Fireworks business fizzles in Roanoke

Posted Tuesday, May. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A fireworks business has apparently had its grand finale in Roanoke.

Nelsons Fireworks, located in an industrial park in Roanoke’s extra-territorial jurisdiction that the city annexed in 2008, had reached several temporary agreements with the city to continue to sell fireworks around the time of two holidays: Independence Day and New Year’s.

But the last agreement expired in July 2012, and the Roanoke City Council at its April 23 meeting rejected a proposal from Nelsons Fireworks owners Roy R. and Rex K. Nelson of Watauga to allow the fireworks business in The Hill Industrial Park to continue as a permanently allowed use.

The council also did not show support for allowing Nelsons Fireworks to operate under another temporary agreement with the city. The sale of firework in the Roanoke city limits is forbidden by city ordinance.

“It’s clearly not an allowed use in the city,” City Manager Scott Campbell said.

Campbell, who has been with the city since February, said the council and staff had allowed the exception to its fireworks ban with the understanding that the property owner would eventually have to transition the business to a different use or would eventually need to move its operations to a place that has no fireworks ban.

City staff in a memo to the council recommended denying the request for allowing fireworks sales on a permanent basis in Roanoke. Fireworks stands – which operate on a seasonal business – fail to provide the most valuable use of the land within the city limits.

“We just didn’t think it was the best use from a land-use perspective,” Campbell said.

Also at the April 23 meeting, the council approved an updated fire code. The new code prohibits fireworks, but it’s only a coincidence that the item appeared on the same agenda as the Nelson Fireworks discussion item. The fire code could be amended to reflect new rules on fireworks if the council had decided to formally consider the Nelsons’ proposal.

“It was not at all intentional or an attempt to stop them,” Campbell said of the updated fire code.

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