Is there a deal for Stonebridge rehab center?

Concerns are circulating that Chadds Ford Township supervisors are working on an agreement to allow Drew and Nicole Barnabei to use Stonebridge Mansion as a “residential lifestyle modification treatment facility” for patients rehabilitating from substance abuse.

While unconfirmed by official township sources, Chadds Ford Live has learned from multiple residential sources — who have asked not to be identified — that a handful of residents were told that such a deal is being discussed.

Neither township solicitor Mike Maddren, nor attorney Jim Byrne, representing the Barnabeis, returned phone calls by press time, but Supervisors’ Chairman Frank Murphy said the Barnabeis did file a lawsuit against the township and, therefore, he can’t comment.

The township Zoning Hearing Board denied a variance for the property to be used as a treatment facility in December because the house is in a residential zoning district and may not be used for commercial purposes.

Byrne said during the zoning hearing that a denial violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act and that they would appeal such a decision to federal court.

Nicole Barnabei said at the time that she first went to the township to get permission to use the home as a treatment facility, but was told no. She then went to federal court, but said she was told there that she would first have to go through a zoning hearing. If denied by the zoning board, then she could file an appeal on the federal level, she said.

Stonebridge, a 25-room home at 681 Webb Road, sits on five acres of a seven-acre subdivided lot at the corner of Webb and Route 1, on the northwest corner of the t-intersection. There are entrances on both Route 1 and Webb, but the Webb Road entrance is the official one.

According to testimony given at hearing sessions in October and November, the facility would handle no more than 15 patients at a time — patients who had already gone through detox — and for a period of no longer than 90 days.

Patients would go through a variety of holistic modalities that include meditation, chi kung — a Chinese breathing exercise system — and group therapy. Stonebridge itself would be drug-free with the exception of heart medications.

Kathy Labrum, who was representing the township in the matter, said in November that the Barnabeis would be vacating the home as their personal residence if the application were approved. She said the floor plan submitted by the family to the state Department of Health showed every bedroom — the five, second-floor and the three third-floor bedrooms — would be used for the healthcare facility, not the family.

Former building code and zoning officer Richard O’Brien testified that the house would need updated electrical wiring, a sprinkler system, a hard-wired fire alarm system, and handicapped accessible exits and bathrooms before it could be used as a treatment facility.

O’Brien also said he had not visited the house, nor had he read the entire zoning code. He based his decision, he said, on photographs. He also said he never visited other pre-existing group homes in Chadds Ford.

The application for the treatment facility was the second time the Barnabeis were denied a variance. In 2013, they were denied a zoning variance to use the home as a for-profit wedding venue.

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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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