Shawnee loosens rules for shooting off fireworks around Fourth of July

A new ordinance will allow for the use of more kinds of fireworks within Shawnee city limits up until 11 p.m. on July 3rd and 4th. The city will also begin allowing for the sale of fireworks with its boundaries next year. Image via Shutterstock.

Snaps, snakes and certain kinds of sparklers won’t be the only fireworks to choose from in Shawnee this Independence Day.

The Shawnee City Council Monday night made changes in its municipal rules that permit other types of fireworks for recreational use and will eventually allow pop-up firework stands within its city limits.

The details: Councilmembers decided to wade slowly into the idea of loosening up restrictions on fireworks.

  • Under the new rules, the use of fireworks would be limited to July 3rd and 4th until 11 p.m. The noise ordinance was also adjusted to exempt the use of fireworks on those days.
  • The city, like many others in Johnson County, currently only allows relatively low-risk fireworks like snaps, snakes and sparklers that are rated below 1.4G, said Deputy Fire Chief Corey Sands.
  • The new ordinance would still restrict fireworks to those allowed by Kansas law, which generally forbids bottle rockets and other types with a “stick,” he said.
  • The penalty for violation would be $100.

Selling fireworks in the future: The firework use would be effective this summer. But the part that allows tents and temporary structures for fireworks sales would not be operational until next year.

  • That language allows one sales stand for each ward and one unattached to a ward.
  • Sales would be allowed from June 27 through July 5.
  • Vendors would have to pay a $2,500 fee to sell fireworks. Revenue would be used for fire education and an Independence Day related festival.
  • Sales tax revenue from fireworks sales was projected at around $18,000 per year, not including the fees.

What the council said: Councilmembers expressed some hesitancy and were split on the vote Monday.

Councilmember Kurt Knappen said he disliked the look of fireworks stands and wanted to limit their proliferation.

Councilmember Angela Stiens said she had “mixed emotions” about allowing fireworks and stands that look “trashy.”

She and councilmember Jacklynn Walters wondered if Shawnee residents really support the loosened firework rules. Walters suggested an opinion survey before a final decision is made.

Long-standing discussion: Councilmember Mike Kemmling said fireworks have been an issue his constituents have talked about for years.

“I mean, most of us went around saying we were for small government and less regulation and this is a way for us to deliver on those principles. At least in my ward and people I’ve had conversations with, it’s been popular,” he said.

Council President Eric Jenkins also supported the idea, saying parents should be the ones to decide about their kids and fireworks.

Stiens and Jill Chalfie ultimately voted against the ordinance.

Fourth of July plans: The council also discussed planning a festival related to Independence Day with children’s activities, food trucks and a fireworks show for the last weekend in June.

The city had considered bringing back a firework show that used to be at Shawnee Mission Park, in partnership with Lenexa and the county park district.

Those shows stopped in 2008. There were concerns about the noise inducing post-traumatic stress disorder in neighborhoods and for wildlife, a city staff member said.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at roxieham@gmail.com