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Fireworks have Seminole fuming

In the city's many expansions, it has taken on unwanted problems, such as a temporary tent for fireworks sales.

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


photo
[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Frank Witz, 34, of Largo figures out what to buy at Galaxy Fireworks on Thursday. "They have a good selection," Witz said of Galaxy's inventory. Seminole, which has a city ordinance banning temporary stands, annexed the location last year.
SEMINOLE -- Residents wanting fireworks always had to buy them outside city limits. That changed last year.

Part of the annexation of June 13, 2000, included a shopping center where Galaxy Fireworks operates a tent business for a few weeks twice a year.

Seminole tried to stop Galaxy from selling its wares because a city ordinance bans companies from operating a temporary stand. Because Galaxy already had permits from the county, the city dropped the demands after lawyers got involved.

"We never had a fireworks vendor in the city, but now the city has expanded quite a bit and the bigger we get, the more issues like this we'll have to deal with," said fire Chief Dan Graves.

When Galaxy came back to the corner of Park Boulevard and Starkey Road in December, the city refused to give licenses and permits for the company's fireworks tent. Officials said the ordinance allowed only charities to sell from temporary structures -- whether it's fireworks, Christmas trees or pumpkins.

So Galaxy took the matter to court, saying the city shouldn't be allowed to make distinctions based on how someone uses the money they earn.

A judge allowed the company to sell fireworks for the New Year's holiday. City attorney John M. Elias said the judge told the city it could not use an occupational license as a regulatory tool because it was simply a tax.

Galaxy is back again, much to the dismay of the city.

Graves said the business is operating legally, but it doesn't mean the city approves. A lawsuit is still pending, and the city now is considering revising its tent ordinance to limit who can sell items from temporary structures.

"We're looking into drafting a new ordinance that says if you don't have a permanent business, you can't have a tent," Graves said.

Sharon Hunnewell, president of the Tampa-based fireworks company, said Galaxy has been selling fireworks for about five years on the lot in front of Winn-Dixie. "Personally, I don't know what the big issue is," she said.

Graves said the city doesn't want to get into a situation where just anyone can temporarily set up a tent and sell merchandise, such as rugs or other items.

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