Plan to limit fireworks revived in Lexington County

Lexington County leaders are taking a second look at limiting fireworks celebrations in neighborhoods.

A new plan proposed to County Council last week would restrict personal use to July 4 and New Year’s Eve in selected areas, including the south shore of Lake Murray. It could be in effect as soon as mid-summer if the idea gains momentum.

The effort opens the way for restrictions on fireworks in areas that are home to three-fourths of the county’s estimated 300,000 residents. Those limits would be a mix of county and municipal limits, all adopted independently.

In the western half of the county, the new limits suggested would apply only to lakeshore neighborhoods north of U.S. 378 near Batesburg-Leesville and Gilbert.  

Current limits in seven of the county’s 14 municipalities vary, but generally restrict fireworks use to the two days suggested in the new county plan. Nearly all fireworks are allowed in Batesburg-Leesville only from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 4th and from 10 a.m. Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.  Sparklers can be used any time, according to the town website.

Displays sponsored by groups, such as the Lexington County Peach Festival in Gilbert and lake tourism officials, would not be affected.

Noise created by excessive fireworks in neighborhoods is a growing nuisance, particularly for pet owners and for military veterans suffering from combat trauma, supporters of the limits say. The limits proposed would apply to neighborhoods in which homes sit on a half-acre or less. Larger sites provide adequate buffers against problems, supporters say. 

It’s unknown yet how many neighborhoods would be affected and how many would be exempt in areas where the proposed restrictions would apply.

The second look at fireworks restrictions comes despite a warning from Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon that enforcement will be difficult and could take deputies away from other calls for help on those two holidays.

Supporters are shrugging off that concern, saying the new approach likely will be a deterrent similar to restrictions that bar smoking in public and commercial buildings. “Most people will voluntarily comply,” Councilwoman Beth Carrigg of Irmo said.

Arrests and convictions for violations of current municipal limits on fireworks use – all carrying a small fines – are rare,officials say.

Councilman Larry Brigham of Batesburg-Leesville is comfortable with the latest plan but wants assurances it won’t overburden deputies. “It has to be doable,” he said. “We’ll see if this (plan) can gain traction.”

A previous attempt to limit fireworks in neighborhoods fizzled last fall amid sharp division among the nine council members.

Some want to allow fireworks for only a few hours on July 4 and New Year’s Eve. Others are comfortable permitting it for a few days around those holidays and others consider overenthusiastic use a minor nuisance that doesn’t need to be controlled.