Nov. 18 public hearing set on proposed amendment to county regulations that would allow legal use of fireworks on three holidays

Commissioner Ziegler proposed the action, based on changes this spring in state law

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s July Fourth fireworks traditionally is held at Siesta Public Beach. The event was cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo contributed by Peter van Roekens

On Nov. 18, the Sarasota County Commission will conduct a public hearing on an amendment to its fireworks ordinance that would bring county regulations in line with changes in state law that went into effect earlier this year.

The board members agreed to that unanimously in approving their Nov. 4 Consent Agenda of routine business items.

On July 7, during the board’s final meeting before its annual summer break, Commissioner Christian Ziegler raised the issue of the changes in state law, noting that he is a big fan of fireworks.

He had learned from County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht, he continued, that Section 58-4(d)(1) of the County Code of Ordinances says, “[I]t shall be unlawful for any person, firm, partnership, or corporation to … explode any fireworks within the County.”

The regulation does provide for exemptions in regard to agricultural uses.

Representatives of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office have explained that, essentially, in regard to fireworks, “If it flies, it is illegal” in the unincorporated areas of the county, unless a person has obtained a permit for use of fireworks. Sparklers, on the other hand, are allowed.

On July 7, Ziegler asked his colleagues whether they would be open to the idea of aligning the county ordinance with the new state law. Senate Bill 140, which Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signed on April 8, allows individuals over the age of 18 to legally set off fireworks on three days: July Fourth, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

However, Ziegler noted, the bill “does not supersede local governments’ [regulations].”

The new language in the Florida Statutes is in Section 791.08.

Ultimately, Ziegler gained his colleagues’ support for staff research into amending the county ordinance. His motion calling for the staff action passed unanimously.

That report resulting from the research, which was completed on July 30, found no issues with Ziegler’s proposal.

Commissioner Christian Ziegler. File image

“Should the Board wish to amend [the county ordinance],” the county report said, “staff will seek legal services from the Sarasota County Office of the County Attorney to prepare an amendment to the ordinance and return to the Board in September.”

During further discussion on Aug. 26 — when they held their first regular meeting after their summer break — the commissioners formally authorized County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to work with the Office of the County Attorney on the revised ordinance.

No details were provided this week about whether the Nov. 18 public hearing would be held in the morning or afternoon session of the County Commission meeting. Agendas generally are published the Thursday evening of the week prior to board meeting dates. Thus, the Nov. 18 agenda should be available on Nov. 12.

Since the novel coronavirus pandemic began this spring, the board members have conducted their meetings in the Commission Chambers at the Administration Center located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota.