Another delay for Pocopson’s Barnard House

The Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors faced a lengthy agenda at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 12; however, a number of issues hit snags and remain unresolved.

Pocopson Township's Barnard House, a former Underground Railroad stop, continues to have an uncertain fate.

Pocopson Township's Barnard House, a former Underground Railroad stop, continues to have an uncertain fate.

Chief among them is the status of the Barnard House, a historic building that has generated substantial controversy since its purchase from the county for $1 in 2008.

Most recently, the supervisors have been trying to get a security system installed so that the Kennett Underground Railroad Center (KURC) can occupy part of the former Underground Railroad stop, pursuant to a 2014 lease agreement.

“It’s not done,” reported Mark Knightly, the township’s public works director. “The system crashed today. I don’t know what else to say ... It’s just not done.”

Knightly cited issues with Comcast and the Protection Bureau, which has the contract for the wireless security system; he said he hoped the problems would be fixed within the next week.

"It's only six weeks' late," noted Supervisor Elaine DiMonte.

But even when the security system is functioning, questions will remain about the building’s future. The Barnard House was originally envisioned as the home of the KURC as well as the township’s offices; however, the supervisors put the brakes on the latter option due to reports on the building’s unsuitable layout and escalating renovation costs.

Instead, the supervisors have focused their attention on getting input from the Chester County commissioners, who imposed restrictions on its use. Supervisors’ Chairwoman Ricki Stumpo said an effort to set up a meeting with them at the Barnard House has not yet been successful.

DiMonte said a meeting last month with Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, and Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160, was enlightening for the lawmakers and enabled them to see firsthand the obstacles and expense involved in renovating the building.

“That’s why we so want the commissioners to come out,” Stumpo explained.

Pocopson Township Supervisors Elaine DiMonte and Ricki Stumpo listen to residents' landscaping complaints regarding the Preserve at Chadds Ford, a Toll Brothers' subdivision.

Pocopson Township Supervisors Elaine DiMonte and Ricki Stumpo hear about landscaping complaints at the Preserve at Chadds Ford, a Toll Brothers' subdivision.

Another longstanding issue involved the Preserve at Chadds Ford, a Toll Brothers subdivision. The supervisors have rejected the developer’s request for dedication multiple times due to inadequate landscaping.

The supervisors were prepared to approve Thomas Comitta Associates as a third-party contractor to review the landscaping. However, remarks about the scope of the problem from Santhosh Kanjula, a board member of the Preserve’s homeowners’ association, gave them pause. Ultimately, Stumpo and DiMonte – Supervisor Alice Balsama was out of town – ratified the agreement with the condition that it include a meeting between Comitta and the HOA board.

“We have to have our residents’ voices heard,” explained Stumpo.

The supervisors also heard from Justin Colella, another resident with a protracted problem. “It’s a weird, muddy kind of issue,” he said, referencing a complaint about a fence on his property that surrounds a pasture for Penelope, a pygmy goat, and another pet, Jemima Puddle Duck.

Colella, a resident of Bragg Hill Road, said he took down the fence section in question and has been transporting the animals to a friend’s property during the day when Colella is working. He explained that even Craig Kologie, the township’s code enforcement officer, is confused about the required setback for the fence since it doesn’t appear to fall under the existing regulations.

“I want to do it once and be done with it,” Colella said.

Stumpo and DiMonte both said they appreciated his explanation but suggested that he needed to work with Kologie to resolve the situation.

The supervisors received updates from board members from each of the two libraries that serve the township. Brad Peiper, a member of the Kennett Library board, said that exciting progress is continuing on plans for a new facility and that the library would be unveiling new lighting and displays later this month.

Scott Kirkland, the township’s liaison to the West Chester Public Library, described a host of great programs, particularly a visit on Nov. 2 from teen author Sara Shepard of “Pretty Little Liars” fame, the day after her latest book debuts.

Kirkland said he wanted the board to know that the county has designated the Kennett Library as the township’s library, which means that it receives all state and county funding. However, 44 percent of the township’s library users patronize the West Chester facility.

Both the supervisors and Peiper suggested that Kirkland pursue that apparent inequity with the county, which he said he planned to do.

The final land development plan for the Riverside Daycare Partnership’s Ducklings Early Learning Center on Winston Lane in the Riverside at Chadds Ford community was on the agenda; however, the supervisors said no plan was submitted.

The supervisors heard a report from Colleen McKinney, who’s chairing the Founders Day Committee, an event that drew an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,000 last year to myriad activities that ranged from hayrides to games. McKinney said plans are progressing for what is likely to be the 10th and final Founders Day, due to the usual problem: a lack of volunteers.

McKinney said she is currently looking for about 10 people to help with parking and has been striking out with Boy Scouts and high school students. A couple of the half-dozen residents at the meeting offered to help, and McKinney said she would enlist some relatives at the 11th hour if necessary.

“We’ll see you on the 25th,” said Stumpo. “It’s sad that this could be the last one, but that’s another story.”

Finally, a flyer for the Pocopson Township Historic Committee’s fundraiser on Oct. 1 at Applebee’s restaurant was attached to the meeting's agenda. The all-you-can-eat event to benefit the restoration of the Locust Grove Schoolhouse will feature pancakes, sausage and beverages from 8 to 10 a.m. at the restaurant, which is located at 815 Baltimore Pike in Kennett Square.

The cost will be $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at the township building, at Founders Day on Sunday, Sept. 25, or at the door.



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