He says Village of Belgium could receive revenue from selling permits; public hearing set for March 13
A Village of Belgium business owner is at odds with law enforcement and the fire department over a proposed fireworks store.
Sukhdev Gill, owner of the Mobil and BP gas stations in the village, McDonald’s and the strip mall that includes Subway and Bee’s Bakery, wants the village to change its ordinance to allow the storage of fireworks. The store is proposed to be in the former cheese store at 117 S. Royal Ave.
Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Lt. Wayne Lambrecht and Belgium Fire Chief Dan Birenbaum, however, oppose the store.
“We investigate dozens of fireworks complaints per year as it is. When you add a fireworks store into the village, that would add additional concerns for us,” Lambrecht said, adding that he talked with the sheriff and district attorney who had the same concerns.
Gill said disorderly conduct tickets for lighting off fireworks illegally would be enough of a lesson.
“It’s part of their job,” Gill said of law enforcement concerns.
Gill said he doesn’t see fire safety as an issue. His store meets state setback requirements to a gas station, and he said fireworks rarely start fires when launched.
“You don’t see too often on the news that there’s a fire due to fireworks,” he said.
Gill said he wouldn’t run the store himself. He has a prospective tenant who has 15 years of professional fireworks experience. He said he’s also willing to put the store farther south to appease safety concerns.
“It’s not unsafe,” he said.
Birenbaum isn’t convinced.
“I just don’t think it’s the best fit for the village. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with setting fireworks off,” he said.
Gill said he estimates the village could gain $10,000 to $15,000 in revenue the first year by charging for fireworks permits. As the business grows, that amount would increase, he said.
“Belgium’s income could be growing with my fireworks store,” he said.
The village, Lambrecht said, cited concerns about obtaining insurance that could exceed the store’s permit revenue.
“From my perspective, the village didn’t see the revenue gained from selling fireworks as anything substantial or anything they want to support,” Lambrecht said.
Gill said customers have requested fireworks. He said he would understand concerns about a store in more populated areas of the county, but not in Belgium.
“It’s like any of the other exits you would see going up toward Green Bay or Racine. There’s not much here. There’s open room,” he said.
“I think it’s an excellent fit for the town.”
Even though the commission didn’t vote on the ordinance change Feb. 27, a public hearing on the matter will be held in accordance with state statutes at 6:45 p.m. Monday, March 13, before the Village Board meeting at 7 p.m.