published Friday, October 28th, 2011

East Ridge approves fireworks ordinance

Fireworks retailers now can set up shop in East Ridge.

But those shops have to be permanent structures equipped with fire walls and sprinkler systems, and they have to stand at least 50 feet from any residential property line, according to an ordinance unanimously approved Thursday night by East Ridge City Council.

Before the vote, Mayor Brent Lambert explained that the ordinance did not in itself legalize the sale of fireworks because the state already voted to authorize that in May.

"Fireworks sales will be legal in East Ridge in July 2012 regardless," clarified Mayor Brent Lambert. "Ordinance 901 is simply regulating those sales. Who can sell, what kind of structure they can have and safety restrictions."

Some residents questioned the safety of the stores being in such close proximity to homes, while others said they were worried the stores would add to urban blight.

"What message are you putting out to people who aren't from this area?" said Glenn Rowe, an 11-year resident of the city who said the fireworks signs could be the first thing drivers see as they cross the state line on Interstate 75. He added that Ringgold Road already was clogged with "eyesores" like pawn shops and check-cashing operations.

"I just think a fireworks display may add to the tarnish we already see here," he said.

Lambert and several councilmen maintained that Ordinance 901 restricts the type of structures that can be built, and that all retailers will have to abide by the city's sign ordinance.

"We are going to make sure that the people that come in with the buildings are going to make it look presentable," said Councilman Jim Bethune, who served on the planning commission that outlined the building codes.

Also during the meeting, council unanimously voted to set up a 950-acre retail district, designed to offer sales tax incentives.

Included in that district is a 39-acre tract of state-owned land adjacent to Camp Jordan. The council voted to pay $3,000 to $4,000 to have it appraised.

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