Barnard House project still an issue in Pocopson

The proposed adaptive reuse of the Barnard House in Pocopson Township continues to generate questions and concerns, and a move to get those questions answered has still not come to fruition.

Supervisors were scheduled on July 13 to set a date for a special question and answer session regarding the Barnard House project, but that didn’t happen. Supervisors’ Chairman Barney Leonard said he didn’t get information from Elaine DiMonte, who initiated the request, in time.

DiMonte, who is running for supervisor, wanted the Q&A session so residents could be fully informed. She and Leonard agreed to continue working out a format for the session, a process approved by the other two supervisors, Georgia Brutscher and Ricki Stumpo.

“We are hoping to schedule it for early September,” DiMonte said after the meeting. She explained that residents are more likely to be able to attend following summer vacations.

The board did, however, release a 15-page project update prepared by the Barnard House Steering Committee. Leonard said that report would be posted on the township’s website.

Pocopson supervisors are planning to use the Barnard House as their municipal building and the surrounding grounds as a community campus. The property has historic significance in that Eusebius Barnard was a contributor to the abolitionist movement. The Kennett Underground Railroad Center plans to be a tenant in the building.

Supervisors also resolved, by a 2-1 vote, to accept a $50,000 matching Keystone Grant administered through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Karen Marshall, the heritage preservation coordinator for the Chester County Planning Commission, who is the technical advisor for the Barnard House subcommittee, said the initial money is for replacing doors and windows.

The agreement obligates the township — for a 10-year period — to contact PHMC whenever it wants to do work on the house, according to Marshall. However, she said she spoke with a PHMC representative who gave reassuring comments that the commission would not be dictating how the project should proceed.

“He said this is a friendly relationship…They [PHMC] are encouraging the work and will be there to help,” she said. “It’s not a stringent review process.”

Marshall likened the process to an ongoing dialogue.

The lone no vote came from Stumpo, who said she simply wanted more information and further clarification from PHMC about the township’s obligations and procedures before voting in favor of accepting the grant.

She wanted to table the motion until she could learn more, but Leonard said he didn’t want to wait any longer and was confident that, as Marshall was saying, it’s a friendly grant.

Among Stumpo’s concerns is whether or not the township is “tied up” for 10 years.

Marshall explained, as an example, that when the time comes for the township to build the large meeting room, “If you do major modification to the building, you’re going to want to contact PHMC when you start thinking about it. Again, this is a dialogue.”

Marshall likened it to getting “free advice.”

Other business

  • Supervisors granted conditional use approval for Nicholas and Katherine Dwyer to convert a barn on their property to an apartment. The approval comes with several conditions, including providing proof of an adequate septic system and providing the occupants with a collapsible ladder. There may be no future subdivision of the property, nor may there be any other rental units.
  • The board passed four ordinances during the meeting. Those ordinances include having the township take part in the health trust administered through the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, to amend the township code regarding new rental units, wireless and tower-based communication, and alternative and emerging energy facilities.

Stumpo voted against the energy ordinance because it restricts the amount of solar energy a resident may generate to 200 percent “of normal peak on-site energy demand.”

Leonard said that clause existed to prevent people from going into business by selling back too much energy to PECO.

“The wording might be vague, but it’s done to prohibit the commercialization…so you don’t go into business generating more power than you need,” Leonard said.

Stumpo’s response was, “Is that terrible?”

She said there should be no such limit as long as the generation was safe.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “Barnard House project still an issue in Pocopson”

  1. Elaine DiMonte says:

    Just to clarify one point above, the Board of Supervisors received a proposed agenda and suggestions for the Q&A meeting format, from me, on July 10th, 3 days in advance of the township meeting. Mr Leonard will have seen these documents in advance of the meeting. I am hopeful the date for the Barnard House Q&A session could be agreed by the next supervisors meeting scheduled for July 27th. The format I proposed for the Q&A session will allow for an efficient meeting to answer very important questions which are critical to understanding the full scope and financial responsibility of the Barnard House project to township residents. Questions will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors and Barnard House Steering Committee in advance of the session to allow the team the necessary time to prepare quality responses for the Q&A session.

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