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In a rare moment for the Mountain Home City Council, Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams used his voting power to strike down an amendment to a proposed ordinance over the selling and discharge of fireworks within the city limits of Mountain Home.
The amendment, which was proposed by City Councilwoman Paige Evans, would have completely banned the selling of fireworks within city limits except to a select few individuals who would have been grandfathered in.
The vote for Evans’ amendment split 4-4, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of moving forward with the council’s original fireworks ordinance, which requires fireworks vendors to obtain multiple permits from the city and the state before being allowed to sell the explosives within city limits.
The ordinance which passed Thursday evening continues the ban on the use of fireworks within Mountain Home city limits.
The original fireworks ordinance, which was read across three separate council meetings in the past two months, was passed by a 7-1 vote following the mayor’s tie split vote against Evans’ amendment.
“I like the original ordinance the way it was, because my big concern on this is, it’s about probably, from what so many vendors have told me, about a $50,000 investment to get a tent and inventory set up,” Mayor Adams said before breaking the tie. “I don’t see a lot of people jumping out to do that. As Paige mentioned, you know, with the growth of the city and other areas, if we pass this, we’re now telling people – we just approved with the planning commission last week, the fourth urgent care clinic within a mile on 62. So, I look at it is if we pass this, now we’re telling other people who might want to get in the fireworks business on the west side of town, the north side of town, you can’t do this.”
Underneath the ordinance all fireworks displays and fireworks retail sales would require an authorization permit by Mountain Home’s Fire Chief or Fire Inspector. The permit must be signed by the Fire Chief for it to be approved. The permit will cost $100.
Those wishing to sell fireworks in the city limits will also be required to obtain a permit from the Arkansas State Police. The permit must then be taken to the Mountain Home Fire Chief, along with a corporate surety bond (or a public liability insurance policy) of $100,000.
A corporate surety bond or public liability insurance policy of $250,000 will be needed to conduct a fireworks show within city limits.
Fireworks may be sold from June 20th through July 10th and from Dec. 10th to Jan. 5th of each year. Applications for permits must be submitted at least five days before the discharging of fireworks.
Under Evans’s proposed amendment, the permitting process would not be available to anyone attempting to sell fireworks within city limits, except for five vendors that were recently annexed into the city’s limits due to its sewer project. Those vendors agreed to the annexation under the condition that they would be allowed to continue selling their fireworks.
No permitting process would have been required for those original vendors underneath Evans’s amendment. They are now required to be current on their permits if they wish to continue to operate in city limits.
Evans’s amendment received support from City Councilwoman Jennifer Baker. Both women are usually on opposite sides of Mountain Home’s various issues, with Evans taking a more conservative and libertarian stance on issues, often opting for more freedom over more regulation in comparison to her other counterparts on the council.
In the instance of the fireworks ordinance, Evans went the other way, noting that much of the public already believed that the selling and discharging of fireworks was already illegal due to the unclear nature of the city’s original 30-year-old fireworks ordinance.
“When I took a look at this ordinance, the thing that stood out is basically the interpretation of this ordinance has always been, for years, that the City of Mountain Home did not allow firework sales in the city limits, as well as not being about to discharge fireworks in the city limits,” Evans said.
Evans then said that city employees whom she spoke to during her research stated the same thing to her. In addition, news outlets like the Mountain Home Observer have run stories over the past few years telling the public not to sell or discharge fireworks within city limits after being asked to by city officials in the lead-up to the Fourth of July.
Lastly, Evans said the issue boiled down to the safety of citizens living within city limits.
“I feel like, if we look at our city, we’re kind of a condensed area. We’re full of many parking lots that have four, five, six businesses.,” Evans said. “You know, we can speak of parts specifically, and they have a strip mall there where there’s several businesses located. I was just in Harps parking lot about 30 minutes ago and it’s a nightmare – one of the things I found out was in the city limits of Harrison, they have over 14 fireworks stands scattered through their city limits. And after speaking to people since our last meeting, it was my understanding that the majority of folks I spoke to said we are not interested in having these big tents located in business parking lots that we’re going to have to drive around.”
Following her statements, City Councilman Bob Van Haaren pushed back by stating that the council shouldn’t limit the sale of fireworks to a select group and that it wasn’t their place to tell property owners what they could do with their parking lots. Van Haaren also pointed out that the city has not had a problem with fireworks sales since the passing of the first fireworks ordinance 30 years ago.
City Councilwoman Jennifer Baker said if residents wanted to see fireworks, then they should attend Mountain Home’s Red, White & Blue Festival.
Mountain Home Fire Inspector Shawn Lofton told the council that there were only three safety incidents with fireworks in the city limits last year. Two people were sent to the emergency room due to fireworks and one house caught fire. Mayor Adams noted that those incidents involved some “other factors” than just shooting fireworks.
Expanding Baker District
Following their debate over the fireworks issue, the council passed the ordinance to officially expand the Baker District.
Underneath the new ordinance, the district now includes the city blocks between 3rd Street and 9th Street and between Hickory Street and Church Street. The district will also include the block bordered by 6th Street, 7th Street, Gray Street and Hickory Street, as well as the block bordered by 7th Street, 8th Street, Elm Street and Hickory Street.
Earlier this year, several business owners operating in Mountain Home’s entertainment district worked together to create the Baker District Merchant Association to keep downtown Mountain Home growing in the right direction.
Prior to the passage of Act 812 of 2019, which granted smaller cities in Arkansas the ability to create entertainment districts, Mountain Home’s downtown square and economy had stagnated. The stagnation prompted a group of concerned residents to transform the area into the tourist destination that it has become today.
Since the district was approved by the council, over 20 new businesses have found their homes in the entertainment district. And while some residents have been reluctant to embrace the new growth in Mountain Home, the success of Mountain Home’s entertainment district is hard to deny.
Now with the expansion approved, the district can expect a lot of new faces to be added to it, including
Mountain Mystery Escapes, The Rabbit Hole Coffeehouse and Brew, Sharp Edges Axe Throwing, and Retro Skating Rink. Also joining the entertainment district will be Treat Yo Shelf Books, Hamilton Shoe Repair, the Baxter County Historical Society, Heartland Pharmacy, and several boutiques and hair salons.
Patrons are still allowed to drink their beverages on the sidewalk or while walking around so long as they are purchased from a business in the Baker District and if they are in approved containers, drinks not purchased in the Baker District can only be transported to a new location. Outdoor drinking is still allowed in designated outdoor sit-down dining areas.
“We have no opposition,” said Duncan Clayton, the owner of Nature’s Way and member of the Baker District Merchant Association. “Even when some of the Entertainment District was new and was a new concept and we didn’t know what was going to happen, we had concerns. It makes sense to expand it because of the businesses that have popped up, and many of them are entertainment-based and will add that cohesive nightlife atmosphere that people want.”