Planning & Zoning suggests planning process for Fourth of July Fireworks
After a string of miscommunication and literal misfires surrounding this year’s Fourth of July celebration at Darien High School, the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission is wondering if the process for the town’s fireworks needs to be formalized in the future.
Members of the Fireworks Committee and the Board of Selectmen arrived at the high school on July 1, the originally scheduled day of the event, to find that a three to four foot trench had been dug in front of the stands at the high school stadium, blocking access from the public. The trench had been dug earlier in the week as a part of the field lights installation project at the stadium. While the fireworks were postponed until July 2 due to weather, the Fireworks Committee had not been informed about the trench prior to the weekend.
During the course of the fireworks show on Sunday night, flammable materials from the fireworks burned through a double-lined tarp at the high school’s east stadium causing damage to the field’s turf. While the cost of the damage has not fully been estimated, the turf installation was completed in 2016 and cost approximately $1.75 million. Funds for the turf fields at DHS were contributed by the Darien Athletic Foundation.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson contacted P&Z Chairman John Sini when the trench was first discovered and he stated that the Board of Education should be responsible for the maintenance and care of the school facility. During a meeting on Tuesday night Sini also questioned the planning of the fireworks show itself considering that the tarp used was purchasable from Home Depot and that some of the debris from the fireworks show has still not been cleaned up from the field area.
He suggested that the Planning & Zoning Commission could implement a special permit process for the fireworks committee and Board of Education to submit a formal plan for the event each year. He compared the process to that of the Darien Community Association or Grove Street Plaza as special permits are also required when those groups hold public events.
Given that the fireworks show is a much larger event than either of those, Sini said that a permit process may not be too demanding. Commissioner Stephen Olvany also suggested that having a public record of traffic management at the high school could help the town plan for future events at the stadium, like football games under the lights.
At minimum, the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended that a process be put in place to ensure that the fireworks committee, Board of Education and other town officials have a proper plan and communication. Though members of the Board of Education were present at Tuesday night’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, they did not offer any comment. Members of the fireworks committee, which was co-chaired by Shannon Keefe, Stacey Tié and Selectman Susan Marks were not present for the discussion.
While thanking the fireworks committee for their contributions this year, Stevenson put out a request for new volunteers for both the Fireworks and Memorial Day Parade Committees.