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Murrells Inlet: Fireworks foes await their day in court

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Trials for two employees of Zambelli Fireworks accused of violating the county noise ordinance have been postponed until Sept. 18 because their lawyer did not have time to familiarize himself with their case.

Attorney Scott Joye told Judge John Benso in Georgetown County Magistrate Court Thursday that he had been hired to defend Zambelli employees Kenneth Dean Roberts, 44, of Aynor and John Reese Tyler, 53, of Conway, just hours before their cases were due for trial. Zambelli was hired by the Marsh Walk Group – restaurants Wicked Tuna, Dead Dog Saloon, Creek Ratz, Dave’s Dockside, Drunken Jacks, Wahoo Fish House and Bovines – for 10 fireworks shows this summer. The final show of the Monday Night Lights series is scheduled Monday at 9 p.m.

Benso said people of Murrells Inlet were expecting something to happen in court but postponed the trials until Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. “As much as I’d like to provide some resolution,” Benso said, “the defendants are entitled to representation.”

Benso asked if there was any objection to his hearing the case in light of the fact he served on the board of directors of Murrells Inlet 2020 for three years, resigning in 2011. “In my mind there is some connection,” he said. “I invite argument based on that disclosure if anyone feels my impartiality might be in question.”

Joye said he knows and trusts Benso. No one objected to his hearing the case, including the sheriff’s deputies who issued the citations, Cory Pagano and Christopher Reid.

Inlet residents Emily Weinreich, Sandra Bundy and Leon Rice made the first complaint Aug. 4. Gary Weinreich made the second complaint Aug. 11, claiming the noise was disturbing a meeting of the community group Murrells Inlet 2020 convened to discuss the fireworks.

“We have been advised that the noise complaint is the best and perhaps only avenue to help put an end to these shows,” Rice said in an e-mail to community residents who expressed opposition to the fireworks shows on the basis they disturbed the peace, disrupted the natural habitat of nesting shorebirds and left chemical residue and litter in the creek.

Reid’s report from the Aug. 11 fireworks show says Tyler informed him that he had a permit from the county to shoot the fireworks and it covered the noise ordinance violation.

Rice said the county’s ordinance protects the peace and quiet of anyone from noise which causes “discomfort or annoyance to any person in an unincorporated area of the county.” He said residents from three miles away have said the fireworks woke up sleeping children and frightened pets.

“While we have no objection to the fireworks on the Fourth of July,” Rice said, “the weekly fireworks are clearly preventing the quiet enjoyment of property for many Murrells Inlet residents. The purpose of the Monday fireworks is to increase business for the Marsh Walk restaurants. Ask yourselves, what is to stop future fireworks on other nights of the week or by other sponsors throughout the inlet wishing to increase their business?”

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