Westbury Eyes Banning Fireworks

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Fireworks close to houses will be banned in the Village of Westbury under a proposed local law. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Public hearings set March 4 for local laws

Maybe it was pandemic fatigue sparking a rush of exuberance. Or perhaps the easy availability of fireworks and firecrackers. But whatever the reason, the Fourth of July 2020 saw an unprecedented number of complaints about the noise throughout the metropolitan area.

That included the Village of Westbury. Mayor Peter Cavallaro was perturbed about what he experienced on his journeys throughout his village that evening.

At the ensuing board of trustees meeting he stated, “What we saw happening here, in multiple locations on residential streets, was unlicensed, unprofessional residents igniting professional-level fireworks within 10 feet of people and homes, and really creating a tremendous danger. [They showed] disregard for the safety of their homes and families, let alone their neighbors and community.”

On March 4, the village trustees will hold public hearings on several issues. Topping the list is a total rewriting of Chapter 101 of the village code, formerly titled “Circuses, Carnivals, Rodeos and Other Exhibitions,” to be renamed “Block Parties, Exhibitions, Fireworks and Other Special Events.” The legislative intent is to establish “standards for the issuance of a permit for such events.”

Among the provisions of the code is a total prohibition of fireworks within the village’s jurisdiction “except as part of a feast, festival or other exhibition, and the applicant for such feast, festival or exhibition has obtained permission from the board of trustees for fireworks as a part the application.”

Violating the code carries a fine of between $1,000 and $2,500, and no more than 15 days in jail. It gives judges some leeway, but “the fine shall be not less than $250 nor more than $500 for a first offense, and not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 for a subsequent offense.”

“Those are village violations, so they would have to be written under the village code by the code enforcement officers (CEO),” Cavallaro told the Westbury Times. “Just like the violations this past year were written by the CEOs.”

He added, “Most sentences under our code have a maximum and a minimum. And the judge decides under the circumstances where that should fall a specific offense. We have to leave some discretion to the judge.”

Cavallaro lamented that police enforcement was lacking, and hoped that he could get the county’s law enforcement to take a more aggressive approach against illegal fireworks.

The mayor told the Westbury Times, “I’ve had several conversations with [Third] Precinct Commander [Vincent Boden] and one specific conversation with Commissioner [Patrick] Ryder about it. Their response for that particular day was that they were very busy, that they had too many [incidents]. So my main concern is, if something is brought to their attention, it should be addressed. And I did not think it was an adequate response at that time.”

He added, “The reason for beefing up our code for this type of infraction is that we have stronger tools [in case] the police cannot address it adequately, we want to be able to address it locally. We will continue to ask the police to enforce the other laws that apply to illegal fireworks and whatnot. This Fourth of July, going into the holiday, I’ll have a conversation with the police about being aware and enforcing the law and asking them to be responsive if we have to reach out to them.”

He concluded, “But this particular local law is meant to allow the village more vigorous enforcement and penalties in case people violate it.”

Other hearings that night involve amending the vehicle and traffic code (including a ban on double parking) and allowing homeowners to trim village-owned trees fronting their house.

The Local Law:

Chapter 101 of the Village Code is hereby amended and restated in its entirety:

“Chapter 101. Circuses, Carnivals, Rodeos and Other Exhibitions Block Parties, Exhibitions, Fireworks and Other Special Events

§ 101-1. Purpose.

The Board of Trustees finds that it is in the public interest to formally regulate public exhibitions, parties, feasts and other special events by establishing standards for the issuance of a permit for such events.

§ 101-2. Definitions.

Block Party—A gathering on a residential street requiring the closure of a street or a portion thereof to vehicular traffic and the use of the street for festivity or entertainment, including barbecues, picnics, music and games.

Fireworks Display—a device containing gunpowder and/or other combustible materials for the purpose of causing a spectacular explosion when ignited for visible or audible effect, used typically for display or in celebrations. Such definition shall not include “sparklers”, which are ground-based or hand-held devices that produce a shower of sparks as their primary pyrotechnic effect, and do not rise into the air, do not fire inserts or projectiles into the air, and do not explode or produce a report.

Special Event—A pre-planned single entertainment event, including but not limited to carnivals, feasts, festivals, street fairs, circuses or other exhibition, on any Village street or other Village property, which may obstruct, delay, or interfere with the normal flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or use of the street or Village property. A “special event” shall not include any event conducted or sponsored by the Village of Westbury.

