WATERLOO — A plan being developed in City Hall would restrict where fireworks dealers can set up shop.
Waterloo City Planner Aric Schroeder said his office is drafting an ordinance that would prevent temporary fireworks stands from locating in the parking lots of local retailers and other commercially zoned sites.
“Tents and any other temporary structures would be pushed to the industrial districts,” said Schroeder, who discussed the measure this week with members of the city’s Planning, Programming and Zoning Commission.
An early draft of the ordinance, which requires City Council approval before taking effect, would require any temporary fireworks stands to be in M1, M2 and M2-P industrial zoning districts.
Permanent fireworks stores would be allowed in C2 commercial districts, although there has been some discussion about allowing those sales only as accessory uses in places like Menards, Walmart and similar retailers.
Existing stores in commercial districts, such as Crossroads Fireworks, would be “grandfathered” and not have to cease operations if the zoning changes are adopted.
Councilmen Pat Morrissey and Jerome Amos Jr. both support getting the temporary stands away from residential areas and into more remote settings.
“One of the problems with the temporary ones is that they look so unsightly and pop up all over anywhere,” Morrissey said.
Amos added, “It is a concern from a safety standpoint if something happens, the impact it can have on citizens.”
Waterloo is among the cities struggling to set rules after state lawmakers legalized fireworks use in 2017. Some large cities, including Waterloo, voted to ban residents from exploding fireworks in the city limits, but they are prevented by law from banning sales.
The Waterloo City Council voted in December 2017 to adopt an ordinance forcing stores and temporary fireworks stands to be in “M-1” and “M-2” industrial zones. They rescinded that measure last June under threats of legal action from fireworks dealers.
But later last summer, several court rulings around the state found cities had the ability to place zoning requirements on fireworks sales locations.
“We feel pretty confident we’re in compliance with what the judges have said,” said Waterloo Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson.
Iowa law allows retailers operating from a permanent building to sell fireworks from June 1 to July 8 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3 each year. Temporary fireworks stands can sell only from June 13 to July 8.
While it remains illegal to discharge fireworks in the Waterloo city limits, Morrissey said there has been some discussion among council members about allowing a short one- or two-day usage window around July 4.