NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Infrastructure reform among 2019 NAR policy priorities

Bucks County
Warminster tax hike must be approved by court

Chester County
Landscapes3 adopted by Chester County Commissioners

Delaware County
Cost of new middle school in Clifton Heights to be evaluated

Montgomery County
Norristown budget includes $1.8M deficit

Philadelphia County
City council downsizes new protections for renters in ‘Good Cause’ bill
 

 



 

News Briefs Archive April 16, 2018

 

General News

Rail stations boost home value in suburbs, Septa says
Suburban SEPTA rail stations significantly increase the value of nearby homes, according a report released by the transit agency. The analysis, titled “SEPTA Drives the Economy of Pennsylvania,” was paid for by SEPTA and prepared by Econsult Solutions. It looked at 10 years of real-estate transactions involving single-family homes in the Pennsylvania counties surrounding Philadelphia, comparing the sales prices of homes within three miles of stations to those farther away. Econsult concluded that the rail lines added $14.5 billion in residential property value in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. In some neighborhoods, the increased value ranged between $17,300 and $46,600 per house. “Real estate values are up,” SEPTA Chairman Pasquale Deon said. “And much of that increase is added because of SEPTA.” SEPTA presented the report as part of its campaign to raise $6 billion over the next 15 years from state and local agencies for ambitious improvements.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/29/18

April 16 is last day to register for primary election
Thousands of Realtors® will be in Washington, D.C., for national association meetings on the day of the primary election in Pennsylvania, May 15. If you’re among them, be sure to apply for an absentee ballot soon, as the deadline is approaching. Here is a list of upcoming election deadlines:

Mon, April 16 — voter registration deadline
Tues, May 8 — last day to apply for an absentee ballot
Fri, May 11 — absentee ballot deadline (for civilians)
Tues, May 15 — Primary Election Day

View other important dates on the state website (PDF). Voters can also register to vote and check their registration status on the state site.

Bucks County

Yardley adopts anti-discrimination ordinance
Yardley Borough recently became the fifth Bucks County municipality to adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance. In a unanimous vote, borough council approved the new law, which extends protections against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community. The ordinance establishes the Yardley Borough Human Relations Commission that will hear complaints from anyone who feels they have been discriminated against and attempt to resolve the issues. “The passage of this without any opposition and in a unanimous bipartisan manner I believe speaks to where we are as a community,” said Council Vice President David Bria.
Source: The Advance; 3/18/2018

Central Bucks talks 2018-19 budget
David Matyas, business administrator for Central Bucks School District, presented to school board members a quick update on the state budget and its effect on the district budget. The basic instruction subsidy from the state is expected to be increased by 1.9 percent, or about $337,000, with an additional $55,000 for special education. The school district’s preliminary budget for 2018-19 includes a spending increase of 2.1 percent over the current year budget projected expenses. The spending increase is attributed to mandated expenses for the state pension program (PSERS) and health care, and no real estate increase is planned for the upcoming 2018-19 school year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/5/2018

Canal townhouse redesign fails in New Hope
New Hope Borough Council voted against issuing a certificate of appropriateness (COA) on a proposed towpath development just north of Mechanic Street. The project would include new townhouse structures on the towpath and the rehabilitation of an adjacent historic building at 18-20 Mechanic St. The Historic Architectural Review Board reviewed the plan and issued a 22-page memo to the project architect, Ralph Curtis Fey Architects, that delineated design issues with the plan, especially the size, scope and impact of the project. New Hope Borough Council expressed reservations of the presented details and lack of a comprehensive item-by-item response to items outlined in the memo. The COA was denied based on the memo items pertaining to the mass of the project and its “compound effect” of taking up the entire visual space of the lot.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/5/2018

Yardley reverses course and votes to preserve Reading Avenue property
Yardley Borough Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution expressing its intent to preserve a piece of borough-owned property on Reading Avenue. The land sits along the railroad tracks just west of the train station. Over the course of 18 years, the borough has attempted to sell the land, over the objections of neighbors, who argued that the property provides a natural buffer between the neighborhoods and the noise of the train line while offering scenic and aesthetic value for residents and a habitable place for wildlife. In May 2016, borough council reached an agreement to sell the land to Prestige Builders for $310,000, but the sale ultimately fell through after the developer was unable to secure zoning relief for its residential subdivision. Council then voted to take the land off the market. The resolution also calls on the council president to form a committee to “consider, analyze and develop options and alternatives for the preservation in perpetuity of the Reading Avenue property.”
Source: The Advance; 4/11/2018