§ 101-3 Permit Required

No person or group of persons shall operate or conduct a block party, exhibition, feast or other special event without first having obtained a valid special event permit from the Village Clerk. Any road closure is explicitly prohibited without a permit pursuant to this Chapter, or another provision of the Village Code.

§ 101-4 Block Parties

A. Permit Application Procedure

(1) An application for a block party permit shall be made at least 30 days in advance of the proposed date of the block party, on a form provided by the Village Clerk, which shall include the following information:

a. Name, address and telephone number of the applicant(s);

b. Date, description, duration, street location, times of event, rain date;

c. Names, addresses and written consent of more than 50% of owners of residential properties on the block where the event is proposed to be held;

d. Name(s) of persons responsible for the removal of garbage, litter and debris from the block within 24 hours of the closing time of the event;

e. Additional information as may be required by the Village Clerk.

(2) Fee—A permit application for a block party shall be accompanied by a fee as established from time to time by the Village Board.

(3) Approval Process

a. Upon submission of a Block Party Permit Application to the Village Clerk, the Clerk shall present the application to the Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting.

b. The Board may grant, modify, or grant the permit with conditions, as necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and to protect pedestrian and vehicular safety.

c. The Board may deny a permit if they find that the detriments to the public outweigh the benefits, in consideration of the following elements:

i. Blocking the street will unduly interfere with vehicular or pedestrian traffic on or near the proposed block;

ii. The block party is proposed to occur on a primary or secondary street or would otherwise cause a significant disruption to traffic;

iii. There is insufficient support from the residents of the relevant block;

iv. The application is untimely or incomplete;

v. Any information in the application is false;

vi. Another block party or special event has already been approved within a year prior to or after the proposed date for the same block as the application in question, or is otherwise too close and the effect of both events will cause too much disruption to pedestrian or vehicular traffic in the area, or will cause another unreasonable conflict with another scheduled event;

vii. The event would be expected to interfere with active or scheduled construction/maintenance in the area;

viii. The Board reasonably believes that the event will interfere with emergency services or on such other reasonable basis as determined by the Board of Trustees.

d. The Village Clerk will notify the applicant of the Board’s decision, including the reasons for denial, if applicable.

B. Event Guidelines

(1) The applicant and all attendees shall comply with all conditions listed on the permit.

(2) The event must comply with Chapter 168 of this Code, relating to noise. Among other things, all amplified sound must be turned off by 10 p.m.

(3) The site of the event must be left in a neat and orderly condition, with garbage bagged and ready for pickup on the next regular pick-up date.

(4) Services provided by the Village:

a. The Village will provide the applicant with temporary no parking signs, which shall be posted by the applicant at least 72 hours in advance. Signs must be removed within 24 hours of the completion of the event.

b. The Village will provide moveable barricades to the site location.

(5) Access to emergency vehicles must be preserved at all times.

(6) The applicant or a designee must be identified to the Village as an emergency contact person for the event. The Village must be provide with a cell phone number for the emergency contact.

(7) There are no fireworks permitted.

C. The Board of Trustees and the Building Department shall have the authority to revoke or suspend any permit upon a material violation of the permit approval.

D. Penalties. Any person who violates any provision of this Section shall be guilty of a violation, and upon conviction, such a violation is punishable by a fine of not less than $250 or more than $500 for a first offense, and not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 for any subsequent conviction within five years.

§ 101-5 Feasts, Exhibitions and other Special Events

A. Permit Application Procedure

(1) An application for a feast, exhibition or other special event permit shall be made as soon as practicable, but in no event fewer than 30 days in advance of the proposed date of the event, on a form provided by the Village Clerk, which shall include the following information:

a. Corporate name/ individual name, address and telephone number of the applicant(s);

b. If the applicant is not a natural person, the name of the person who will be responsible for the permit;

c. Date, description, duration, location, times of event, rain date; and

d. Additional information as may be required by the Village Clerk.

(2) Fee- A permit application for a feast, exhibition or other special event shall be accompanied by a fee as established from time to time by the Village Board.

