Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 8, 2020

VT Supreme Court Finds Sale of Fireworks to Public from Retail Store was Not Authorized

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

In May 2018, Green Mountain Fireworks, LLC and its sole owner Matthew Lavigne began selling fireworks from a retail store in Colchester, Vermont. The “intended purpose” for the store was “to sell retail fireworks to consumers.” Appellants obtained a license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a “Type 53 – Dealer of Explosives,” and a building permit and a certificate of occupancy from the Town Zoning Administrator. By letter, the Town Manager advised appellants that the Town intended to seize the fireworks and seek criminal charges against Matthew Lavigne. In response to this information, appellants filed a complaint with the superior court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The selectboard denied appellants’ application and granted the Town’s motions to dismiss – holding that appellants’ zoning permits did not authorize them to sell fireworks under 20 V.S.A. § 3132(a)(1).

The record reflected that appellants expressly sold fireworks “to the public” as consumer fireworks retail store (“CFRS”), rather than to “people who get permits for the big permitted displays of fireworks.” Moreover, Mr. Lavigne testified before the Town selectboard that he did not verify whether his customers had a display permit before selling them fireworks from his store. Pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 3132(a)(1), however, after display permit have been granted, sales of fireworks “for the display” shall be lawful for that purpose only. Here, appellants did not seek a declaratory judgment or permit that would authorize them to operate as a dealer of display fireworks under the statute. Moreover, there was no available permit to operate a CFRS facility, as the only fireworks sales permit available under Vermont law would be a permit to sell fireworks for permitted, public displays. Accordingly, the court held that the trial court did not err in ruling in the Town’s favor in the Rule 75 appeal and the declaratory-judgment action.

Green Mountain Fireworks, LLC v Town of Colchester, 2020 WL 4556800 (VT 8/7/2020)

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