Deal means facility can remain open, while addressing township’s, neighbors’ concerns
By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer, The Times
POCOPSON — No large crowd and no fanfare, just The Barn at Spring Brook Farm founder, Mary Beth Drobish, Solicitor Robert Adams and a handful of supporters at last night’s Township Supervisors’ meeting — and all involved reached a deal that would allow The Barn to remain open, Monday night.
Supervisors’ Chair, Ricki Stumpo said her fellow supervisors and Township Solicitor, Ross Unruh, conducted an informational meeting with Drobish and Adams last Friday.
In a surprising turn of events, Stumpo said Drobish informed officials of a change in leadership at The Barn and that she (Drobish) is now in the leadership position of the board. Stumpo said Supervisors were also told that the barn has no plans to expand their current programs.
After a fact finding meeting, Stumpo said the supervisors consulted with the township solicitor in executive session concerning the Barn’s request for an extension of time in order to conform with the conditions presented after approval of the conditional use agreement for educational use.
Stumpo made a motion giving The Barn until August 31, 2014 to complete all conditions except two. If “substantive” work is underway, she said, before the August 31 deadline with regard to the addition of handicapped access including parking spaces, a ramp and a walkway as well as modifications to bring the barn into code compliance; the deadline for those may be extended until December 31, 2014.
Starting this Friday, Drobish must submit weekly, written status reports to the township, Stumpo said, “there will be no more extensions granted on this project.” The motion unanimously passed without the cheers or jeers that have become commonplace.
The issue began about two years ago as a disagreement between neighbors over an excess of noise and crowds at The Barn at Springbrook Farm, a program to help handicapped children through the use of animal assisted activities. The neighbors could not reach an agreement and brought the issue before the township’s Board of Supervisors.
When the Township Code Enforcement Officer Richard Jensen visited the property, The Barn was found to be in violation of several township zoning regulations as well as state and federal requirements. The Barn applied for a conditional use exception, arguing that the program falls within an educational format.
Last December, the supervisors approved the conditional use, adding 33 conditions aimed at bringing the facility into compliance with federal, state and township regulations, protecting The Barn participants and neighbors, curbing growth and maintaining an educational focus.
During its last meeting, The Barn’s Board of Directors determined it did not have the funds to bring the facility into compliance with the conditional use agreement. The issue snowballed when supporters were notified that The Barn would be closed at the end of the summer.
Last month, the township Board of Supervisors’ meeting was standing room only with The Barn supporters spilling into the parking lot of the cramped municipal building, prompting the next Board of Supervisors’ meeting to be moved to Pocopson Elementary School, where supporters from both sides offered public comment.
Then Executive Director, Dan Stark, told supervisors that funds and offers of in-kind labor were pouring in, making it financially possible to complete the work. He asked supervisors for an extension of time and also asked for changes to some of the conditions, specifically those affecting the organization’s growth.
As of this morning, The Barn’s website no longer lists Stark as Executive Director.
After adjournment of last night’s meeting, both Drobish and Stumpo expressed their satisfaction with the outcome.