(3) Approval Process

a. Upon submission of a Special Event Permit Application to the Village Clerk, the Clerk shall present the application to the Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting.

b. The Board may grant, modify, or grant the permit with conditions, as necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and to protect pedestrian and vehicular safety.

c. The Board may deny a permit if they find that the detriments to the public outweigh the benefits, in consideration of the following elements:

i. The event will unduly interfere with vehicular or pedestrian traffic on or near the proposed block, either because of the length of time needed for the event, or because the event is proposed to take place on a street which is heavily trafficked, or both;

ii. The application is untimely or incomplete;

iii. Any information in the application is false;

iv. Another special event has already been approved and the effect of both events will cause too much disruption to pedestrian or vehicular traffic in the area, or the proposed event will cause another unreasonable conflict with another scheduled event.

v. The event would be expected to interfere with active or scheduled construction/maintenance in the areas.

vi. The Board reasonably believes that the event will interfere with emergency services.

vii. The Board determines that the special event will otherwise have an adverse effect on the health, safety or welfare of the public.

d. The Village Clerk will notify the applicant of the Board’s decision, including the reasons for denial, if applicable.

e. The Village Board may require the Applicant to provide the Village with indemnity and insurance, in the form of certificate of insurance, with the Village, all elected and appointed officers, all employees and volunteers to be listed as additional insured. If required, the Clerk will notify the Applicant of the amount of insurance required, and any other requirements, and will provide an indemnity agreement for the same.

(4) Event Guidelines

a. The applicant and all attendees shall comply with all conditions listed on the permit.

b. The event must comply with Chapter 168 of this Code, relating to noise. Among other things, all amplified sound must be turned off by 10 p.m.

c. The site of the event must be left in a neat and orderly condition.

d. Access to emergency vehicles must be preserved at all times.

e. The applicant or a designee must be identified to the Village as an emergency contact person for the event. The Village must be provided with a cell phone number for the emergency contact.

(5) The Board of Trustees and the Building Department shall have the authority to revoke or suspend any permit upon a material violation of the permit approval.

(6) Penalties. Any person who violates any provision of this Section shall be guilty of a violation, and upon conviction, such a violation is punishable by a fine of not less than $250 or more than $500 for a first offense, and not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 for any subsequent conviction within five years.

§101-6 Fireworks Displays

A. Prohibition. No person shall discharge any firecrackers, fireworks, or other explosives at any time within the Village, except as part of a feast, festival or other exhibition, and the applicant for such feast, festival or exhibition has obtained permission from the Board of Trustees for fireworks as a part the application.

B. Any person who violates any provision of this Section shall be guilty of a violation, and upon conviction, such a violation is punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $2,500, or by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 15 days, or both, for a first offense; and not less than $2,500 nor more than $5,000, or by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 15 days, or both, for any second conviction within five years; and not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000, or by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 15 days, or both, for any subsequent conviction within five years. Notwithstanding the foregoing, to the extent that the court determines the violation to be an isolated event, and that the violation did not create a risk to the general health, safety and welfare of the community, the fine shall be not less than $250 nor more than $500 for a first offense, and not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 for a subsequent offense.

§ 101-7 Circuses, Carnivals and other Moving Exhibitions

A. Circuses, Carnivals and other Moving Exhibitions shall be subject to the permit process outlined in Section 101-5 herein, and shall be further regulated by the provisions contained in this subsection.

B. Travel restricted to designated routes. No circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition, nor any vehicles, other than ordinary passenger vehicles, transporting any persons, animals or property appearing in or used in such circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition, shall travel over any public thoroughfare in the village in going to and from the place where such circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition is to be held, except over a route designated by the Commissioner of Police and Public Safety or a person authorized by him or her to act in his or her absence.

C. Hours of performance restricted. No person shall participate in any circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition or performance between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 12:00 noon on Sunday or between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on any other day, and such further restrictions as the Board may impose.

D. Bond required. Upon issuance of a license to conduct a circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition outdoors or in a tent, a general liability insurance certificate naming the village as an additional insured in the amount of $1,000,000 in an amount set by the Board of Trustees is required, and the licensee shall deposit a surety company bond or certified check in the amount of $25,000, conditioned upon no damage being done to the streets, sewers, trees or private property within the village and upon no dirt, paper, litter or other debris being permitted to remain on any public way or upon any private property after the departure of such circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition. If a check is deposited, it shall be returned to the licensee upon certification by the Commissioner of Police and Public Safety that no damage to streets, sewers, trees or private property has been reported or discovered and that no dirt, paper, litter or other debris has been permitted to remain upon any public way or private property after the departure of the circus, carnival, rodeo or other exhibition. In the event that damage shall have been done to streets, sewers, trees or private property within the village or dirt, paper, litter or other debris has been permitted to remain upon any public way or upon any private property, the village shall repair the aforesaid damage and shall clean up the dirt, paper, litter or other debris. The expense of such repair and cleaning shall be deducted from the amount deposited; there shall further be deducted from the amount deposited any damages where repairs cannot be made; the balance shall be returned to the licensee

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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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