City ponders action on Fourth of July traditionCANNON BEACH - Fourth of July fireworks sparked some explosive discussion among city councilors at Tuesday's meeting.

In a report from Police Chief Gene Halliburton presented background and arguments for and against the controversial practice of permitting the use of all types of fireworks - legal and illegal - on the beach on July Fourth.

Council members established the practice in 2001 as a compromise between the traditional Independence Day use of fireworks and the preservation of three environmentally fragile sites: Haystack Rock, the Chapman Point bird rock area and the Silver Point area. These three areas are known as exclusionary zones.

Halliburton presented the discussion because he wanted early direction on the council's wishes for this year. In conjunction with the practice in the past, Cannon Beach Police, Haystack Rock Awareness Program staff and volunteers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff and volunteers monitor the exclusionary zones before, during and after the four-hour fireworks period. A volunteer group also cleans the beach the morning of July fifth.

No decision was made Tuesday on whether to continue the practice and the council directed Halliburton to return to its May meeting with a plan for full-beach enforcement to contrast with the current practice.

Halliburton called council members' attention to three points of opposition to the practice. Permitting beach fireworks on July Fourth may contribute to general perception that fireworks are acceptable at other times.

"We're already seeing fireworks," he said. "Some were fired off this weekend. People are out there shooting off fireworks as soon as the weather warms up."

An assumption that the use of fireworks on the beach is safe is fundamentally erroneous based on the wide range of pyrotechnics available, the concentration of people on the beach and the homes and businesses adjacent to the beach, he said. And by permitting the fireworks practice, the city seems to condone, if not encourage, the use of certain fireworks that are illegal in any other part of Oregon, he added.

"Errant pyrotechnics caused me an awful lot of concern," he said. "Errant fireworks go into the exclusionary zones, no matter what we do and there may be no party responsible. Sometimes fireworks simply do not go where they're supposed to."

According to a report from HRAP Coordinator Shelley Parker, fireworks usually cause sea birds and marine mammals to vacate the area. Eggs and baby birds may get pushed off rocks when adult creatures flee or are left unprotected. Veterinarians usually give out a lot of tranquilizers for pets. Fireworks debris will often fall into the ocean and the high tide between the fireworks period and the morning-after clean up often pulls debris further out into the ocean.

Mayor Dave Rouse noted that no City Council has ever said it permitted illegal fireworks, and that actually all fireworks are illegal on the beach. The police department simply chose to deploy resources in certain areas where the most damage could occur.

"I find fireworks really obnoxious and annoying," Councilor Betsy Ayres said. "People come here because they love Cannon Beach, not because it's a great place to shoot off illegal fireworks. I would like to see us as a council and city continue to rid the beach of fireworks. Even with Gene's best efforts, condoning it in any way on July 4th is harmful to the environment."

But Councilor George Vetter cited the long-standing tradition of fireworks in the United States and that allowing fireworks once a year is not a problem.

"I felt what a great thing the city had done for the community by creating a designated time and place and controlling it," Vetter said. "It gets fireworks out of your system and you can do it in an appropriate time and place and it's fun. I think this would create a whole lot of heartache for the police and the city."

There was also concern that, if fireworks were no longer permitted, police would not have enough officers to patrol the entire beach.

"There's nothing that says how we're going to enforce that," Rouse said. "It would have to be local, because every other area police department is too busy. I haven't seen a plan and I think there are issues about going back to enforcement that haven't been dealt with. Where will the extra resources come from?"

Halliburton suggested that he could work with the Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District to create additional monitors. He will return to the council's May meeting with a formal plan for full-beach enforcement.

In other action, councilors:

• Approved resolutions proclaiming April 18-24 as Earth and Arbor Week.

• Approved the formation of a Fernwood and Pacific Streets Local Improvement District (LID) for street paving and improvement.

• Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. May 4 for the creation of a Seventh and Oak Streets LID and approved the Public Works Director's report on the LID. Initially, staff estimated it would cost $23.50 per lineal foot of paving. However, because of the road's terrain, lack of base and required storm drain improvements, further analysis estimates the cost at $66.95 per lineal foot.

• Approved amending the capital improvement plan for fiscal year 2004-05 to reflect an estimated $3.6 million bond, a 33 percent utility rate increase and updated cost estimates for an approximate $5 million wastewater treatment plant update and the purchase of parcel B (120-acres of forest land) from Weyerhaeuser for $387,500.

• Approved the closure of Second Street near Hemlock Street from 5 to 9 p.m. May 1 for a Ferrari Club event at the request of Tom Morris.

• Appointed Jay Raskin to the Design Review Board.

• Approved an amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding with the North Coast Land Conservancy to allow an additional $4,000 for NCLC support services. The NCLC is helping the Friends of Ecola Creek Forest Reserve raise funds to help the city purchase the Ecola Creek forest land from Weyerhaeuser.

• Approved an intergovernmental agreement with Benton County, who will provide economical street striping services to Cannon Beach.

• Approved modifications to the city's policy about vegetation maintenance for property which is minimally maintained by Public Works. The modifications would allow removal of invasive plant species and pruning of willow trees.

• Approved a private-public partnership with Coaster Properties to underground utilities on the West side of Hemlock Street from the Basketcase/Cannon Beach Book Company building to Bruce's Candy Kitchen at a cost of approximately $45,000. Coaster properties has agreed to pay $15,000 toward the project and grant necessary easements for pedestals. The city will pay $30,000 but will make an effort to raise more money toward the project from private businesses affected by the project.

• Tentatively approved an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan to allow the Ocean and Laurel Sand Management Association to grade about 9,500 cubic feet of foredunes from Washington to Harrison streets. About 50,000 square feet of the area would then be replanted with dune grass to stabilize the beach.

• Appointed City Planner Rainmar Bartl as the city's representative to serve on the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Association board of directors.

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