Greenwood to increase fines for setting off fireworks outside designated times

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

GREENWOOD, Ind. — An updated city ordinance in Greenwood could mean $100 fines for residents who set off fireworks outside the designated days and times when fireworks are permitted.

Greenwood city code allows for residential consumer fireworks from June 24 to July 11 between 5 p.m. and two hours after sunset. On July 4, fireworks are allowed from 10 a.m. to midnight.

According to the ordinance update, which is scheduled for a second and final vote next Monday, a resident caught setting off fireworks outside the designated window could face a $100 penalty.

Several Greenwood residents have taken to social media in recent days to complain about fireworks going off as early as June 5.

Greenwood resident Kristen Richhart says although she and her family love fireworks, they were surprised to hear them going off down her street last night.

“It was probably about 10:30-11:00 that we were hearing one, then a few minutes later, you’d hear another one and such,” Richhart recalled.  

“We have people in our neighborhood who start way early,” said Greenwood resident Kimberly Haglund. “Our master bedroom is downstairs, so we can hear them loud and clear.”

A $100 fine is largely in line with what other central Indiana communities impose on residents who violate local fireworks ordinances. Most cities with local ordinances include increasing penalties for repeat offenders. The Greenwood ordinance would keep the fine at $100 for repeat offenses.

Republican At-Large City Council member Brad Pendleton says the updated ordinance isn’t really about issuing fines but asking residents to keep their neighbors in mind before lighting fireworks outside legal times.

“It’s mostly folks that are saying we have veterans, we have babies, we have pets that are not liking how often this is going off,” Pendleton said. “It’s a give-and-take just like anything in government. Not everybody is going to be happy with it, but what you have to do is find that balance and figure out how can you protect folks while also not limiting the freedoms of everybody, and I think this does a good job.”

Seneca Harbin, director of Johnson County Veterans Affairs, says he knows many veterans who love fireworks and the freedoms they symbolize. However, the loud noise of unexpected fireworks can often trigger a “fight-or-flight” response in those who struggle with post traumatic stress disorder. Most often for combat veterans, the response is fight.

“I don’t think anybody wants to infringe on someone else’s rights,” Harbin said. “But as far as setting off loud explosions, a simple heads-up would be very nice, very accommodating just so they can prepare.”

Keeping fireworks limited to the designated dates and times would be one way to help veterans be prepared, Harbin said.

The window for legal fireworks is longer in Greenwood than most central Indiana communities. The majority of cities and towns allow fireworks starting June 28 or 29, lasting until July 9.

Greenwood’s earlier date is based on the city’s annual Freedom Festival, which often happens more than a week before the 4th of July. Pendleton said there could be discussions about shrinking the fireworks window for Greenwood at some point, but it won’t happen before this year’s holiday.

The updated ordinance is scheduled for a second and final vote next Monday when it is expected to pass and take effect immediately.

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