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Lancaster board votes to update law covering fireworks permits

Businesses and organizations seeking permission to set off fireworks in Lancaster will face a more formal approval process after the Town Board on Monday voted to update the Town Code.

The new local law updates a process that hadn't been changed since it was adopted by the Town Board in 1964, town officials said, and assigns decision-making authority to the Lancaster police chief, volunteer fire chief and the town code enforcement officer.

The new law comes one year after a request from Fox Valley Country Club for permission to hold its annual fireworks display stirred debate because burning material from the 2010 show scorched the awning of a neighboring home.

"That's what prompted me to take a look at it," Councilman John Abraham Jr., the law's sponsor, said before Monday's meeting.

The law passed by a 4-0 vote, and with little debate, following the required public hearing held April 2.

Few entities request permission from the town to hold a fireworks display. Abraham and Town Clerk Johanna M. Coleman said the organizations that most often contact the town are Fox Valley, the Hull Family Home & Farmstead and Dunn Tire Raceway Park.

The owners of the home with the burned awning from 2010 contacted town officials as the town was preparing to decide on the country club's request for permission to hold the 2011 version of its annual Independence Day fireworks display.

The Town Board approved the request in June, but only after club officials agreed to move the display farther from the neighboring home and limit the size of the fireworks.

The Town Board was working under a policy approved nearly 50 years ago, through a board resolution, and the Town Code was silent on the question of fireworks and explosives.

The resolution directed would-be pyrotechnicians to apply to the town clerk for permission to set off fireworks. Coleman has for many years asked the police chief, now Gerald J. Gill Jr., and the fire chief whose district includes the site of the proposed display, to sign off on all such applications.

"We did the best we could," Coleman said after the meeting.

Under the local law, however, it is the police chief, the relevant fire chief and the town code enforcement officer who will decide the fate of the request. There is a nonrefundable $100 permit fee and no provision for an appeal.

Applicants who see their request rejected will be given an explanation in writing for the denial.

"It also puts some strength behind why are we denying it. It's not an arbitrary process," Abraham said, adding the new provisions should improve safety for all parties.

email: swatson@buffnews.com