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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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
Because Douglas County is under fire restrictions, the Littleton
Fire Department permit does not allow Coulson to operate his
Coulson and Mohamedbhai requested permission from commissioners
after the building department denied his permit
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
"He could be in business as soon as the permit is issued,"
Coulson said his season lasts 10 days, and the two sites are his
"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
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
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
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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