Routt County halts construction on the world’s largest firework pending permit
September 26, 2018
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. Thursday to correct the time at which Borden’s special use permit will go before the county commissioners. Borden’s hearing is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It turns out that you need a special use permit to build the world's largest aerial firework in Routt County.
Steamboat Springs fireworks fanatic Tim Borden was frustrated to learn that the county was requiring him to apply for a special use permit to build the firework on his property.
Borden intends to donate the firework to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to be fired off at Winter Carnival in February. He estimated in June that the shell would be 2,400 pounds, the heaviest firework in existence. Representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records will verify the firework's weight before it is fired.
If you go
What: Planning hearing at Routt County Board of County Commissioners meeting
When: 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2
Where: Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.
Borden has been donating pyrotechnics to the city and the Winter Sports Club for Independence Day and Winter Carnival fireworks shows for 18 years.
For the last five years, he's built mega-fireworks, and each year, the fireworks grow larger. He said in a planning commission hearing that he and his team use data collected from each firework launch to build a bigger shell.
Construction of the firework starts with a rubber exercise ball. A proprietary machine then wraps the ball in explosives to create the firework shell.
Work on the firework has ceased as Borden works to obtain his permit. As of last week, the exercise ball was still just an exercise ball wrapped in brown packaging paper.
"I'm pretty frustrated that I have to go through the process," he said. "I had to file a 22-page application, and I've now got at least $3,000 in requirements that have been made of me, including my attorney fees."
These costs include upgrades to the shop on his property off Routt County Road 129.
The monetary cost also doesn't factor in the time Borden has spent rallying support for his project. His application included 10 letters of support. Among them were letters signed by adjacent property owners as well as Billy Kidd, Jim and Nancy Spillane and executives from Yampa Valley Bank, the Winter Sports Club and the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., among others. He'll also have to modify his insurance policy to include the county.
"I am going to go through with it; however, I am very frustrated that somebody in this town, with no complaints whatsoever from any neighbors, is required to go through this process when I'm donating one firework a year to the Steamboat Winter Sports Club for firing," Borden said.
Borden holds up-to-date permits and licenses to build, store and operate the firework from the Colorado Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.
County Planning Director Chad Phillips said the permit is required because manufacturing fireworks doesn't qualify as an accessory use for a home. The county's standard requires that accessory uses are "customary and commonly" associated with use by right. In Borden's case, this applies to his home.
"We really couldn't say that manufacturing fireworks — especially the biggest one ever set off on the planet earth — is customary and commonly associated with a house," he said.
The special use permit will list the sheds where Borden constructs and stores his fireworks as a home industry.
Borden's not pleased about this, particularly because he's not interested in any commercial use of his fireworks. Most of the people who help him build the firework are volunteers, save for one paid pyrotechnic expert, and they're building a shell that will be donated to a community event.
The actual process of making the firework only occurs for about two to five weeks, according to Borden's permit application.
"At the end of the day, yeah, it's a firework manufacturing facility," Phillips said. “It won't be used that much throughout the year, but just the nature of that type of use. … The only place that it would fit because it is manufacturing — whether it's for commercial sale or not, it is manufacturing of a good — and that would be home industry."
Phillips said county planning staff members were glad they could find a land use category for Borden's work. If it didn't fit in a category, the county couldn't issue him a permit to allow the firework to move forward at all.
The planning commission approved the permit with some conditions. The permit, if approved, would require Borden not to manufacture or store fireworks for commercial use. The fireworks must be stored indoors, and all activity, save for transport, training and "baking" the firework, must be completed inside. Borden and his team can only work on the firework between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
After one neighbor noted concerns in public comment that another neighbor's horses were injured when Borden launched some fireworks in celebration of his daughter's graduation years ago, planning commissioners added a stipulation that Borden must notify neighbors before testing or shooting off fireworks on the property.
Borden's permit will go before the Routt County Commissioners for final approval at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2.