Barnard House: persistent Pocopson presence

Even when a Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting only lasts half an hour, the Barnard House still looms large.

Pocopson Township Supervisers Elaine DiMonte and Ricki Stumpo review materials during Monday night's meeting.

Pocopson Township Supervisers Elaine DiMonte and Ricki Stumpo review materials during Monday night's meeting.

Supervisors Chairman Ricki Stumpo and Supervisor Elaine DiMonte said the board had two recent meetings regarding the early 1800s building, a project that has generated controversy off and on since its purchase from the county for $1 in 2008. Supervisor Alice Balsama did not attend the Monday, Oct. 17, meeting.

One of the meetings involved members of the Kennett Underground Railroad Center (KURC), which plans to occupy part of the former Underground Railroad stop, pursuant to a 2014 lease agreement. Several issues still need to be addressed before KURC can move into the building so no occupancy date has been scheduled, the supervisors said.

The second meeting was held with county representatives, including Commissioners  Terence Farrell and Kathi Cozzone, and Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160. The supervisors explained that it was an informational session to seek the commissioners’ insight regarding options for the building. When it was sold, the county imposed restrictions on the building’s use, including a ban on most rentals.

The Barnard House was originally envisioned as the home of the KURC as well as the township’s offices. However, the supervisors backed off the latter option after renovation costs escalated and three ancillary reports suggested the building’s layout was not suitable for municipal offices. At their Sept. 26 meeting, the supervisors voted to prepare a request-for-proposal for a feasibility study, which is being drafted.

In the meantime, the supervisors said they explained to the commissioners that they want to balance the commitment to preserve the historic building with their responsibility to spare the township’s residents from shouldering an undue financial burden, and they said they would welcome the commissioners’ ideas. To date, approximately $900,000 has been spent on the project, most of it on the exterior.

In other business, the supervisors authorized the township engineer to inspect the work that the township said was needed for the Toll Brothers subdivision, the Preserve at Chadds Ford, to fulfill its obligations to the township. If the work passes muster, Toll will resubmit its offer of dedication, which will appear on the township agenda for a vote, perhaps for the final time.

Another longstanding issue was put to rest with the announcement that a fence on Justin Colella’s property on Bragg Hill Road had been moved 20 feet in compliance with a township directive. The supervisors voted to withdraw a civil action against him.

Stumpo read a note from the township’s Historic Committee, which is overseeing the restoration of the Locust Grove Schoolhouse. Between Founders Day and a pancake breakfast, the committee reported proceeds of $902, which will be used to defray the cost of flooring. Members of the committee have said they hope to complete the project, which has not used taxpayer funds, by next summer.

Finally, the supervisors said thank-you notes were sent to all the people, including the Radnor Hunt, who helped make Founders Day a success.

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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