Future of ‘The Barn’ to be decided by Sept. 1

Non-profit group gets extension to comply with Pocopson code, but may choose to shut down

By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer, The Times


Pocopson supervisors have granted an extension to The Barn at Spring Brook Farm to meet requirements of a conditional use approval for the facility which allows disabled children to interact with animals, but organization officials say the conditions may be too difficult to meet.

POCOPSON — In the coming months, the Board of Directors of The Barn at Spring Brook Farm will decide the future of the non-profit organization as they determine if it’s financially worth making township-mandated changes to its current property, according to Executive Director Dan Stark. Located off of Locust Grove Road, “The Barn,” is known for offering animal assisted services to handicapped children.

Stark made these comments at the recent township Board of Supervisor’s meeting where he was accompanied by The Barn founder Mary Beth Drobish, Counsel Bob Adams and several other members of the organization to ask supervisors for an extension of the May 30 deadline to comply with 33 conditions set forth in the conditional use agreement announced by the township on December 30, 2013.

Granting an extension, Stark told township officials, would allow The Barn’s Board of Directors time to have engineering work completed over the summer and have signed contracts for the work ready for officials to look at during the first meeting of the township Board of Supervisors in September. In addition, he added, if The Barn’s board makes the decision not to complete the changes, “then we will come to you in September with a plan for the dissolution of the nonprofit organization, so that you know what our plan is to dissolve The Barn at Spring Brook Farm.”

During the meeting, Supervisors’ Chair Ricki Stumpo questioned why, when receiving the results of the conditional use agreement in January, had nothing been done to make improvements and echoed comments she made in late April stating she is “very uncomfortable that programs are being run at the facility since it is not in compliance within township safety codes.”

Stark assured supervisors that safety is of the utmost importance to the staff, board and volunteers of the program and said the ground work has been laid for all interior improvements to be completed by mid-June when camp begins. He added that the severe weather this winter did not allow for any work to be completed and that The Barn’s Board of Directors did not meet in April. After attending the township supervisors meeting on April 28, Stark said he realized the brevity of the situation and called an emergency meeting of The Barn’s Board for May.

Last week, Stumpo said township officials met with their attorney, Ross Unruh, and agreed to grant the extension to allow The Barn to comply with the conditional use agreement.  According to Stumpo, officials unanimously agreed to the document presented to Drobish last week outlining exactly what measures have to be taken and the dates by which the work must be completed. Stumpo said everything must be completed and inspected by September 1 and a new use and occupancy permit issued or all activities will cease.

In 2012, a neighboring homeowner came to the Board of Supervisors and reported concerns about atypical activities being held on the property. Township Code Enforcement Officer, Richard Jensen, upon further inspection of the property and programs being held there, found the non-profit organization to be in violation of several township ordinances.

In December 2013, Mary Beth Drobish and The Barn at Spring Brook Farm attended a conditional use hearing citing a clear educational use of the property.

In January 2014, the township held a special Board of Supervisor’s meeting where Unruh announced that Supervisors agreed to the conditional use but attached 33 conditions ranging from requiring The Barn to meet neighboring homeowners’ requests by making changes to its physical use of the property to placing constraints on the non-profit’s scope of operations.

According to the organization’s website, The Barn at Spring Brook Farm is a handicapped-accessible Chester County bank barn nestled on Drobish’s 17-acre property along Locust Grove Road and serves many children with disabilities by offering opportunities to participate in animal-assisted activities. The Barn has transitioned from a primarily volunteer driven organization to a successful non-profit with a professional staff, a dedicated Board of Directors, and a large group of committed volunteers.

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