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Hilltown code appeals board grants relief for Pearl Buck International event center


Pearl S. Buck International wants to convert an existing 5,000-square-foot office space on its 67-acre Hilltown property into a modern conference and event center.

Janet L. Mintzer, president and CEO of the local nonprofit with an international reach, said the conference/event center would provide a much-needed source of consistent, sustainable revenue that will help the organization continue its do-gooding mission.

“It will help secure the future of a very important cultural asset in Hilltown,” said Mintzer, noting the space will be open for training, conferences, meetings, community programming, exhibits, and rented out for events that would include wedding receptions.

Mintzer was speaking at the Jan. 7 meeting of Hilltown’s Uniform Construction Code Appeals Board. The CEO and other Pearl S. Buck representatives were before the board to request relief from certain requirements pertaining to sprinkler systems.

After a lengthy hearing, the board granted the relief, believing that safety would be assured and provided that Pearl S. Buck meet a variety of conditions, said Mintzer.

According to Mintzer, those conditions include that a firewall be constructed between the event space and other areas of the facility, that room capacity be limited to 200 people, that a kitchen be used for food preparation but not cooking, that security and fire alarm systems meet code requirements, that two additional doors be added to the front side of the building, and that all other regulations and requirements of Hilltown be followed. The event space will have a sprinkler system.

“The zoning officer will need to approve the fire suppression building plan, firewall, doors, etc.,” said Mintzer. “So now we know what we need to do, and we will develop the plans for approval.”

That’s an exciting development for Pearl S. Buck International. The nonprofit has been researching and planning to find a viable way to generate more revenue from operations so as to be less reliant on donations. Such a steady revenue stream would provide a more reliable financial foundation. Mintzer noted that money the nonprofit generates goes to fund the organization’s work.

“Once we have the drawings and plans approved by the township, we hope to begin construction,” said Mintzer. “We would hope by the fall everything will be completed and we can celebrate with a grand opening.”

Pearl S. Buck International leaders say their organization carries on Pearl S. Buck’s legacy of bridging cultures and changing lives through humanitarian aid, intercultural education, and historical tours of the Pearl S. Buck House, a National Historic Landmark in Hilltown.

Pearl S. Buck was a writer, activist, and humanitarian. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for her novel, “The Good Earth,” and the Nobel Prize in Literature for her body of work.

She founded Welcome House after World War II to place children of American military personnel and Asian mothers with American families.