Car club hits the brakes in quest for new headquarters

The Secret So­ci­ety Vehicle Club needs a zon­ing vari­ance. The club's treas­urer re­cently tried to dis­pel the doubts of op­pon­ents re­luct­ant to of­fer their bless­ing.

Mem­bers of the Secret So­ci­ety Vehicle Club want to move their or­gan­iz­a­tion’s headquar­ters from Frank­ford to Brides­burg, but they need the city’s bless­ing.

The Ara­mingo Av­en­ue build­ing Secret So­ci­ety wants to use is not zoned for a club, so a zon­ing vari­ance is needed. Last year, when the club needed a vari­ance to move in­to its cur­rent digs, at 4934 Val­ley St., the Frank­ford Civic As­so­ci­ation did not op­pose the move, and the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment had no prob­lem ap­prov­ing it.

This year, however, the ques­tion is up in the air, and there was op­pos­i­tion.

The ZBA did not make a de­cision dur­ing a hear­ing on Aug. 10 when club treas­urer Chris Gulledge made his pitch for a vari­ance for 4070 Ara­mingo Ave.

Tim Sav­age, speak­ing for his broth­er, the 23rd Ward’s Demo­crat­ic lead­er, Dan Sav­age, said he had let­ters from loc­al politi­cians and a busi­ness own­er who were op­posed to the club’s plans and that there were nu­mer­ous po­lice in­cid­ent re­ports of prob­lems at the Secret So­ci­ety’s Frank­ford club­house.

All of the in­cid­ents were after 1:30 a.m., he said, and some took place up to 6:30 a.m. He said the club had been shut down be­cause it did not have a cer­ti­fic­ate of oc­cu­pancy and for over­crowding.

When zon­ing board mem­bers asked Sav­age for fur­ther de­tails about the in­cid­ents, he couldn’t an­swer, but he provided board mem­bers with cop­ies of the re­ports.

Gulledge said the club is get­ting blamed for prob­lems com­ing from a nuis­ance bar near Secret So­ci­ety’s cur­rent club­house, but he ad­ded that there are no res­id­ences near the Ara­mingo Av­en­ue build­ing the club wants to use. Be­sides, he said, the club needs to build bet­ter bath­rooms and can do that at the new room­i­er site.

An­swer­ing ques­tions from zon­ing board mem­bers, Gulledge said Secret So­ci­ety is a club for people in­ter­ested in all kinds of vehicles. It does char­it­able work and spon­sors neigh­bor­hood events but is not a re­gistered non-profit and it is not in­cor­por­ated. He said the build­ing would be used for meet­ings of the club’s 43 mem­bers.

“We do have parties,” he said, but they are for mem­bers, guests and pro­spect­ive mem­bers.

Bill Gam­brel of the Frank­ford Char­gers; Kim­berly Wash­ing­ton, co­ordin­at­or for North­east EPIC Stake­hold­ers and pres­id­ent of the Frank­ford Parks Group; and Jason Dawkins, an aide to City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones-Sanc­hez (D-7th dist.) were at the hear­ing to sup­port Secret So­ci­ety’s vari­ance re­quest.

A re­port from the plan­ning board was read at the Aug. 10 hear­ing. Plan­ners said they do not sup­port the vari­ance, but felt that if it were gran­ted, it would be with the pro­vis­os that no vehicles would be parked on the side­walks and there should be no ban­quet rent­als. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or 

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