Woodstock to draft limits on fireworks
Woodstock selectman Steve Bies will draft ordinance language limiting the number of days per year that fireworks may be used, and the selectboard will decide at its next meeting whether to include the proposal on the annual town meeting warrant.
At the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday Bies was designated to craft a proposed amendment to Woodstock’s existing fireworks ordinance, which prevents the commercial sale of fireworks. The ordinance was approved last year in the wake of a new state law legalizing the sale and use of consumer fireworks. Towns are allowed to impose their own bans or restrictions within their borders.
Woodstock has received complaints and petitions about the use of fireworks, particularly late at nightand near lakes.
In October neighboring Greenwood approved an ordinance restricting fireworks use to seven days a year. In discussion leading up to that vote, some Greenwood residents expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of restrictions on North Pond if Woodstock did not also pass a similar ordinance. The towns share the pond within their borders.
Bies said he will consult with Greenwood and work out a proposed ordinance for Woodstock that is consistent.
Another part of the proposal will provide for a town permit to use fireworks for special occasions, such as weddings.
Despite the plan to craft a fireworks proposal, several of the town officials remained skeptical of the effectiveness of an ordinance.
Tom Hartford, vice chairman of the Woodstock Planning Board, reminded the board that the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department does not enforce town ordinances.
Selectman Rick Young has lived on Lake Christopher for 30 years. “There have always been fireworks, even when it was illegal,” he said. “Nobody’s ever been hauled off that I know of.”
As for issuing permits, said Hartford, “People don’t come in for building permits. What makes you think they’ll come in for fireworks permits?”
But Selectman Ron Deegan said there would be some people that would comply with an ordinance.
Bies said he felt the board owed it to residents who have been impacted by fireworks use to create an ordinance amendment to consider.
He will have it ready for the next board meeting on Feb. 19. The annual town meeting is March 25.
In other ordinance-related business, the board accepted a final draft of a proposed wind power ordinance from a committee that has worked on it for more than a year. It will be voted upon at town meeting.
Committee Chairman Bob Elliott said Tuesday the committee aimed for a ordinance that falls in middle ground in its restrictiveness – stricter than state regulations, but not so severe to prevent any wind project development.
Hartford said he has plotted points on a town map in accordance with the proposed ordinance, and there is no site in Woodstock where a project could be in compliance.
But, said Elliott, a developer could still do a project by buying land and getting mitigation waivers from property owners.
Copies of the proposed ordinance are available at the town office or by e-mail, if requested.
A public hearing on the wind proposal will take place Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. The hearing will also take up proposed changes to the Property Maintenance Ordinance and the Site Plan Review Ordinance.
Also on Tuesday selectmen agreed to put out to bid a project to rebuild the Lake Christopher dam. The project will be advertised and bids will be due at 5:15 p.m. Feb 26.
The work window for the project will be Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, when water levels in the lake are expected to be at their lowest, according to project design engineer Jim Sysko. His original estimate for the cost was $135,000.
In other business Tuesday, selectmen appointed Jerry Bernier to a two-year term on the Planning Board; continued work on preparing a warrant for the annual town meeting; asked Town Manager Vern Maxfield to price out a new boiler for the town office to possibly replace the 20-year-old oil-fired boiler; and discussed the possibility of creating a website for the town.