A recent fireworks show could spark policy changes
After Kai Bolger crawled into bed at around 9:15 p.m. on a recent Tuesday, an unexpected series of thunder-like booms woke her up about 30 minutes later.
"I know what the avalanche cannons sound like in the morning, but this was at night and I had no idea what it was," Bolger said, adding that she was unable to fall back asleep until well after 10 p.m.
The Park Meadows resident later learned that the noises she heard were from a nearby fireworks display. The display concluded a private event hosted at Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort on Tuesday, May 17. The 13-minute show was accompanied by music and held near the Grand Summit Hotel.
The fireworks display has since sparked inquiries from several residents in the Snyderville Basin and Park City. They have complained about the disturbance and questioned whether the show was permitted. Most of the comments concern the lack of notification to surrounding neighborhoods and agencies, including the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department.
"There are two issues at hand here: the integrity of the process for granting permits for things here that are affecting the public and the extent to which government agencies are responsive to business interests," Bolger said.
Casey Vorwaller, a public information officer with the Park City Fire District, said the organizers of the event obtained the necessary permits through the fire district, emphasizing that a stringent application process preceded approval.
"We make sure they are a licensed pyrotechnic through the state of Utah, the area where the event is held has an adequate and safe fallout zone and we even check the fireworks they will use, what size and the duration of the show," Vorwaller said. "And then I am on scene for the actual show."
Depending on where the venue is, notification about the event falls on the responsibility of the organizers, he said.
Margo Van Ness, a senior manager of communications at Park City Mountain Resort, said in an email statement to The Park Record "we work with all of our groups and conferences to ensure they secure any and all necessary permits or approvals, and encourage them to communicate to our neighbors the event logistics."
After the backlash from surrounding residents and government agencies that weren’t informed prior to the event, Vorwaller said a change to the district’s notification policies will likely ensue.
"They (organizers) contacted the association there, but homeowners are not part of that," Vorwaller said. "But after this one we realized even though they did that, it didn’t get out to everyone that would be affected. If it is a public show that information gets out already. But where it is a private event, we haven’t, in the past, notified the media, public and surrounding agencies.
"And that is where it fell through the cracks," he said. "We should have reached out further than just that group."
Travis English, Summit County’s coordinator for special events, said while every event has to obey the county’s noise ordinances, fireworks displays do not necessitate a permit from the county.
"They didn’t have to go through us because they were approved through the fire district," English said. "Going forward, though, I think we are working on updating a lot of our code regarding special events, including firework shows."
Bolger said the incident highlighted a broader conversation that should be taking place about "who is running this town."
"The fact that there was this miscommunication over something this large should be addressed," Bolger said. "People have admitted mistakes were made, but now we need to ask if there is any way we can prevent this from happening in the future?"
Bolger said people should have more input about events that could affect the community at large. However, she added that she is not "trying to control the process."
"If you don’t tell them anything they complain," Bolger said. "I believe local officials do care about the community, but individuals get caught up dealing with some big shot at the Canyons and for whatever reason they exercise poor judgment. I think there needs to be a balance with these events, but there is no balance when the community doesn’t have any input or notification.
"When something goes boom at a quarter to 10 at night, that shouldn’t happen with no one knowing what is going on," Bolger said.