OTTAWA LAKE - Whiteford Township board members have approved a one-year operating permit for Star Fireworks that will allow that firm to continue to display and sell fireworks at its location along West Sterns Road near U.S. 23.
The one-year permit, which covers all of 2005, is the result of a court settlement between the township and the fireworks firm that resolved a dispute over Star's seasonal use of semi trailers to store additional stock during peak fireworks periods, township supervisor Pam Dressel said.
Another single-year permit will be issued a year from now to cover all of 2006, Mrs. Dressel said.
The township and Star Fireworks owner Ike Lewis went to court last year after the township complained that the firm was using "as many as 20" trailers on its site to store fireworks.
The case was settled this spring before going to trial. According to Mrs. Dressel, the settlement limits Star to no more than 12 trailers on the property, and only between April and July 10 of each year. The settlement also says the township "cannot unreasonably deny" Star its necessary single-year permits to cover all of 2005, 2006, and 2007, the township supervisor said.
What happens after 2007 may be anybody's guess. Mrs. Dressel said she believes the land where Star Fireworks is located may be developed into a truck service station, although no site plans or permit applications have been received as yet by the township.
But Mr. Lewis said that, while he wouldn't comment on his specific plans for the property, he "had some surprises" in the works and that rumors of a Flying J truck stop on the site were untrue.
Any development would likely be in tandem with the neighboring Whiteford Gateway Pointe industrial park, Mrs. Dressel said.
Whiteford Township has historically taken the view that it would be unable to stop the sale of fireworks along a major highway like U.S. 23 so close to the Ohio border, so it would be in the township's best interest to regulate that activity as much as possible.
"It's something that we have to deal with, " Mrs. Dressel said.
The township created a special zoning district on both sides of the highway - BH (Business Hazardous) - that allows it to set the standards to ensure public safety around the explosive materials.
"We're all just doing the best we can, " Mrs. Dressel said. "But it sure beats having people sell fireworks out of the back of trucks."
Although the township was recently involved in the court fight with Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Dressel said that relations between the township and one of its largest retailers is generally amicable.
"He's been working with us, so we have to work with him too," the township supervisor said.