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Emails show Waterloo faced lawsuit threats over fireworks decision

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Crossroads Fireworks went into business after the change in law in fireworks sales in 2017 in Iowa.

WATERLOO — The city’s decision to allow fireworks sales in commercial zones followed threats of legal action from an out-of-state retailer and Crossroads Fireworks.

Correspondence obtained through the city shows Vincent Bellino, of Papillion, Neb.-based Bellino Fireworks Inc., indicated he would pursue damages against Waterloo if the company was prevented from selling fireworks on commercial property.

An attorney for Crossroads Fireworks, which operates from a commercially zoned building at 2019 Crossroads Blvd., also indicated the store may seek compensation for losses if the city shut the business down.

City Council members had voted unanimously Dec. 11 to restrict fireworks sales to Waterloo’s industrial zones.

Council members voted 5-2 Monday to rescind that restriction and allow fireworks stores and stands also to be located on commercial zones, which are more prevalent and in high-traffic areas.

City Council members met in executive session May 14 to discuss potential litigation related to fireworks zoning.

But Councilman Pat Morrissey, who voted against loosening the zoning requirements for public safety reasons, complained the public was not allowed to hear all the information council members received during that closed session.

The Courier filed an Iowa Open Records Law request to obtain correspondence from anyone threatening legal action against the city over the issue.

Bellino, in a May 9 email to City Clerk Kelley Felchle, said the company had an injunction in U.S. District Court preventing four cities from enforcing zoning restrictions on fireworks stands.

The company already had a license from the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office to sell fireworks this year at Fareway.

“With the ruling we are arguing for damages caused by cities,” Bellino said in the email. “If it comes to it, we will pursue damages caused by the city of Waterloo. The SFM license fee is $500, which is already paid for, so we will start there with damages and go to loss of profit from there.”

Nicholas Kilburg, an attorney for Crossroads Fireworks, indicated the store would suffer damages if the city forced it from the commercial location it had occupied since June 2017, well before the city changed the zoning requirements.

“The ordinance would deprive Crossroads of a protected property interest without making provision for compensation, in violation of the Iowa and United States Constitutions,” Kilburg said in a May 14 letter to council members.

Retailers like Crossroads Fireworks, which operates from a permanent building, can sell fireworks from June 1 to July 8 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Temporary fireworks stands can sell from June 13 to July 8.

The State Fire Marshal’s website indicates temporary fireworks tent applications have been issued in Waterloo for the Fareway Store, 40 W. San Marnan Drive; National Cattle Congress, 257 Ansborough Ave.; former Waterloo Greyhound Park, 3250 Greyhound Drive; the parking lot at 520 W. Parker St.; and near Priority 1 at 1607 La Porte Road.

It remains illegal to discharge fireworks in the Waterloo city limits. Residents caught shooting them off can face fines.


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