Chester County 

West Bradford zoners deny Embreeville developer’s challenge
Residents cheered at a recent West Bradford Zoning Hearing Board meeting, when the board voted unanimously to deny a challenge to the township zoning ordinance brought by Embreeville Redevelopment LP. The group wants to develop Embreeville State School and Hospital, a 16-building complex sitting on 225 acres, and claimed the township’s zoning ordinance does not allow adequate future housing. The developer, which purchased the property in 2013, seeks to build a sprawling residential and commercial complex at the site, including 1,100 residential units and 50,000 square feet of commercial space, but the property is currently zoned as institutional and mixed use. Zoning board Chairman Edwin Hill recited a list of 20 reasons for the board’s decision, including that the developer failed to establish a precise amount of land available for single or multi-family homes. State Rep. Eric Roe, who lives in West Bradford, applauded the decision. “I cannot imagine what kind of an impact 1,100 more homes along Strasburg Road would have on traffic in our neighborhood,” he said. The zoning decision is the latest development in a years-long dispute among developers, residents and municipal officials about what should be done with the site. Demolition of the hospital, a 900,000-square-foot psychiatric facility with a dubious past, is estimated to cost more than $13 million.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/6/2018 and Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/29/2018

Residents hear update on Coatesville redevelopment projects
At an event held at the Brandywine Center, Coatesville officials and developers gave a crowd of community members an update on the status of redevelopment in the city. Jill Whitcomb of the Brandywine Health Foundation talked about how the foundation had partnered with Natural Lands on making improvements to Palmer Park, one of Coatesville’s nine parks. Rachel Griffith, a trails and open space planner for Chester County, outlined plans for extending the Chester Valley Trail through Coatesville en route to Lancaster County. City Manager Mike Trio said the renovation of City Hall, which will make the building more energy efficient and add a new floor and space for a district court, should wrap up by June. Coatesville Redevelopment Authority Vice Chairman Jack Burkholder said the Third Avenue Streetscape work, which is the first phase of work for the new train station, is 95 percent complete. Developer Jack Corcoran said the Gateway Retail and Office project is slated for construction in the summer.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/30/2018

Kennett Township residents complain about tax hike
At a recent meeting of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors, residents expressed surprise and dismay at a hefty tax hike approved last year. Supervisors passed a 1.9-mill property tax increase that they said would generate about $1.5 million needed to pay for the cost of expanded emergency services, including 24-hour police coverage. The increase raised the tax rate from 0.4 to 2.3 mills. Residents, including former township supervisors Chris Burkett and Michael Elling, complained that they had not been made aware of the tax hike before it was approved. Township Manager Lisa Moore replied that the township had worked to communicate the potential tax increase in several ways. The residents also questioned whether expenditures related to open space and historic preservation were appropriate given the costs associated with expanding police services. The current supervisors explained that some of those funds were restricted by grants, and that negotiations to acquire open space were done over many years.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/6/2018

Avondale considers intergovernmental municipal authority agreement
The Borough of Avondale will hold a public hearing to decide whether to enact an ordinance that would enter it into an intergovernmental agreement for municipal services. The borough council will vote at its regular meeting after the hearing on whether to enter an agreement with London Grove Township and the London Grove Municipal Authority in order to provide continued water and sewer services to certain properties located within London Grove Township. The public hearing will be held Tuesday, April 17, at 6 p.m. at Avondale Borough Hall, 110 Pomeroy Ave.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/5/2018

Delaware County

15 homes to be built at Ardrossan estate in Radnor
Pohlig Homes plans to build 15 luxury homes on nearly 10 acres of land that until now was part of the famous Ardrossan estate in Radnor. Each home will sit on about three-quarters of an acre and is expected to sell for $2.25 million. Developer Todd Pohlig anticipates constructing two models of houses — properties for “empty nesters” ranging from 3,700 to 4,200 square feet, and houses for “move-up buyers” in the 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot range. The Ardrossan estate, which inspired the film “A Philadelphia Story,” dates back to 1911, when a wealthy stockbroker commissioned a 50-room, nearly 33,000-square-foot Georgian Revival manor that sat on nearly 800 acres. Over the years, pieces of the land have been sold, including for new home construction and to develop the Radnor Township parks system, and 300 acres were put under conservation easements. “Our goal is to have the fewest number of houses,” said Scott, a developer and spokesman for the family that owns the property.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/9/2018

