Brookhaven approves new fireworks ordinance

The Fourth of July is not the only time to shoot off fireworks. Residents in Brookhaven can now light up the sky later than others across the state.

At a regular session meeting Tuesday, the city council voted to amend Brookhaven's existing noise ordinance, extending the fireworks curfew from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. throughout the year and to midnight Saturday, July 2, 2016.

Fireworks were illegal to purchase in the state of Georgia until a bill passed the legislature in 2015, legalizing the sale and personal use of fireworks. House Bill 110 allowed fireworks to be ignited as late as midnight throughout the year and even later during certain holidays. The language of the bill also stipulated that individual cities and counties could not enact their own legislation on top of the existing state law.

During the legislative session this year, House Bill 727 passed to address the concerns of the fireworks law. Holiday curfews shifted — fireworks can now be ignited until midnight around July Fourth and on New Year's Day and until 1 a.m. on New Year's Eve. The curfew throughout the year was moved back to 9 p.m. and local governments can now add ordinances to extend that time if desired.

Chris Balch, city attorney for Brookhaven, explained that the new law also gives cities and counties the power to impose a special permit requirement for residents to use fireworks after 9 p.m. The city council opted not to require such permits.

"You can charge a fee up to $100 for those permits," Balch said. "We weren't comfortable asking $100 from moms and dads shooting off bottle rockets."

After deliberation during both the work session and the regular session, the Brookhaven city council voted unanimously to amend the moise ordinace and extend the cutoff times for personal fireworks use within city limits.

One council member expressed reservations about the new timeframe.

"I am certainly seeing significant pushback from neighborhoods when you've got fireworks going off at 10 at night," said Bates Mattison, Mayor Pro Tem and District 3 council representative. "People are upset about that if they're putting their kids to bed."

To address these concerns, the council agreed to revisit the issue during the second August meeting as a work session report. The summer will serve as a trial period for the new curfew times in Brookhaven.