On May 7, Buda City Council approved an ordinance that will allow American Fireworks to continue operating within a newly annexed area of the city for 90 days. If the ordinance is approved on second reading at council's meeting on May 21, the 90-day period will have taken effect on April 30.
An American Fireworks superstore sits near the northwest corner of Main Street and I-35 in Buda. The land was annexed into city limits April 30, and because of an ordinance banning the sale and detonation of fireworks within city limits, the business became an illegal operation as soon as it was annexed.
On April 2, American Fireworks owner Chester Davis lobbied council to grant a variance for his business, which has operated in Buda for about 20 years.
"I'd have been glad to be an ice cream salesman," Davis said. "Unfortunately I sell fireworks."
Davis said he pays $100,000 per year to lease the property on which his store sits. He is locked into the lease for three more years, meaning he will lose about $300,000 when he is forced to leave the city.
"We're not talking about a massage parlor," Davis said. "We're not talking about a strip club. We're talking about a business that operates 11 days [each year] and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build his business here and bring his home here."
At their meeting May 7, council members deliberated on whether to include an "extension" that would have made it illegal to sell fireworks within 5,000 feet of the city limits, but Councilman George Haehn said he did not feel comfortable imposing the city's will on people who could not vote in city elections.
"It seems like what every little city and town wants to do, they want to impose their will on the folks who moved out to the country to get away from the politicians and rules and regulations of the city," Haehn said. "They don't have the right to vote. They have no voice in this decision."
Council struck the extension from the ordinance and passed it 5-2, allowing Davis to stay in business through July 4. Council members Ron Fletcher and Wiley Hopkins voted "nay."
Rose Marie Shelton, a Buda resident, voiced her opposition to the amended ordinance. Shelton said approving the amended ordinance would set a precedent that could lead other businesses in newly annexed areas to lobby the council "if an ordinance didn't suit them."
Shelton said the ordinance currently on the books should remain in place.
"If we have an ordinance, then I think it should be enforced the same as we have rules to stop at red lights," Shelton said. "I don't see why we should allow this to go on if it's been annexed and the ordinance says no firework sales. It should be enforced."