BENTON — Town voters rejected a fireworks ordinance that would have limited the use of the celebratory pyrotechnics to Independence Day.

More than 100 residents showed up at the special town meeting filling the Benton Town Office to capacity with a line of people stretching out the door. The meeting and subsequent vote were moved outdoors to the gazebo next to the town office.

The vote, by a show of hands, was decidedly against the ordinance with the most common complaint being it was too restrictive.

“There are some good points in the ordinance, but stopping the use year-round is foolish. We’re adults,” said Dave Lane. “This ordinance is way too extreme, and it should be voted down and looked at.”

By voting against the proposed ordinance, fireworks in Benton will be legal under state law, which means they can be used between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day of the year, except for the Fourth of July and Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, and the weekends before and after those two dates, when the time extends to 12:30 a.m. the next day.

Residents in support of the ordinance cited several issues with the use of fireworks in close proximity to their homes, including the effect the sound has on animals and those sleeping, the debris that falls after the firework is exploded and the time of night the fireworks are used, which several people said was often after 10 p.m.

“That’s all we’ve been hearing after 9 and 10 at night,” said Rose Rowe. “We’re getting tired of hearing it.”

Rhonda Ames, a resident of Neck Road who has previously voiced her opinion in favor of the ordinance, said the fireworks trouble her dog and wake her husband and son, both of whom get up early for work.

“I don’t want to see everyone punished, but it’s not fair to my family,” she said.

The ordinance calls for the restriction of fireworks to Independence Day, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. July 5, and was proposed because of an increase in complaints in June and July about fireworks, when about a dozen complaints were logged.

The ordinance states that “aerial fireworks displays shall not be ignited within 100 feet of any neighboring structure not owned by the user, and ground fireworks displays shall not be ignited within 25 feet of any neighboring structure, unless the user has gained permission from the property owner.”

Opponents of the ordinance questioned its enforceability. There is no police department, and fireworks may not be the highest priority if the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office is stretched thin.

“Fireworks are for celebration, and there are parts of this that need to be changed,” said Patricia Lanning, who is also on the Planning Board. “There are 13 complaints taking away the rights for 1,800 people.”

The views expressed by opponents and advocates of the ordinance, moderated by Benton resident Richard Lawrence, were mostly civil.

“Both sides are presenting valued arguments,” Lawrence said. “If this many people could show up to the annual Town Meeting, it’d warm our hearts.”

Selectman Antoine Morin said that he couldn’t speak for the rest of the Selectboard, but after the vote he considers the issue settled.

“The vast majority of residents wanted it to stay as is,” he said.

There are no immediate plans to revise the ordinance for another vote.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina

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