Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Coal Region Canary
Coal Region CanaryCoal Region Canary

Local News

The Arts Barn Fighting for its Life in Zoning Dispute

arts barn orwigsburg

arts barn orwigsburg

(Photos: Coal Region Canary) Deborah Cooper says she’s fighting for the life of The Arts Barn after learning her property was non-compliant with local zoning rules.

The Arts Barn outside Orwigsburg is fighting for its life right now.

Tonight, the owner of the property where the popular non-profit business sits, will go before North Manheim Township zoning officials seeking a variance that would allow it to continue operating at 3 Berry Rd.

Deborah Cooper owns the North Manheim property and is vice president on the Arts Barn Art Center non-profit board of directors. She says she’s owned the property since 1978 and there’s been a business on it since 1985. The Arts Barn was previously The Toy Barn, and specialized in selling educational toys.

But that could all come to an end if zoners in North Manheim deny her request for a variance.

“We’re fighting for our lives here,” Cooper told The Canary on Sunday afternoon. “I’m going in terrified but I have a lot of support.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The Arts Barn Seeks Variance to Continue Operating in North Manheim Township

Today, The Arts Barn is not only a place where customers can browse myriad handmade art and craft pieces, but also serves as a learning spot for numerous organizations around Schuylkill County.

When she got notice that The Arts Barn was suddenly non-compliant with North Manheim’s zoning code, Cooper says she was stunned.

“There is absolutely no reason to shut us down,” Cooper said.

The Arts Barn property sits in an area of North Manheim Township marked RA (Residential-Agricultural).

arts barn orwigsburg

As North Manheim’s zoning rules are written, at least at a non-legal glance, The Arts Barn is technically a non-conforming use.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

But why, after so long, are these zoning laws being enforced? The Arts Barn isn’t exactly a business that’s going to make a lot of noise or lead to an eyesore.

And then there’s the fact that it’s been on this property for decades, with another business that came before it. It’s well advertised and not exactly a secret.

“We enhance the environment,” Cooper said. “Everyone loves our gallery. We want to continue our mission.”

It does seem that North Manheim’s enforcement of its zoning law in regard to The Arts Barn is completely arbitrary. Not only has there been a business operational on this property since the mid-1980s, it’s been at least 11 years since changes were made to North Manheim zoning rules related to properties zoned RA.

And it’s unclear if the changes made to the rules regarding RA properties affected The Arts Barn.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“No one’s ever brought anything up,” Cooper told us ahead of tonight’s zoning hearing.

Cooper’s not headed into tonight’s zoning hearing alone. She’s being represented by attorney Gretchen Sterns, who declined to comment on the matter since it’s pending before the zoning board.

And Cooper’s also got tremendous community support behind her. She told us she’s gotten a lot of messages of support since learning of the zoning board’s decision to act on the business’s non-compliance.

She said she’s worried about her business, of course, but also the many artists and organizations that have made use of The Arts Barn over the years.

Cooper said, “If this place disappears, where are these artists going to put their work?”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Stay with The Canary as we’ll provide updates from tonight’s zoning hearing and a full report to follow.


Subscribe to Coal Region Canary

Get email updates from Coal Region Canary by becoming a subscriber today. Just enter your email address below to get started!

News Tips?

Let us know of news happening in your area. Use our NEWS TIPS ENTRY FORM


  1. Stephanie Penn

    October 5, 2020 at 11:05 am

    What time is the meeting?

    • Canary Commenter

      October 5, 2020 at 11:10 am


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like

Local News

Several Schuylkill County residents say they recently found bizarre printed messages inside packages of items purchased at local grocery stores. The Canary spoke with...

Local Weather

How much are we really going to get? Some say it's still too soon to tell.

PA News

Flights arriving in the cover of night to NEPA.

Local Weather

Slightly more snow expected for Schuylkill County.

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

Hamburg Area School District may be joining Tamaqua Area in defying the indoor mask mandate announced by the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf...

Local News

Back on March 10, a call came in to the Schuylkill County 9-1-1 dispatch center. Crews with Minersville’s Goodwill Fire Co. and EMS needed...