Motorcycle Club Looks to Future After Court Cancels Party (video)

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A Muscatine County motorcycle club is looking to make changes and try to host other events in the future after a judge granted a preliminary injunction canceling a fundraising party that was going to be held this coming weekend.

The Eastern Iowa chapter of the motorcycle club Sons of Silence had posted flyers all over town inviting community members, other club members, neighbors and friends to a three-day party with live music, motorcycle rodeo events, primitive camping, and food and drinks available on sight.

They had lined up performers, vendors, and porta-potty rentals, and thought they were ready to go, until they received notice of an injunction, later upheld by the judge, ordering them to cancel the plans.

"We thought for sure the judge was going to throw it out, but he didn't," said Ed Zeman, Vice President of the Eastern Iowa Sons of Silence, who owns the property where the party was set to be held.

At issue, according to the court ruling, is the zoning for that land - a residential plot that is the site of the Sons of Silence club house and the commercially-zoned plot immediately next door.

Zeman says he was shocked to find out that the county had an issue with the party plans.

"I don't think it's right. I think I should be able to do what I want as long as i'm not hurting anybody, breaking any laws, I don't see the problem with it," he said.

But, the judge agreed with Muscatine County Alan Ostergren's assessment that what Zeman and his club wanted to do on that property was against the law.

"The zoning permitted uses of those properties was not consistent with having a large rally of the kind that was being planned," Ostergren explained.

"The individuals who were planning it had not really done anything to try to get into compliance with the zoning laws," he added.

For his part, Zeman says he didn't know he needed to do anything. The club had held parties on the property in the past, without permits and without problems.

"There's no reason to think that they were in compliance previously," Ostergren pointed out.

Still, Zeman says he feels like the club is being unfairly targeted now because of the organization's history.

The Sons of Silence, on the national level, has labeled itself a 1% club - an outlaw group - setting itself apart from the 99% of motorcycle clubs that are law abiding social organizations.

But Zeman says, a few bad apples in any group and past criminal activity among some members of the Sons of Silence does not reflect his organization now.

"Because I'm not a monster, I'm not a criminal," he said.

"Things have changed. Our club has realized that in order to exist we have to change with the times," he added.

But Ostergren is clear: The problem is with the land use, not with the group.

"It's not a question of whether or not motorcycles are good or bad, or whether the Sons of Silence are an outlaw motorcycle gang or something positive. That's not something the court was asked to determine," he said. "The question is you have this property in a residential area and that's not an appropriate use for the property where it's located."

"We have a zoning enforcement issue that we're pursuing against a bible camp in Muscatine County," he added.

And in this case, Ostergren says he was asked to look into the zoning rules for Zeman's property by the Sheriff's office, which was concerned about traffic and safety issues from so many people camping out on that property.

"If they want to find a different location or get a permit that would allow it, then it could go forward," Ostergren said.

Zeman says it's too late to appeal the judge's ruling on this weekend's plan, but he says his club will take the steps it needs to - like seeking special use permits and zoning changes - to have other parties on the property in the future.

"We respect the judge and his ruling and we're going to try to do the best we can," Zeman said.

"We'll work with them in the future if they want to work with us, just like we'd work with any property owner," Ostergren said.

Ostergren says the club's neighbors had complained about the noise and road congestion from previous events held by the Sons of Silence on Zeman's property.

The club says it's happy to work with its neighbors to find a solution, and points out that many have attended parties there in the past.

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