The Daily Iowan

New fireworks sales regulations come to Iowa City

The Iowa City City Council made changes to where fireworks can be sold. How do these new laws affect consumers and sellers?

Jazz+Fest+spectators+and+local+residents+enjoy+the+fireworks+at+the+Old+Capital+Building+on+Friday%2C+June+30%2C+2017.+%28James+Year%2FDaily+Iowan%29
Jazz Fest spectators and local residents enjoy the fireworks at the Old Capital Building on Friday, June 30, 2017. (James Year/Daily Iowan)

Jazz Fest spectators and local residents enjoy the fireworks at the Old Capital Building on Friday, June 30, 2017. (James Year/Daily Iowan)

Jazz Fest spectators and local residents enjoy the fireworks at the Old Capital Building on Friday, June 30, 2017. (James Year/Daily Iowan)

Jonathan House, [email protected]

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People looking to shoot off fireworks this Fourth of July may have a harder time finding them.

The state of Iowa passed a new law in May 2017 legalizing the sale and purchase of fireworks in the state from June 1 to July 8.

With the new law, the Iowa City police department received 521 noise complaints from fireworks last summer, according to data provided to The Daily Iowan by Iowa City police Sgt. Derek Frank. This was an increase from only 74 complaints in 2016 and 73 in 2015. However, the number of citations for fireworks has remained about the same over the past several years.

Related: New regulations coming for fireworks in Iowa City

After fireworks sales were allowed in both commercial and industrial zones in 2017, the Iowa City City Council voted late last year to pass an ordinance limiting the sales of fireworks to industrial zones. This change means any tents outside of stores are banned.

In 2017, there were five temporary tents selling fireworks in parking lots outside of stores in Iowa City, with more stores, such as Menards, selling fireworks inside. As has been the case in past years, fireworks cannot be set off inside city limits.

Iowa City Fire Marshal Brian Greer said the change came because of the concern that fireworks were too easily accessible to the public.

Related: IC police respond to hundreds of fireworks complaints

“The problem is it made it more accessible for everybody. I may not have been going out to get fireworks, I’m going to Hy-Vee to shop and then go, ‘Hey, there’s some fireworks for sale, let’s go get some,’ ” Greer said. “The biggest problem after that was that a lot of people didn’t realize or ignored that you can’t use them in the city limits. It made them easily available, but they still couldn’t use them.”

With the new regulations, some fireworks sellers plan to avoid Iowa City altogether. Last year, Bellino Fireworks operated fireworks tents in front of all three Iowa City Hy-Vees in addition to one at Fareway. His company plans to continue selling fireworks in Coralville.

“Those areas won’t work with the current zoning ordinances in the books, and we will not be going into [Iowa City] with industrial zone sites,” said Vince Bellino, manager of Bellino Fireworks.

Unlike Iowa City, Coralville has not passed any ordinances restricting where fireworks are sold following the passage of the state law. Both Coralville and Iowa City have passed a ban on setting fireworks off inside city limits.

Coralville does not have an ordinance limiting where fireworks can be sold, but sellers are limited to having 250 pounds of fireworks in their location at a time.

Coralville Fire Prevention Officer and Interim Fire Chief Orey Schwitzer said the city has multiple methods of trying to educate its citizens on the rules and regulations.

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