In the end, the fight over The Arts Barn’s future wasn’t much of a fight at all.
On Monday night, members of the North Manheim Township Zoning Board voted unanimously to grant a variance to the owner of the property where the popular business sits. The Arts Barn isn’t going anywhere.
The variance granted allows The Arts Barn to operate on a lot not zoned for what the business is. However, if owner Deborah Cooper decides to sell that property in the future, this variance is voided.
It’s also void if Cooper and The Arts Barn violates the main beef some neighbors of the property had with it. However, after Monday night’s hearing, it doesn’t seem like that’ll be an issue going forward. The only reason why Cooper and her attorney, the North Manheim zoners and their lawyer, as well as about 50 public onlookers gathered on Monday was overflow parking at annual festival held at The Arts Barn.
North Manheim Grants Variance to The Arts Barn to Keep It Open
In fact, no one who spoke of their parking concerns at Monday’s zoning hearing expressed any interest in having The Arts Barn shut down. They all sounded like customers of the business and friends of Cooper. But it was parking overflow on the day of this annual festival, particularly the one held in 2019, that raised some concern.
During the hearing, Cooper said her property is only capable of parking, at most, 40 vehicles. Apparently at last year’s annual festival held there, considerably more than 40 vehicles were there at any one time. And that caused parking to spill out onto the really rural Berry Rd. in North Manheim.
One neighbor said having that much traffic along Berry Rd. presents a danger to people jogging or walking. Another said it’s problematic for emergency vehicles to navigate through parked cars on the narrow pass.
But again, this was really only one day a year. And Cooper even admitted that the festival last year got somewhat out of hand in that regard. In 2020, there won’t be an annual festival at The Arts Barn, for more than the reason discussed tonight but Cooper said she and The Arts Barn had no interest in hosting a festival on the Berry Rd. property in the future.
“We decided we will not be having the festival on this property because it’s just too much,” Cooper told zoners on Monday.
The only reason it got out of hand, though, is because this business and The Arts Barn’s mission is so popular.
And its popularity and value to the community is what nearly 3 dozen people who attended Monday’s hearing expressed to North Manheim zoners, who at no point expressed any interest in voting for anything that would have led to The Arts Barn closing its doors for good.
Cooper even got support from Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Carl, who received a round of applause from the onlookers Monday. He spoke passionately in favor of The Arts Barn and urged zoners to do what was needed to keep it open.
“The services they provide are essential,” he said. “The community deserves them.”
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