HOWELL – Following a brief presentation by attorney Timothy Middleton, the Zoning Board voted unanimously to make a formal recommendation that would allow Keystone Novelties Distributors, LLC to construct a temporary location for the sale of fireworks in the township.
For the last four years, residents of Howell Township have grown accustomed to the return of the pop-up fireworks retailer outside the Howell Lanes bowling alley shortly before the July 4 holiday, but the retailer will no longer be selling from that location. The resolution passed by the Board will now go to the governing body for the permit to get its final approval.
The new location for the store will be 2400 U.S. Highway 9 and will consist of a temporary structure set up directly in the parking lot. Located in the Howell Center shopping plaza, it will occupy eight parking spaces adjacent to the highway and will sell sparkling devices and novelties in accordance with New Jersey State law.
Appearing before the Board, Middleton relied solely on the testimony of John May, who serves as the managing director for the applicant. Given that this is a temporary use permit that the township has seen before, May gave a brief overview of the company and its operation, which satisfied most of the Board’s questions before they could even be asked.
According to May, the company has been in business for 20 years and operates in 10 states from Canada to North Carolina. Of the 400 locations where it sells state-approved fireworks, 40 of them are in New Jersey.
The hours of operation for the temporary business would be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but would extend its sales hours to 10 p.m. as the date draws closer to Independence Day. Electricity to the location will be provided by a portable generator, and a temporary sanitary toilet will be located at the site for use by employees and the public.
Because of the highly volatile nature of fireworks, May testified before the Board that conveyance of the stock to the retailer would be done by a third-party delivery company that has “hazmat certification,” and on the date the location opens, the town’s Fire Marshall would be on-site to make a safety inspection.
“There will be physical presence twenty-four hours,” May informed the Board regarding site security. “Some of our locations, we will lock the product away at night as an alternative to twenty-four-hour security. We have found that on-site presence is just a little bit more effective. The operator is obligated to have either themselves or an assistant on site at all times. And our manager is there to ensure that twenty-four-hour presence is adhered to.”
At its old location at the Howell Lanes, Keystone Novelties had obtained a two-year permit that it subsequently renewed, but the company made the decision to move further south along the U.S. 9 corridor for the 2022 season. As with the past approvals granted by the township, the new permit would be valid for two years, meaning that the pop-up store will return to the Howell Center location in 2023.
Following its expected approval by the township, the location should be up and running by mid-June, allowing for approximately two weeks of sales ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend.