By Richard L. Gaw
Stating that Kennett Township zoning laws were not met, the Kennett Township Zoning Hearing Board, by a vote of three to zero, denied Joel Samick's request for a special exception to operate his RetroTours motorcycle touring company out of his Kennett Township home.
Voting to deny the request at a Dec. 10 decisional hearing were Zoning Hearing Board members Neil Land, Chris Marson and Robert Perrone.
Since moving to the township seven years ago, Samick has owned, maintained and operated 25 vintage, two-cylinder motorcycles dating back to the 1970s. Each year, Samick schedules about ten tours – averaging about six riders per tour – that go to places like West Virginia, the Susquehanna River, Central Pennsylvania and Hot Springs, Va.
Some of Samick's neighbors have voiced their objections to his business on the grounds that the rumble of motorcycle engines disrupts the quiet setting that first drew them to the township. Besides that, they say, RetroTours violates the township's strict zoning codes, the provisions of which do not permit such a business in a R-2 zone.
Their ire reached a fever pitch on June 1, when Samick hosted a Local Loop, which gives riders the opportunity to tool around Chester County and beyond in 5-, 15-, 30- and 60-mile loops. Much of the neighbors' frustration and opposition to Samick's business was aired at a Nov. 19 preliminary hearing, held at the township building.
Stating that he reviewed Samick's application from the viewpoint of “the facts and the law,” Land said that he examined the case by examining the history of the business, the details of the RetroTours operation, the location of the applicant's property, and the complaints of his neighbors that were entered into evidence during the preliminary hearing.
Focusing on the township's provisions regarding businesses, Land said in that to be granted zoning relief in order to run a business out of the home, an applicant needs to satisfy all the criteria set forth in the township's laws – specifically, Ordinance Z1918-C, which sets criteria for home occupations; and Ordinance Z2307, which sets forth the requirements for a special exception.
The board also weighed the validity of certain legal caveats in township codes in making their decision, including the township's zoning ordinance 501.B, which permits business activities in the R-2 residential district, so long as they comply with township requirements; Section 1901B, which speaks to what ancillary or accessory activities are permitted in the township; and Section 1918 of the township code, which serves as a litmus test that measures whether or not a business is considered “no impact” or “impact.”
After the decision was rendered, Samick said he was guardedly optimistic coming into the hearing, but said he was not terribly surprised at the final vote. He said he is considering the possibility of appealing the decision.
“I might appeal, just so that I can see the exact criteria they felt I didn't meet,” he said. “I really haven't planned on anything beyond this point.”