Dover neighbors say Kirkwood Elks Lodge must go

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Carmen Hardcastle of Dover casts her vote on the fate of the Elks Lodge on Kirkwood Street Tuesday evening inside the Solid Rock Community Outreach Center in Dover. (Delaware State News photos/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — It’s time for a change.

Eighteen neighbors of the Elks Lodge at 217 N. Kirkwood St., voted Tuesday evening for removing the establishment; seven voted against any action in an informal referendum held at Solid Rock Baptist Church Community Center.

Eligible voters were residents who lived on Kirkwood, Cecil, West, Fulton and Queen streets.

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr., (4th Dist.) orchestrated the residential vote in a response to residents’ concerns about the perception of violence around the Elks Lodge property.

Mr. Sudler said he plans to take action on removing the establishment from the Kirkwood community.

He said he was pleased with the voters’ turnout.

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Pilar Figeroa of Dover, right, assists resident Dave McClain as he votes Tuesday evening inside Solid Rock Community Outreach Center on the fate of the Elks Lodge on Kirkwood Street.

“Especially for it being a Tuesday, and I feel as though everyone that was truly interested in this process came out and did their part,” he said.

Brothers William and Barry Crawford, who have lived in the community for more than 40 years, share Mr. Sudler’s sentiment.

“My brother lives right across the street from (the Elks Lodge),” William Crawford said. “We hear gunshots and everything you can think of. We want it go. It’s been in the neighborhood for too long.

“We’re talking about a neighborhood. It should be out away from the people. It’s in a neighborhood where elderly people live. We constantly hear gunshots and that’s not good.”

In an interview Monday, Willie Alexander, who holds the title of exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge, believes the establishment is being treated unfairly.

“I think he’s (Roy Sudler Jr.) putting the cart before the horse,” Mr. Alexander said. “I don’t think we’re getting a fair chance.

“Nothing has happened inside of the establishment, but stuff does happen once we’re closed,” he said.

The establishment is open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the weekends, with varying hours on weekdays.

Barry Crawford said people loiter outside the parking lot behind the building once the Elks closes.

“They just hang out there, or just on the streets in front of the building,” he added. “People trespass and do the same next to my house, too.

“We find trash everywhere. It’s a lost generation that’s down there. They’re listening to the wrong voice.”

Councilman David Anderson (4th Dist.) believes the Elks need to have better control of what’s happening around their property.

“We had a community meeting in July where the Elks said they were going to hire police officers or some type of security for their establishment when they close,” Mr. Anderson said.

“That hasn’t happened yet. The people are really concerned and that seems to be evident with the votes.”

“I don’t think the problem is the Elks, but they have to get control of what’s happening around their property once they close,” Mr. Anderson added.

“We’ll have to probably get a petition and then we will look at all of the safety issues and concerns regarding the dwelling being safe or unsafe in the Kirkwood community,” Mr. Sudler said.

“We have to see what the ordinances say about that moving forward.”

He said he has been in talks with NCALL and Habitat for Humanity to potentially buy out the property and turn the building into a home.”

NCALL is a nonprofit organization based in Dover that specializes in affordable housing development, education and lending.

Mr. Sudler said he anticipates the Elks to be resistant about a potential change moving forward, but hopes to resolve the issue the best way he can.

“I expect them to feel some type of way,” Mr. Sudler said. “But the people have spoken and majority rules. I’m going to try and reach out to them. This is a top priority for the Kirkwood Community.”

“This has been an ongoing problem. It’s not something that I tried to take up as a newly elected official, but something that my constituents have decided to put on my plate as a top priority.”

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