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Chester County Press

Easy riders no more?

09/25/2013 03:31PM ● By Acl

For the last seven years, Joel Samick has operated a vintage motorcycle touring business called Retro Tours out of his home on Foxfell Road in Kennett Township.

The word "business," when applied to the nature of the operation, is a loose affiliation at best; it's more an extension of the lifelong love Samick has for the motorcycle. The 25 vintage bikes he has parked in his garage - all meticulously cared for and maintained by Samick himself - are taken out on the road by Samick and enthusiasts just like him, who experience the thrill of riding down a country road above the hum of a machine.

If it is the grease-and-gear complexity that has drawn Samick to the motorcycle, and the thrill of the destination aboard a 1970 Triumph that engages his soul, then it is his ownership of RetroTours that serves as the manifestation of that love shared with others like him. He has 10 tours scheduled for 2013, and on each tour, he averages about six riders. He charges them $75 a day, most of which is funneled right into the repair and maintenance of the motorcycles.

On June 1 of this year, Samick messed up. He agreed to allow his guests to conduct a repeated series of five-mile tours through the township, stopping only to change bikes in his driveway. The resulting sound, very rightly, angered some of his neighbors. He readily accepts full blame for his mistake, and has vowed to eliminate the option from his tour schedule.

Lately, it has been the loud outcry from a few people in the township who now threaten to shut Samick's dream down. They've ratted on Samick to the township, brazenly making the claim that they have a right to privacy, to be able to live in their country mansions completely devoid of  interference, and they view Samick and his riding buddies as nothing more than an invasion of sound, one that threatens to pop their perfect bubble.

To that end, Samick is now the target of the governance of Kennett Township, who have asked him to apply for a variance for his business, as well as plead his case before the Zoning Hearing Board. In a letter to Samick, the township has determined that RetroTours is considered an "impact business," and therefore subject to township laws, which would place severe restrictions on Samick.

In some ways, this citizen's brigade calls to mind the recent legislation in the township - spurred on by residents' concerns - that placed restrictions on the shooting of firearms within township borders. For this passage, the township is to be applauded for their cooperative efforts in working with its citizens in helping to protect them. Yet, in other ways, to compare this action to the township's potential for shutting down RetroTours as a business, is to compare the sun with the moon.  Very simply, the potential for excessive sound from six to 12 vintage motorcycles, heard in their highest throttle for a total of five minutes in one day - for no more than 10 days a year - poses absolutely no danger. 

The hearings, paperwork, filing, posting and other legal ballyhoo that this issue is anticipated to cause can be completely avoided, through a simple means of checks and balances. Samick should be granted a waiver to operate his business, as long as he be required to inform his neighbors, well in advance, of all RetroTour outings, and that he place strict guidelines on his guests that regulate the use of excessive noise for his outings, which begin and end in his Kennett Township neighborhood; and, most importantly, that he discontinue the practice of local tours that use his driveway as a spot for riders to change motorcycles.     

Imagine -- a solution to a complaint in Kennett Township, solved through compromises and handshakes. We can only hope. Right now, this action by the township is a frivolous waste of time, meant for no other reason than to appease the voices of a very few.

Listen very closely to Kennett Township, and you can almost hear the knees of its governance, and they are jerking.