A group of Hilton Head Island residents has renewed a push to ride fuel-efficient motorized scooters and motorcycles into a gated community where they're banned.
Citing high gasoline prices, they tried Thursday to persuade Palmetto Hall's board of directors to embrace the more fuel-friendly vehicles.
"For the last four years, I've been trying to get the board to listen to logic and allow a group of residents to use a more fuel-efficient means of transportation for commuting and recreation," Palmetto Hall resident Louis Bell said.
Bell bought his house about 10 years ago, unaware of the community's restrictions. He owns a Suzuki SV650 that he has to keep in a storage unit outside the plantation.
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The bike gets about 60 miles per gallon, he said.
The plantation, located off Beach City Road, doesn't allow motorcycles or similar bikes without prior written permission, and for no more than 24 hours.
Bell and fellow Palmetto Hall residents Todd Rhine and Philip Capossela propose routine, but limited use of the vehicles in the community.
But a group of other residents is pushing back. They say the cycles are too loud and will disrupt the community's tranquility."There is uniform concern from a large group about noise," Palmetto Hall board member Mike Danoff said. "There's also some subjective feeling that allowing motorcycles would invite a rowdy group of people" that would tarnish the community's image and diminish quality of life.
Gas prices dipped slightly last week, but the national average hovered around $3.84 a gallon. And the motorcycle industry has responded during the past four to five years with a growing variety of models with small, frugal engines, according to The Wall Street Journal and local motorcycle dealers.
Some models with a 250 cubic-centimeter engine or smaller offer about 50 miles per gallon or better, according to TotalMotorcycle.com.
Under the proposal from Bell and others, the vehicles must have original exhaust systems and pass an inspection, including a noise test, before allowed a gate pass.
"I don't understand why a responsible person with a motorcycle with an EPA-approved muffler can't use it," Bell said. "It's fairly quiet. We're not talking about loud motorcycles with no muffler."
Motorcycles, motor scooters and mo-peds would also be limited to use by full-time property owners. Guests and children could not use them. Travel would be restricted to between one's house and the front gate.
The vehicles would have to be kept in a garage or backyard. Riders would also have to post a $100 refundable bond that's forfeited should plantation security determine they caused excessive noise or otherwise violated the policy.
The board of directors said in a quarterly newsletter it felt the proposal was reasonable, "while still maintaining the ambiance we enjoy."
"I think it's a responsible approach that deals with a lot of the issues people are concerned with," board president Bob Gentzler said. "We're hoping it doesn't require a lot of policing on our part, and people use good judgment."
Several Hilton Head communities allow the vehicles, with restrictions. They include Wexford Plantation, Long Cove Club, Shipyard Plantation, Port Royal Plantation, Windmill Harbour, Rose Hill Plantation, Hampton Hall Plantation, Westbury Park, Berkeley Hall, Palmetto Bluff, Oldfield and Sun City Hilton Head, according to the Palmetto Hall owners association.
Hilton Head Plantation allows mo-peds, but not motorcycles. Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes prohibit motorcycles, mo-peds and similar motorized vehicles.
Gentzler said the Palmetto Hall board will consider the feedback received Thursday before voting May 18 on the proposal.
It will be the second time the community has considered changing the rules on motorcycles and scooters. In 2008, when gasoline prices were around $4 a gallon, a group tried unsuccessfully to get the rules relaxed.