By Pam Douglas
Special to Focus
Committee of Council has recommended changes to the Fireworks Bylaw, including allowing residents to use selected local parks in wards across the city for personal fireworks displays on a permit basis.
Committee also recommended an all-out ban on the sale and use of Roman candles and single-shot aerial noisemakers, along with a change to the bylaw that would allow bylaw officers to ticket property owners who hold illegal fireworks displays on their properties.
Until now, city officials have told council that bylaw officers have had trouble laying a charge under the bylaw because offenders are not obligated to identify themselves to the bylaw officers.
The recommended change would mean identification would not be needed. The owner of the property would be fined. It would not solve the issue of dealing with those who set off fireworks illegally on public property.
City Councillor Grant Gibson asked staff how enforcement would be done on public property, stating he believes the fine for breaking the bylaw should be increased substantially.
To date, no charge has ever been laid under the city’s current bylaw, which has been in place for six years.
If approved by city council next Wednesday, the changes would not come into effect until next January.
Which parks would be designated as fireworks parks has not yet been decided.
Parks staff have kept data on which parks are typically used by residents to set off fireworks, and that information will be used to determine which parks could be designated.
Community Services Commissioner Jamie Lowery told committee members the size of the parks, the geography, and the proximity to homes will all be taken into consideration in deciding which parks to designate. Staff will report back to city councillors on parks they consider candidates for designation.
Allowing residents to set off personal fireworks on designated days in designated parks could require additional insurance coverage for the city, according to city staff.
A staff report to committee Wednesday sums up feedback from residents and representatives of the pyrotechnics industry presented at a public meeting last fall. Opinions ranged from a desire to see an all-out ban to stricter enforcement of the existing bylaw.
Heart Lake resident Leo O’Brien spoke to council on the issue, saying he patrolled his own nearby park and warned off four bylaw violators, including a Toronto resident who had $300 worth of fireworks set up in the park, ready to go.
He said for everyone who backs onto a park, fireworks are “a problem”. He praised the city for working to address it.
“We’re working together. We’re trying to find some common ground, and I commend you all for that,” he told committee.
He said residents want to get involved.
“What happens is, everybody hunkers down and takes it,” he said. “I thought, we’re going to do something about it. The citizens and residents want to help.”
O’Brien said he has joined with the Brampton couple who brought the issue to the council table most recently after they were upset by a neigbhour’s display in a residential driveway sent an errant firework shooting at their house.
O’Brien said they plan to be proactive, and have formed a committee with an email address of email@example.com.
“We need more citizens like yourself,” Gibson told him.
Regional Councillor John Sprovieri expressed concern about residents going to other jurisdictions to get the two types of fireworks Brampton is considering banning, noting they are some of the most exciting and popular type of personal fireworks. City staff said they will report back on surveying other municipalities. Regional Councillor Sandra Hames said she would raise it at an upcoming board meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).
Responding to a concern about litter and enforcement in designated parks raised by Hames, Lowery said confining the fireworks to specific parks will make it easier for the city to contain their use and educate residents.
Lowery said education is key, and it will take years to change attitudes.
By Pam Douglas