Authorities douse vendor's bid to sell fireworks

A local fireworks vendor's bid to sell legal fireworks in Douglas County was denied last week by Douglas County commissioners and a district court judge.

By Kiersten J. Mayer and RoByn Lydick
Posted 7/7/06

A local fireworks vendor's bid to sell legal fireworks in Douglas County was denied last week by Douglas County commissioners and a district court …

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Authorities douse vendor's bid to sell fireworks

A local fireworks vendor's bid to sell legal fireworks in Douglas County was denied last week by Douglas County commissioners and a district court judge.

Posted

A local fireworks vendor's bid to sell legal fireworks in Douglas County was denied last week by Douglas County commissioners and a district court judge.

On June 20, Highlands Ranch resident and owner of Discount Fireworks Tom Coulson and his attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, asked county commissioners Mike Maxwell and Steve Boand for an immediate hearing on the denial of Coulson's seasonal use permit. County commissioner Melanie Worley was not in attendance.

The commissioners would not allow the public to be excluded from the discussion of fireworks sales in Highlands Ranch. County officials are required to notify the public before they can take action.

Because Douglas County is under fire restrictions, the Littleton Fire Department permit does not allow Coulson to operate his stands.

Coulson and Mohamedbhai requested permission from commissioners after the building department denied his permit application.

Maxwell said the pair had not followed the procedure to get on an agenda and he offered to hear Coulson's appeal at a public hearing June 28.

Mohamedbhai pressed for a meeting that afternoon, and then for a meeting in 24 hours to allow for posting of the meeting.

When Maxwell argued for more time for the community to comment, Mohamedbhai said the delay would cost his client about $48,000 in lost business.

"He could be in business as soon as the permit is issued," Mohamedbhai said.

Coulson said his season lasts 10 days, and the two sites are his only locations.

"If I don't get this permit, I'm out of business," Coulson said after the commissioners' June 20 meeting.

Coulson wanted to operate fireworks tents in the King Soopers parking lot at 8673 S. Quebec St. and in the AMF Bowling Center parking lot at 2530 E. County Line Road.

He obtained a state permit and a conditional Littleton Fire and Rescue permit but was waiting for Douglas County's permission to open his flaps.

Coulson's appeal for the denial of the seasonal use permit was heard June 28. Douglas County Emergency Management, Highlands Ranch Community Association and Littleton Fire & Rescue officials attended and urged commissioners Maxwell, Boand and Worley to deny the appeal.

Even though Highlands Ranch is a developed area, it has thousands of acres of non-irrigated, unmitigated open space ripe for grass fires, said Jamie Moore, Douglas County Emergency Services manager.

After the June 28 public hearing, Coulson, his attorneys and county officials went straight from the county commissioners meeting room in the Philip S. Miller building in Castle Rock to the Robert A. Christensen Justice Center and stood in front of District Court Judge Paul A. King.

Coulson and Mohamedbhai had filed for a preliminary injunction requesting the court overturn Douglas County's administrative decision not to issue the permit.

The main point of contention was interpretation of state statutes regarding fireworks sales.

The county legal staff read the law as allowing a county or municipality to bar sales of fireworks during Stage II fire restrictions, which were declared on June 15. Stage I fire restrictions started April 10.

Mohamedbhai said state statute does not block sales of fireworks and that local governments could not use state statutes to beef up their fire restrictions.

"Douglas County is the only county in the metro area banning the sale of fireworks," Coulson said June 20. But Larimer and Weld counties banned the sales the same day.

King ruled Coulson and his attorneys had not proven the denial of the permit would cause irreparable injury and that Coulson had legal rights to sue and seek damages from Douglas County in court at a later date. He also ruled that Douglas County officials had presented competent evidence of fire danger, despite Coulson's differing opinion on what that evidence should be.

Coulson claimed his fireworks stands are in areas that do not have a risk of grass or forest fire.

"The public interest is not in the purchase of fireworks, but the prevention of wildfires," he said.

A recent fire on the Highlands Ranch Golf Course burned 1 acre but came within feet of homes.

Later that afternoon, four fire departments using 18 units fought a 30-acre fire on the Windcrest property less than a mile away.

The golf course fire started across the empty Highline Canal, pushed by high winds.

The Windcrest fire started from a train and also was pushed to a larger fire by winds.

Out of 27,954 homes, 4,217 border open spaces, said Bill Dailey, natural resources manager with the metro districts.

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