Residents and trustees cite safety concerns and Belgium’s image before ordinance amendment denied
Belgium won’t be getting a fireworks store after trustees on Monday unanimously voted against an ordinance amendment necessary to allow the business to open.
At a public hearing before the Village Board meeting, about a dozen residents spoke against the idea of allowing a fireworks store, citing safety concerns and that the fire department and Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department are against the idea.
Village Board members pointed out that they didn’t like the impact a fireworks store would have on Belgium’s image, Village Clerk Julie Lesar said.
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, wanted the village to change its ordinance to allow the storage of fireworks that would be the first step in allowing him to open a fireworks store. He planned to open the store in the former cheese store at 117 S. Royal Ave.
Gill said customers at his other businesses have requested fireworks.
The village, Gill said, could charge for fireworks permits that could provide an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 in revenue the first year. As the business would grow, that amount would increase, he said.
“Belgium’s income could be growing with my fireworks store,” he said.
Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Lt. Wayne Lambrecht and Belgium Fire Chief Dan Birenbaum 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, noting 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.
Gill said he could 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.
The proposed store was 65 feet from gas pumps at the station next door, meeting state setback requirements of 50 feet. Gill had told the Plan Commission he was willing to put up another building to house the store, if the commission requested it.
Gill said he wouldn’t run the store himself. He has a prospective tenant who has 15 years of professional fireworks experience.
The commission on Feb. 27 did not vote on the ordinance amendment, but a public hearing was still scheduled according to state statutes, Lesar said.
Village ordinances do not allow for the storage of fireworks. Amending the ordinance was the first step toward a fireworks store. Gill would have had to obtain a conditional-use permit to open the store.