$120M update planned for Drexeline Shopping Center
Drexeline Shopping Center on State Road in Upper Darby is poised to undergo a $120 million renovation. Maryland-based developer MCB Real Estate is proposing a redesign for existing tenants like ShopRite, CrozerKeystone Medical Center and Anthony’s Restaurant, plus new walking paths that tie into the Darby Creek Trail. The renovation would also improve access to SEPTA’s Media Trolley Line. Plans for the 18-acre site also include a “super” Wawa, a new office building, a six-story indoor self-storage facility and improved parking and walkways. Upper Darby Mayor Thomas Micozzie said it’s an exciting, necessary upgrade. “There are no tax incentives being requested or offered for this project,” Micozzie said. “The overall project will be a $110 to $120 million investment in our community.” The developer expects the project to create 600 direct jobs, plus 370 jobs during each year during construction. The township expects to hold multiple public hearings during the course of the land development approval process.
Source: Daily Times; 4/7/2018

Ridley teachers ink five-year contract with district
Ridley School District has reached an agreement with its teachers’ union, the Ridley Education Association, on a five-year contract. The deal includes a 1.9 percent salary increase for teachers each year. The starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $45,641, and at the top of the pay scale, a teacher with a master’s degree, 45 credits beyond the master’s degree and 15 years’ experience earns a salary of $105,729 in the first year of the new agreement. Forty-five percent of teachers in the district are at the top end of the scale, according to superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel. The board voted to approve the agreement after three meetings with the union representatives, an improvement from four years ago when contract negotiations led to some teachers picketing at school sites.
Source: Daily Times; 4/6/2018

Aston considers amending commercial safety inspection ordinance
Aston Township will hold a public hearing to consider an ordinance that would amend section 1462.05 of the township code, revising regulations “for the enforcement and right of entry of township personnel to perform commercial life safety inspections.” The Alliance has requested the proposed ordinance for review. The hearing will be held Wednesday, April 18, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 5021 Pennell Road. Another ordinance will also be discussed that night that would repeal the prohibition of outdoor fires and leaf burning.
Source: Daily Times; 4/11/2018

Montgomery County

Limerick conducts special hearing over mobile home park property maintenance
Limerick Township supervisors recently conducted a hearing with GSP Management Co. of Morgantown to discuss concerns the township code officer and fire marshal have about a number of potential safety and property maintenance issues at Ridgeview Terrace mobile home park. Robert F. Loeper Jr., director of code services for Limerick Township, sent a letter to GSP noting problems with large pot holes in the roads, electric power lines less than 18 feet above the ground, debris that could harbor rodents, an absence of uniform street addresses and no fire hydrants. Frank Perano appeared on behalf of GSP and contested the requirement of each item in the mobile home parks code of the township. The formal part of the hearing ended when Loeper testified that the letter did not serve as a notice of violation, despite language to that effect, but rather as a way to start a conversation with GSP about how to resolve some of the long-standing issues. GSP’s attorney agreed to withdraw the company’s challenge to the letter, which had triggered the formal hearing, and pledged to work with the township to address some of the problems. The evening did not end until several residents of the mobile home park were allowed to express their concerns about conditions there, including the water being shut off without notice and problems with sinkholes. Township Solicitor Joseph McGrory said to GSP representatives, “It’s time these things were done, now we’re going to get involved and hopefully you’ll cooperate with us. A couple potholes and street addresses won’t bust anybody’s budget. If not, we can show you what codes you are violating.”
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/6/2018

Plymouth adopts anti-discrimination ordinance
Plymouth Township Council recently adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance and received a standing ovation after it passed. The 45th ordinance of its kind in Pennsylvania, the decree adds civil protections from discrimination for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to existing protections for race, religious creed, ancestry, gender, national origin, and handicap or disability. It also creates a human relations commission to hear and handle complaints. Council Chair Martin Higgins explained the need for local action, saying: “Federal and state governments have not seen fit so far to offer protections for our LGBT friends, so it is up to us at the local level to do so. We are not breaking new ground with this ordinance, just catching up with some of our many neighbors in southeastern Pennsylvania.”
Source: Times Herald; 4/11/2018

