Two difficult issues in Pocopson require patience

The Barn and Denton Hollow need cooler heads to prevail on all sides

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
UTMikeColLogoPOCOPSON — Let’s face it, it’s kind of a lousy week to be supervisor here in the township.

Facing not one, but two issues, where pretty much no matter what the Board of Supervisors do, they’re going to make people angry, it makes me kind of glad I have such a lousy record when it comes to elections (including two losses for supervisor. Whew.).

First, we have a lot of people frustrated by the Barn at Spring Brook and its potential closing and the loss of a program that clearly helps a lot of handicapped kids in need. Unfortunately, the barn is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, which means it is not a permitted use under township zoning and a neighbor complained about it.

Ultimately, the Barn’s organization sought and got a conditional use hearing last December, and approval with 33 conditions — with the conditions to be met by May 30. Unfortunately, no work even started by the end of April, prompting for a request of an extension until Sept. 1.

You could ask both sides a lot of questions about this: why did nothing happen on the Barn for months when there was a clear deadline? Why so many — and some cases questionable — conditions for use, some of which seem to defeat the whole purpose of the facility?

From here — and I know most of the folks involved being a 15-year resident of the township — it seems like neither side was thinking “how can we make this work and meet the needs of the township and the neighbors without ruining the program and its obvious benefit for the kids?”

Although some were quick to vilify the Board of Supervisors, let’s keep in mind that the Barn operated in variance with township rules for eight years and the supervisors would have been within their rights to just say no and shut down the Barn. But they didn’t. Again, you can argue that some of the conditions seem a bit like head scratchers — but I will assume there was some reasoning behind them.

The fact that no work was done until May with a May 30 deadline looming is equally puzzling — and yes, the winter was rough, but having just completed a building project in another municipality, I can tell you steady and constant progress continued throughout the winter and spring, so I don’t entirely buy that as an excuse.

In the end, I have a sense that both sides played a role in this mess.

So how to go forward? Cooler heads need to prevail here. Is there wiggle room to negotiate a settlement that meets the needs of the township and the neighbors and keeps the program running? Yes, I think so. I would hope that both sides set aside the rhetoric and petition drives and actually work for a solution.

Now on to Denton Hollow Road (figuratively, of course, as the road doesn’t need more traffic).

As someone who technically could use the shortcut through Denton Hollow — I live in Brandywine Hills and now it takes twice as long to get to Unionville — I’ve made sure I stayed away from the road (and Riverside, too) because I know how unhappy I’d be if there were large amounts of traffic redirected through my neighborhood.

That having been said, the roadway is a public road and as such, there are rules for closure, converting it to a one-way and such, so there are limited good options for supervisors.

Limited, but not none, of course.

My suggestion is two-fold: first, purchase and install temporary, rubber traffic humps. They do two things: they discourage certain kinds of traffic because they’re annoying and they slow down traffic, especially when more than one is deployed. Better yet, they can be removed when Rt. 52 is reopened and reused when the Rt. 926 bridge is closed — and they can be removed for snow plowing.

If the neighbors can live with a little extra noise, it will slow and reduce traffic.

The second part would be to ask township residents — my neighbors in Brandywine Hills and the other neighborhoods along Route 52 — to show courtesy to their neighbors and not use Denton Hollow. Obviously, folks have the legal right to use it, but again, if they were to think for a second how they’d feel if traffic in front of their homes increased by a factor of 13, maybe they’d realize that saving that extra 10 minutes might not be worth it.

This won’t eliminate all of the traffic — some of it is misrouted traffic along Route 52 trying to get to the prison or the Pocopson Home or points south — but it should help some.

Between the roundabout — which is slightly less popular right now than poison ivy — and the bridge replacement, this is going to be an issue for the next couple of years. If we can find a solution that maybe not everyone is delighted with, but can live with, we can move onto more important issues.

Like getting a traffic light at Pocopson Road and Route 52 before someone gets killed.

Seriously.

Let’s solve this, so we can start pressuring PennDOT (and various local state legislators and the governor) to get this moving, and moving right away.

