HomeNewsCar club hits the brakes in quest for new headquarters

Car club hits the brakes in quest for new headquarters

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.

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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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com

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