworks shop.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The idea: Buy the former H&H Marine building, make a $400,000 investment to improve its appearance and bring it up to code, and open a fireworks shop.
The problem: Without a change in the city’s ordinances, it can’t be done unless the investor sells a line of products in addition to fireworks.
This week, the city’s License and Fees Committee decided it would be less than neighborly to sell the explosive products to residents of states where they are illegal without a use permit when residents of Superior couldn’t even buy the products. While Wisconsin law allows the sale of Class C fireworks, it doesn’t allow residents of the state to possess them without a permit.
Michael Callaway of Readstown, Wis., was unable to persuade members of the panel to change city ordinances to accommodate the investment, even after he convinced them measures were in place to prevent the sale of the products to Wisconsin residents.
Superior, which shares a border with Duluth, would be a good location for out of state sales, Callaway said.
Councilor Esther Dalbec, a member of the panel, was unconvinced that the measures would stop a clerk from selling the product to Wisconsinites “out the back door,” or keep the fireworks out of the hands of Wisconsin residents – likening it to problems with underage drinking in spite of prohibitions against selling alcohol to people younger than 21.
Superior’s ordinances require a merchant to operate at least six months consecutively prior to registering to sell fireworks in the city and sell another product line in a permanent location. The city’s ordinances were changed over the last few years in an effort to eliminate street vendors selling fireworks on the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, where both states prohibit use without a permit, but Wisconsin allows the sale anyway.
Callaway said he didn’t believe he could come up with another line of products in time for this year’s Independence Day celebration to meet the requirements of city law.
When the state adopted its budget last year, Callaway said the state clarified that residents of other states weren’t required to have a use permit before purchasing fireworks in Wisconsin, opening the door to setting up shop in communities like Superior where local officials took a conservative approach to interpreting state law.
In spite of the state interpretation, panel members were unconvinced that allowing what could be illegal activity in neighboring states would be a good investment for Superior.
License and Fees Chairman Bob Finsland said it didn’t make sense to create problems for neighboring communities like Duluth, an opinion shared by the city’s development and government affairs director, Jeff Vito.
“There is no upside to changing the ordinance,” Vito said. “I’m not sure what kind of image that would portray.”
Port and Planning Director Jason Serck said the panel’s decision doesn’t prohibit the development. Callaway could seek a special use permit – something he doubted would gain support – or comply with the city’s ordinance to set up shop.