Supreme Court Affirms Ban of Fireworks for Newly-Annexed Business

March 26, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld previous rulings by the trial court and the Court of Appeals that a city ordinance prohibiting the sale of fireworks inside city limits did apply to businesses incorporated into the city even though the business had been selling fireworks since 2006.

In Nov. 2003, Jefferson City passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of fireworks within its city limits. Five years later, the city annexed neighboring property which included several businesses. Salvage Unlimited (SNPCO, Inc.) was one of those businesses. 

Salvage Unlimited had been selling fireworks since 2006. After annexation, it asked the city for permission to continue selling fireworks despite the ban. Jefferson City denied the request. Salvage Unlimited then sued the city basing its argument on the “Grandfather Statute” (Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-208 (b)). The statute permits businesses to continue operating after their property is rezoned, even though the particular business being conducted on the property would be prohibited by newly-enacted zoning restrictions.

The Circuit Court for Jefferson County ruled that the city’s ban on the sale of fireworks was not a zoning ordinance and therefore did not fall under the grandfather provision in the zoning laws. The Court of Appeals affirmed this decision.

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and the Court of Appeals. The Court ruled that Salvage Unlimited could not rely on the grandfather provision in the zoning laws as justification for continuing to sell fireworks within the city limits of Jefferson City.

To read the SNPCO, Inc. v. City of Jefferson City opinion authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/snpcoopn.pdf.