Township approves contracts for project at Barnard House
By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer, The Times
POCOPSON —Supervisors heard arguments last week as to why a local corn maze is — or isn’t — a permitted use of a Rt. 842 property, just one of a number of issues discussed in front of a packed house last week.
Once held in front of a largely empty room, Board of Township Supervisors’ meetings have suddenly become more lively, with a sudden influx of residents attending the meetings — and even chairs had to be added for those arriving as the meeting got under way.
During the meeting, Matt Herzog, Manager of the Marlborough Corn Maze/Valley of Terror, his attorney, and members of the Wickersham family, gave Supervisors an overview of the attraction and stressed their desire to work with the township to comply with all ordinances.
Last year, the “agricultural” attraction came under fire when Newlin Township issued a cease and desist order for the Valley of Terror in response to neighbors’ complaints. At that time, it was found that the majority of the attraction is actually located in Pocopson, and township Zoning Officer, Richard Jensen began investigating. Jensen confirmed that there are “currently no provisions in the township’s zoning regulations allow for use of the property in this manner. “
Supervisors asked many questions focusing on safety and nuisance issues such as noise and lighting. Officials told Herzog the one part of the attraction tying it to agricultural use was the corn maze, which was mowed down last year because, according to Herzog, the corn wasn’t useable. Herzog assured Supervisors that the maze would be back in October and showed them on an accompanying map where it would be located.
Supervisors and Jensen continued questioning Herzog about several structures located on the property used to shield patrons while they’re waiting in line to board wagons. Herzog told officials that once “we get through the zoning issue; all buildings will be inspected and we’ll work with Mr. Jensen on any issues.”
George Wickersham asked officials why the buildings are being scrutinized if they are protected under agricultural use/agricultural entertainment. Jensen said that once a cueing area is made, it’s no longer an agricultural zoning issue.
The issue goes before the zoning hearing board on Feb. 25.
Resident and former Deer Management Committee member, George Ziegler, offered ongoing comments alleging the mishandling of the township Deer Management Committee. Supervisor Matt Read acknowledged the remarks and told officials he is working with all parties to come to an agreement. Read asked his fellow supervisors to table the issue until any issues could be ironed out. Colleagues Ricki Stumpo and Georgia Brutscher agreed to proceed at a later date.
In other matters, the supervisors voted unanimously to approve professional service contracts for VanDemark and Lynch engineering, Dennis Melton Architects and Richard Jensen as project manager for the Wawaset Road Grant Project. Brutscher said the project is being called the Wawaset Road Grant Project because it pertains to the grounds surrounding the Barnard House, and although grant money will be used to construct handicapped equipped restrooms in the building, none of the grant money obtained will be used for any work inside the historic structure.
All supervisors stressed that these services will be paid out of the $250,000 grant awarded from the state.
Brutscher said the Barnard House Steering Committee met recently and Kennett Underground Railroad representative, Karen Marshall, is looking into getting the Barnard House on the National Registry. Marshall, who was on hand for the meeting, said as long as the structure is eligible to be placed on the National Registry, it becomes eligible for up to $50,000 in grant money.
The township’s Public Works department received applause and accolades from residents through several letters and public comment on the superb job they are doing to clear roads and provide safe travel through the township during and after the barrage of recent snow and ice storms. Public Works Director Mark Knightly humbly accepted the praise, but also acknowledged that the winter weather is not finished yet.
Bids are being accepted for the construction and design of a new township website. Information can be obtained at www.pocopson.org.