Task force says keep Pottstown Y open
The Pottstown Branch Transition Committee is a task force assembled in December by the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA to make recommendations on how Y programs can be maintained without holding them in the Pottstown YMCA building. The task force was told that keeping the building open was not to be included in the options they recommended. In the document sent to the board of directors of the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, the first recommendation the 18-member task force made was to keep the building open. Other options include building a new facility within the Borough of Pottstown, returning the existing Pottstown YMCA to the community with compensation, or creating a larger community effort to re-imagine the YMCA for Pottstown. The task force reported that its recommendations were created “after considerable research, discussion and feedback from the community” from which the committee concluded “that a decision to close the facility, without local input or representation, is unacceptable.” The letter continued, “In addition, we determine that the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA leadership neglected to fulfill its commitment to the community of Pottstown by not providing adequate resources to sustain the current facility.”
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/6/2018

King of Prussia business park gets new name
The transformation of the 60-year-old King of Prussia business park has culminated with a new focus and a new name. Now called Moore Park KOP, the property has evolved into a “live-work-play” environment totally different from the original focus of the business/industrial park development constructed for the market of the late 1950s and ‘60s. The mixed-use zoning allows for multi-family residential development and service retail. The King of Prussia District (KOP-BID) worked with Upper Merion Township for the past seven years on the park reboot. Eric Goldstein, executive director of KOP-BID, said, “It’s all been part of a vision to reposition this business park and make it work for the modern market.” According to a press release, while the new name ushers in an innovative era for the business park, it pays homage to the historic property at the center of it all, the Moore-Irwin House, which served as quarters for General Muhlenberg during the 1777-78 encampment at Valley Forge.
Source: Times Herald; 4/10/2018

Philadelphia

City property tax bills surprise many
Philadelphia rolled out new residential property assessments for 2019, and the numbers have surprised many property owners. According to the city’s chief assessment officer, Michael Piper, this round of assessments had the most changes since the introduction of the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) in 2014. The AVI is designed to set assessments based on the market value of a property. Overall, the median market value of a single-family home in Philadelphia increased 10.5 percent over 2018 assessment values, but the city’s real estate boom has led to rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Forty-eight of Philadelphia’s 57 neighborhoods saw an increase in assessment between 2018 and 2019, with the area around Brewerytown and Strawberry Mansion spiking the most — 47.1 percent. Nine Philadelphia neighborhoods saw the median market value of single-family homes either decrease or stay the same. Some city council members are frustrated. Councilman Mark Squilla, who represents much of South Philadelphia, said, “It’s a tax increase without a rate increase, and they want to do a rate increase.” The Kenney administration has proposed a 4.1 property tax increase as well as increasing the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $45,000, which allows homeowners to deduct the homestead amount from their value for property tax calculations. Councilman Allan Domb, a real estate broker, said the increase in value across the city is warranted based on property values, but he advocates for an improved assessment system that would gradually increase assessed market values by 1 to 2 percent each year, preventing residents from enduring large increases to their property tax bill.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/8/2018

Pew releases ‘Philadelphia 2018: The State of the City’
Pew’s nonpartisan “State of the City” research highlights the essential facts about Philadelphia, its residents, neighborhoods and major issues. From demographics to culture and government, to residents’ opinions, “State of the City” is a data-dashboard for the benefit of both the public and leaders who are driving the city’s future. According to the Pew study, the overall well-being of Philadelphia follows a clear-cut pattern with the economic indicators as mostly positive and the social measures less so. Philadelphia is adding jobs at a faster rate than the national average, unemployment has fallen and home sales have increased for the sixth consecutive year. Social indicators provide a sobering picture, with increases in drug overdose deaths and a poverty rate of nearly 26 percent. Demographic indicators show that enrollment in Philadelphia’s district-run schools fell by 1 percent in 2017-18, continuing a long-term decline, while the population and percentage of Philadelphians with bachelor’s degrees continued to rise. Click here for the full report.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/8/2019

 


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