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Tags: Denton Hollow Road, Pocopson, The Barn at Spring Brook, township supervisors
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5 Responses

  1. The problem with accepting your solutions is that they require common sense. When arguments get heated that is often the first thing lost. But the bigger point is to make things better for everyone!!

    As to the light at Rt. 52 and Pocopson Road – better now than when something terrible happens. And whatever happened to the turn lane at Rt. 52 and Locust Grove Road – when the bridge over the Brandywine at Rt. 926 is detoured that will be an accident waiting to happen..

  2. Mike,

    I have to disagree with your opinion regarding the Barn. I believe the Barn was in operation before the neigbors moved in. The neighbors apparently did not check out the area before they moved in. This facility is of great need by a lot of children.

    We seem to have people move out into the “country” as they see it, but they still want the urban climate.

    As for Denton Hollow Rd.,” love thy neighbor as thyself”. This to shall pass and all will be well.

  3. Dan – there is a gas line at the edge of Rt 52 at Locust Grove Road that PECO has been unable (so far) to move. Cannot pave over it.

    Dot – the neighbor purchased her property in 1997 (according to Recorder of Deeds website data); The Barn started operation in 2006 (according to its website).

  4. Mike- Well said. Too bad that as a news correspondent you can’t voice this practical thinking at the public meetings. I guess that is why you can do it here. RE-the Barn- As a past Supervisor I can say that the ordinances and zoning preventing commercial/institutional uses that are also not agricultural in nature in a residentially zoned district were in place well before any neighbor complaint. And so the Conditional Use process was required to bring the the operation into compliance. The neighbor complaint only brought the non-compliance to the forefront; CondUse was granted with conditions that are required of every business to meet existing code and minimize negative impacts to neighbors who bought properties in a residential/agriculturally zoned district. This is not dissimilar to the Corn Maze fiasco, or landscaping businesses operating their business and equipment out of a residential zoned area. Businesses, including non-profits and small family operations can impact adjacent residences-in traffic, noise, visual and environmental impacts. That is why zoning exists-to protect everyones’ quality of life. I also do not know the complete history of discussions surrounding the conditions imposed on the Barn, but my first thought is that the horseback/pony riding at a property (I believe)is clearly a use by right in the agricultural district, and the “keeping of animals” ordinance clearly allows animals on a residential property based on the acreage. The property only needs to meet the criteria for keeping animals. But nowhere does it say what the owner must or must not do with those animals: i.e. whether ponies can/cannot be ridden, or whether horses can/can’t be trained for the circus, or if llamas can/cannot be shorn for their wool, or if lessons can/cannot be given on equine, or if chickens can/can’t be bred to lay blue eggs. Anyway, perhaps all this press will push reason back to the table to iron out the 2 or 3 items that are really an issue. I support The Barn and everything it stands for and provides, and I believe the Supervisors and Community at large do too.
    The process can be painful and expensive if reasonableness on both sides does not prevail. Oh- and I see the “sides” as the complainant and the Barn- The Supervisors are only the agents required by The Municipal Planning code to address the conflict in a way that meets code and does not set potentially negative precedents. That’s my bit.

  5. mike very well said. to the comment on when did the neighbor move in, it doesnt matter it has nothing to do with the bran has run basically illegally. now i tell you all do some research you will find out a few more things. like the barn is listed as non profit medical rehabilitation not educational. this brings in a whole other zoning issue. also most things they requested to be done are to meet ADA requirements. i do agree the no bday parties is a bit much. as for Denton hollow road well personally they need to suck it up. its only temporary. i live on 52 and deal with these issues everytime it floods and cant get out of my drive for sometimes up to 15 minutes. i have lived here and used these roads longer then most lived here. i know i sound mean but this was all brought up at meetings what would happen when the road closed and no one fought against the round about. now everyones complaining. As for the light if you look back when the elementary school was being passed the stipulation was they had to put a light at pocopson rd and 52. still no light. i agree it is very needed. thank you Mike for being open minded and seeing all sides. not many do

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