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Dorney Park looks to create summer-long fireworks show

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: May 15 2013 10:46:23 PM CDT
SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

Next to mom, apple pie and baseball the Fourth of July fireworks show at Dorney Park is about as Americana as you can get. But the park’s plan to set off fireworks every night during the summer is not yet in a state of independence.

Entitled “Summer Nights of Celebration” the park is set to provide a seven-minute nightly firework show from June 29th through August 25th but during Wednesday night’s South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners’ meeting, legal counsel for the park noted that could be in jeopardy as a zoning permit is required to put on the show and a scheduling conflict could curtail them from receiving approval for the show in time for the first night.

The park is now required to go before the township’s zoning hearing board on June 26th to receive approval for the nightly shows.

“We did not try to sneak this in, we just did not think that zoning relief (for the shows) was required,” said Joseph Bubba, of the firm Fitzpatrick, Lentz and Bubba, representing Dorney Park.

Bubba added that he had met with Township Manager Jon Hammer and Township Solicitor Joseph Zator on Wednesday morning to discuss the process and the parties thought it would be prudent to have Bubba go before the township commissioners to explain what was transpiring.

“We thought it would be a good idea if we publically stated why this is all happening so you don’t think anything is being done in some sort of mischevious way,” Bubba told commissioners. “We just didn’t know a permit was necessary."

Bubba noted that there was nothing in the township’s ordinance that states that fireworks is a use that must be approved by the zoning hearing board. However there is a section that indicates that the storage of fireworks is covered by a provision in the zoning ordinance. Another provision deals with noise, fumes, and dust and that it cannot emanate from the park.

“As you know we’ve always done it on the holidays and we never sought zoning approval,” Bubba said. “But because this is a daily show they (the township) wants us to go before the zoning hearing board.”

The typical duration of the holiday fireworks performances at the park are 25 to 30 minutes.

“They are grandfathered (for the holiday shows)," said Hammer. “They are not grandfathered for the ones they do on a nightly basis.”

The board instructed the township to aid and abet the timetable for Dorney Park to perhaps get on the agenda for an earlier hearing toward the beginning of June.

In other business Wednesday night, the board approved the preliminary and final subdivision plans for Jordan Lutheran Church in Orefield.

Commissioners also approved a request for a land development waiver for a convenience store located at 741 N. Cedar Crest Blvd., off a Route 22 exit. The new owner, Smeha, LLC, sought zoning relief to build on an additional 8 by 10 foot kitchen to fry chicken, his attorney Eric Schock indicated. The store is currently vacant.