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Fox Club Received Eviction Notice From Landlord Over Noise Complaints, Zoning Code Violations

Amid renovations to their clubhouse on John F. Kennedy St., the Fox temorarily relocated to a rented property at 6 Francis Ave.
Amid renovations to their clubhouse on John F. Kennedy St., the Fox temorarily relocated to a rented property at 6 Francis Ave. By Emily L. Ding
By Avani B. Rai, Crimson Staff Writer

The Fox Club, a Harvard final club, moved out of a temporary home in a Cambridge residential neighborhood after the owner of the property served the organization with an eviction notice following warnings from the city that their use of the space violated local ordinances.

The eviction notice, served on behalf of homeowner Emma C. Wolbach on April 24, cited several breaches of the Fox’s lease agreement and followed the assessment of fines to Wolbach for repeated violations of zoning regulations.

Alan D. Rose, a lawyer for the Fox, wrote in a Friday statement that the club “voluntarily moved out” of the residence “prior to the expiration of its lease” on May 31.

It was unclear whether the eviction was executed, or whether Wolbach, a 77-year-old Florida resident, came to a separate agreement with the club to vacate the property at 6 Francis Ave.

The eviction notice sent to the Fox stated that the club had committed “numerous municipal violations” and used “the premises in unlawful, improper, noisy and offensive ways.” Wolbach asked the Fox to vacate the premises on or before May 25.

Wolbach’s lawyer declined to comment, citing pending matters before the city.

The Fox moved into the residence in January while its clubhouse on 44 John F. Kennedy St. underwent renovations. Rose declined to comment on the current state of the renovations.

The club’s move follows months of disputes between the Fox and the city of Cambridge, brought on by local resident complaints that the club caused noise disturbances until 1:30 a.m. and served alcohol to minors at the residence.

In response to the complaints, the city’s Building Commissioner, Peter McLaughlin, issued cease and desist orders to both Wolbach and Fox Club steward Kevin J. Wallace ’73, demanding that the club leave the neighborhood “immediately” for violating Cambridge zoning codes.

The rented home is located in a Residence A-2 zoning district which forbids the use of the property as a “club, lodge or other fraternal or sororal meeting facility.”

In letters mailed on March 25 and 26 to Wolbach and the Fox respectively, McLaughlin warned that failure to comply with the order could have further repercussions “including court action and/or fines up to $300 per day.” Between April 11 and April 24, the city issued two “Violation Notices” including assessments of fines for the continued violations to Wolbach.

Both Wolbach and the Fox are set to separately appeal their violations during a Board of Zoning Appeal meeting on June 20.

In an appeal letter, Wolbach’s attorney Bailey Buchanan asked the city to reverse any assessment of fines, writing that the Fox “explicitly agreed” to a lease that prohibited any use of the property that was “unlawful, improper, noisy,” or in violation of local ordinances.

Wolbach “cannot be held liable for the tenant’s use of the premises,” Buchanan wrote in the April 24 letter. She added that “Ms. Wolbach is taking all reasonable steps to stop the alleged violations and evict the tenant.”

Cambridge City Councilor Patty M. Nolan ’80 said while the city could ask the Fox to vacate the residence, she believed it could only place fines against the owner of the property.

“I don’t know if we can assess fines against the lessee as opposed to the lessor,” Nolan said. “It’s probably something I will find out and somebody will find out.”

In a letter of appeal on behalf of the Fox, attorney Sarah L. Rhatigan asked the BZA not to issue fines to give the club “time to relocate to an alternative site.” Rhatigan did not address the alleged violation of the zoning code in the letter.

“It’s exceedingly clear to me, at least from everything I’ve seen, there is no basis for appeal,” Nolan said. “It’s clearly operating as a social club.”

She added that she continued to receive complaints from residents of disturbances and parties held at the house after the initial cease and desist letters were sent.

“If we have someone who is in violation there should be repercussions,” Nolan said.

“I really wish that this had been settled before, long before, so that the neighbors could get back to their lives, and the city can get back to their lives,” she added.

—Staff writer Avani B. Rai can be reached at Follow her on X @avaniiiirai.

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