City won’t limit pyrotechnics |

City won’t limit pyrotechnics

John Colson

The City Council is not inclined to put a limit on the number of fireworks displays allowed in Aspen, members agreed on Monday.

But they will keep talking about how to provide greater public notice in advance of the private fireworks shows that have upset a segment of the local population.

The idea of limiting the number of fireworks displays allowed in town has been tossed around for some time, as the frequency and extravagance of private displays have grown to rival those put on by the town itself.

On occasion, fireworks have prompted local citizens to write letters to the editor in aggrieved protest, usually because the noise has badly frightened a pet.

At the council’s informal luncheon meeting Monday, City Clerk Kathryn Koch reintroduced the matter, saying she had been conferring with local fire officials, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (sponsor of most public fireworks shows) and some of the people with homes on Aspen Mountain near the fireworks launch area.

She pointed out that the city usually is host to two or three public fireworks shows per year, and one or two private shows. One such private show is scheduled for March 11 on Aspen Mountain, sponsored by Credit Suisse and First Boston.

Last year, she said, there were five shows, including a special display on New Year’s Eve, adding, “I don’t think we’ve had more than five fireworks in a calendar year.”

Koch said fire officials have no particular position on the issue, other than to object to one citizen’s suggestion that the fireworks displays be rotated among Aspen Mountain, Smuggler Mountain and Red Mountain. She said fire officials feel that both Smuggler and Red mountains are often too dry to be “conducive” to fireworks.

Koch and veteran fireworks launcher Tim Cottrell, formerly of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, cautioned against setting a limit on the number of displays allowed per year. Once a limit is set, they argued, there is a likelihood that the limit itself will invite interest and result in that many displays occurring every year.

“While there have been some complaints from private citizens, it seems that the vast majority of town residents and tourists enjoy fireworks shows,” Koch told the council in a memo.

And, Cottrell added, “They’re really pretty self-limiting, just because of the sheer cost.”

Both Koch and Cottrell argued against setting a limit, and most council members seemed to agree.

But, noted council member Jim Markalunas, “It’s created some problems for some elements of the community. I really think we should formalize some policy.” He said the city at least needs to require “adequate notice” to dog owners, so the animals can be locked up in advance.

He also agreed with Koch’s suggestion that for private displays, the sponsor be required to pay a fee that can be used toward subsidizing the cost of pet tranquilizers for those who need them.

Council member Terry Paulson seemed the most agitated about the issue, asking at one point, “Why should we watch somebody’s fireworks just because they made a lot of money? If they’d invite us to the party, that’s great.”

In the end, Koch was directed to write up a proposed regulation requiring greater advance notice and a fee schedule, and bring it to a future council meeting.

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