A third South Florida town wants ability to limit private use of fireworks on holidays

Loxahatchee Groves could join Wellington and Southwest Ranches in earning that authority.

Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite says the town of Loxahatchee Groves should earn an exemption to state law allowing them to limit private fireworks displays on major holidays.

Willhite secured a similar exemption last year for the village of Wellington, which, like Loxahatchee Groves, is in Palm Beach County.

In 2020, lawmakers made it easier for private individuals to shoot off fireworks during major holidays such as the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. That caused a problem in Wellington, which is home to a large equestrian community.

Fireworks can scare horses, possibly causing injury. Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Robert Shorr, who oversees a town that is also home to a large animal population, explained his rationale during a Thursday meeting of the Palm Beach County legislative delegation.

“When a firework goes off and a horse either sees the flash or hears the boom, they don’t know what it is. Horses are animals of habit. They have their routines. They have their environment that they’re used to. And when there’s a drastic change in that environment, they get scared,” Shorr told lawmakers.

“I have horses. We lock them up in the stalls during events like this to try to minimize the chance of them hurting themselves. And that’s what they do. When they get scared, they run and they just eventually run into something or twist something. And when a horse has damage to their legs, it’s a very, very serious situation.”

The delegation met to consider several local bills and hear from constituents Thursday. One measure they considered would be to exempt Loxahatchee from the 2020 state law increasing private individuals’ ability to shoot off fireworks. An exemption would allow Loxahatchee Groves officials to regulate those displays more stringently.

“It is a community of hardworking people that have a lot of equestrian activities, farming activities,” Willhite explained Thursday.

“They have the same interest as a bill I passed last year for the village of Wellington to put some minor restrictions on the use of fireworks in their town.”

Earlier this week, the Broward County legislative delegation considered a similar bill covering the town of Southwest Ranches, which is also home to many horse owners. Shorr says constituents would appreciate a measure giving local officials more control over fireworks displays in his town, too.

“Every year, a lot of our residents are putting pressure on us to put signs out, do everything we can as a town to inform people of the impact that fireworks have,” Shorr said. “In our town, the animals far, far, far outnumber the residents.”

The Palm Beach delegation approved the bill Thursday. Willhite said he’ll push the measure in his final House term before he attempts a move to the Palm Beach County Commission.

“We know that the equestrian industry and farming aspects of our county are so very important,” Willhite said. “Anything we can continue to do to protect them will continue to help them thrive and to support Palm Beach County.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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