April 25, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 16

Fireworks set off dispute at Mosquito Lake

Resident complaints about late-night fireworks in the Mosquito Lake Road area have troopers instituting new rules about firework use in the neighborhood.

Several residents recently complained to Haines Borough officials and troopers about fireworks exploding as late as 2 a.m., set off by area lodge owner Bruce Bauer and customers there.

Gely Diaz de Sutcliffe, who lives near Bauer’s lodge, said she and her husband complained to Bauer about the late-night noise, but Bauer has not abided by his promise to refrain from blasting off fireworks past 10 p.m. One particularly late night of fireworks activity at the end of March left her 7-year-old daughter extremely upset, Diaz de Sutcliffe said.

“She was screaming and crying because she was thinking somebody was shooting in the house, and because my husband isn’t home, she started screaming,” she said.

Diaz de Sutcliffe said she has no problem with Bauer lighting off fireworks, as long as it’s at a reasonable hour. “It only bothers me when it’s in the nighttime... I need to sleep, you know? I need to get up and take care of my kids in the morning.”

Mosquito Lake resident Debbie Stanford also said Bauer hasn’t stuck to a previous agreement to cease lighting off fireworks past 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. “He just blatantly ignores it,” Stanford said.

In an interview this week, Bauer said he negotiated an agreement last season between himself, area resident Kathy Holmes, and trooper Josh Bentz to stop fireworks activity by 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Bauer said he has consistently abided by this policy, except for one time several weeks ago during a big party when “I looked at my watch and it was 12:17 a.m.”

Bauer said he tried to be as communicative as possible with his neighbors, and has posted signs in a local mercantile store announcing nights when fireworks will be set off.

Trooper Sgt. Tim Birt traveled to Haines last week to investigate “several complaints” about fireworks being set off past midnight. Birt ultimately decided to alter the previous agreement and implement an 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. timeframe when loud activities are allowed. Violators will open themselves up to a disorderly conduct charge, Birt said.

“(The midnight weekend cut-off) may have been the case last season, but this season it’s 10 p.m. We’re getting complaints from neighbors, and if we’re getting complaints at midnight, then that’s not reasonable,” Birt said.

Bauer said he was “incensed” by Birt’s “arbitrary” decision to change the hours, and that he doesn’t know if he will abide by the new rules. “It’s either that or I face a disorderly conduct charge due to noise, and I said, ‘Maybe I’ll need to take that disorderly conduct charge in order to challenge it,’” he said.

Bauer said he has consulted with an attorney regarding his legal rights in the matter.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said several residents have contacted her asking the borough to intercede on their behalf, as troopers were not being diligent about following up on complaints or taking action. Scott said after hearing from three residents, she spoke with Trooper Lt. Rodney Dial, who said in his 23 years on the job he has never seen this kind of issue prosecuted.

The district attorney would see prosecuting such a charge as a disproportionate use of resources, Dial told Scott.

  Blasting off fireworks is not the only pastime at Bauer’s lodge generating tension with residents. Stanford said Bauer has been handing out his firearms to lodge visitors and allowing them to wander around shooting things. “He’s giving his heli-skiers guns and they’re walking up and down the road shooting,” Stanford said.

Bauer said he does let visitors borrow his guns, but they only shoot clay pigeons, not animals. Trooper Bentz and trooper Ken VanSpronsen visited Bauer recently and brought a picture Bauer had posted on his Facebook page showing a person shooting a gun while standing on the road.

  The troopers told Bauer anyone shooting a gun needed to remain off the road, Bauer said.