New law in Kentucky allowing sale of fireworks creating some issues

(FOX19) - Brandon Lichtenberg, 13, of Wilder saves his grass-cutting money to buy fireworks. "I love fireworks. It's my most favorite things. Fourth of July is my favorite season," says Lichtenburg.

Brandon and his grandpa used to go to Indiana every year to spend hundreds of dollars on fireworks, but not his time. "We were over here in the Florence area and my grandson knows where all these places were and he said, 'No papa, we don't have to go there. We'll go to Kentucky this year,'" said Wayne Steffen of Ft. Thomas.

Fireworks companies like big fireworks have spent thousands of dollars finding the right locations, buying the tents and merchandise and even hiring local workers. Now they are afraid the real fireworks display might end up in court.

Kentucky legislators passed an emergency bill in March that would allow the sale of fireworks in the state. This would allow more tax dollars for the state instead of sending residents to Indiana and Tennessee to buy fireworks. The bill also gives municipalities the right to regulate firework sales within their boundaries.

Several companies wanted to set up stores in Florence. They applied for permits and hired local help only for the city to say they consider aerial-types of fireworks to be illegal. Now some of those companies are threatening lawsuits.

One fireworks wholesaler, Big Fireworks, set up eleven tents around the state including two in Florence and one in Covington.

"We spent a lot of money both brokering to find the locations and tents," said Fred Andrews of Big Fireworks. "We're probably hiring over 50 local employees in the state."

Andrews says he is angry that after he paid the fee for the permits, the city of Florence is telling him the types of fireworks he sells, the aerial type, is still illegal in the city. He said last week, someone from the city's zoning department stopped by and told them to stop selling fireworks. Andrews said "No."

"We've already put all this expense up and the permits were given," said Andrews. "We've gone to other places and if the permits and zoning doesn't allow it, we don't put the tents up. Why they're doing this now, only the attorneys and I'm afraid that's probably where it's going to end up.

Andrews says he has not had this problem in other cities in Kentucky. He says Louisville wanted to take a closer look at the issue but the city council has since voted to allow fireworks.

Florence mayor Diane Whalen said this is a zoning issue and it is new ground for everyone since this legislation was only passed three months ago.

She said the permits the city issued were only for temporary commercial display for the same merchandise previously allowed before the bill was signed. She says a court has upheld the decision to allow municipalities to regulate firework sales.

The Boone County Planning Commission is working to determine where those firework displays would be allowed.

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