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Blakely Island group takes aim at fireworks ban

Local voters overturned a set of stormwater fees in the first-ever referendum under San Juan County’s county charter.

Could a ban on all personal fireworks be next?

Fourteen months from now, voters will decide whether to keep a ban on all personal fireworks, if a Blakely Island group succeeds in getting referendum No. 2 on the ballot in 2009.

The ban, approved June 3 by the County Council, is slated to take effect prior to next year’s Fourth of July celebration. A similar ban was approved by the Friday Harbor Town Council July 3.

The ban prohibits the use of all personal fireworks, including so-called “safe and sane” items like sparklers and pinwheels, anywhere in the county, 365 days a year. Professionally-licensed pyrotechnic displays are exempt.

For Blakely Island’s Don Burkhardt, spokesman of Fireworks Unrestricted, repealing the ban is an issue of fairness and tradition. He said only three of San Juan County’s 56 inhabited islands host professional fireworks displays, and Blakely is not among them.

“Our traditional Fourth of July has been forcibly taken from us, making us criminals on our own property,” Burkhardt said in a press release.

“It’s time for the voters of San Juan County to take a cue from our forefathers and have ourselves a little tea party.”

Fireworks Unrestricted took aim at the ban July 17 by filing an appeal with the auditor’s office. Following legal review, the next step is the preparation of a ballot title by the prosecuting attorney and of signature-gathering petitions by referendum supporters.

The group will have 120 days to gather a minimum of 1,479 signatures of local voters (15 percent of the number of votes cast in the 2004 gubernatorial election) to qualify the referendum for the 2009 ballot.

Collecting enough signatures would put the ban on hold pending outcome of the referendum, meaning the law would not be in effect on July 4, 2009.

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