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 2, 2018

 

General News

How much does it cost to live in the Philly suburbs?
The Economic Policy Institute released its 2018 family budget calculator that estimates how costly it is to live in each of America’s 3,142 counties and 611 metro areas. The family budget calculator accounts for geographic differences in cost of living but does not include many expenses associated with a middle-class lifestyle, including student loan payments and saving for college or retirement. Of the five counties that make up the Philadelphia region, Chester County is the most expensive. The Economic Policy Institute estimates a family of two adults and two children in Chester County would need to earn a combined $104,775 per year — or $8,731 a month — to live comfortably. Montgomery County comes in at $100,041 - or $8,337 a month – for the same size family. A Bucks County household would need $99,846 per year, and the same size family in Delaware County would need $93,136. Philadelphia comes in at $84,901. Click here for the calculator.
Source: Bensalem Patch; 3/24/2018 

Suburban districts voice opposition to school choice bill
School districts in the Philadelphia suburbs are joining others statewide in opposing a bill in the state Senate that they say would drain resources from public schools. More than 100 districts, about one in five, have passed resolutions against Senate Bill 2, which would create “education savings accounts.” Parents of children in the lowest-performing 15 percent of schools in the state could access the accounts to pay for private school tuition, extra tutoring or college, according to bill sponsor state Sen. John DiSanto (R-15). The amount of money in the account would be equal to the average state subsidy per student, between $5,000 and $6,000. “Too many Pennsylvania children are consigned to chronically under-performing schools that fail to prepare students for college or careers,” DiSanto said in a statement. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), which wrote the resolution being adopted by many districts, notes that the savings accounts could be used to benefit students “never having attended the target school” and could be provided to “benefit families regardless of income or need, including students already enrolled in public schools.” Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez called the bill “a blatant attempt to defund public schools by shifting tax dollars to nonregulated private schools.” Among the schools that have passed resolutions against the bill are: Pottstown, Methacton, Cheltenham and Upper Moreland in Montgomery County; Phoenixville, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Avon Grove in Chester County; and Garnett Valley, Southeast Delco, Haverford and Upper Darby in Delaware County. State Sen. John Rafferty (R-44), whose district includes Chester and Montgomery counties, is a co-sponsor of the bill.
Source: Mercury; 3/18/2018

Bucks County

New requirements for residential rental inspections advance in Warminster
Warminster Township supervisors recently voted to advertise an ordinance that would change how the township handles rental property inspections. Warminster code already requires an annual licensing for rental residences and also states that officials “may require an inspection” for the proposed rental property, but a firm inspection requirement does not exist. The proposed ordinance would establish an inspection requirement starting in 2019 with multi-family apartments and condos being inspected annually and single-family rentals inspected every other year. All rentals would require a license, submission of a tenant list and adherence to township code for property maintenance. The proposed ordinance would change the rental license period to a calendar year, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, rather than the current July 1 to June 30 period. Last year, Warminster supervisors considered a different version of an ordinance to revise the rental inspection program but spent a few months fine-tuning the changes after the Suburban REALTORS® Alliance (SRA) and local landlords expressed concerns about burdensome inspection requirements and noncompliance penalties. The new ordinance “strikes a good balance between ensuring tenants have a safe place to call home and recognizing that the vast majority of landlords are law-abiding small business owners who provide safe rental housing for their tenants and maintain their properties in a responsible manner,” said Jamie Ridge, president/CEO of the SRA, who worked with the township on the recent proposed ordinance.
Source: The Intelligencer; 3/21/2018 

Corrected tax bills sent to Riegelsville residents
A mistake at the county level caused incorrect tax bills to be mailed to Riegelsville property owners. “The county used last year’s millage rate. It only happened with Riegelsville, and it was not any fault of our tax collector,” Council President Thomas Stinnett explained. According to the borough, corrected 2018 County/Municipal Real Estate Tax bills were to be mailed on March 16, the new discount date is May 16, and the new face value date is July 16. Residents whose taxes are paid through their mortgage are asked to submit the newly dated bill to their mortgage company. Payments made on the incorrect bill dated March 1 will be returned by mail.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/22/2018 

Sellersville adopts International Property Maintenance Code
Sellersville Borough has been focused on revitalization in recent years and borough officials want to ensure that residential and commercial buildings are being maintained. Therefore, borough council voted March 12 to adopt the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) — a model code that regulates the minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings, establishing standards for things such as ventilation, heating, sanitation, fire safety and more. Borough Manager David Rivet said the fundamental takeaway for borough homeowners is that “the exterior and interior of their homes are required to be maintained, structurally sound, sanitary and in good repair,” while adding that the borough will not be conducting in-house inspections for current owner-occupied properties. Rivet did note that Sellersville is considering adopting a rental property ordinance that could include a provision that would allow for inspections of rented spaces/buildings, but it is still under discussion.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/22/2018 

New Hope voted a best American town in Expedia survey
New Hope was voted a favorite town in the United States in a recent Expedia survey. Expedia travel writer Chloe Mulliner called New Hope a “quaint, walkable town with its own Main Street and a steam train that rolls through the region,” and said “it’s easy to see why New Hope falls within the favorite category.” Mulliner continued, “Pennsylvania has certainly made an impression on travelers, as New Hope was one of three Quaker State destinations chosen by Americans — showing up more times than any other state on our list.” Read the full article here.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/22/2018 

Bristol Township School Board posts vacancy
Bristol Township School Board member Aaron Richardson has resigned from the board citing personal reasons. Richardson was appointed in January 2017 at age 19 to fill a vacancy and was elected to a four-year term in November. Board member Barbara Bill said the board must appoint a replacement for Richardson by April 12. Anyone interested in filling the vacancy should call the office of Superintendent Melanie Gehrens at 215-943-3200 to find out how to apply.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/23/2018

Chester County 

West Chester schools plan includes new elementary school
The West Chester Area School Board has unanimously approved a new 20-year capital plan that includes the construction of a new elementary school in West Goshen. The plans call for a school that will accommodate 550 to 580 students on a 24-acre site at the intersection of Route 100 and Greenhill Road, near Henderson High School athletic fields. About 2,800 new homes expected to be built within the district will lead to an estimated 750 new students, including 500 elementary-school-age children. The cost of construction for the new school has been set at $25.5 million, and the school will cost approximately $3.3 million to staff. Construction is set to begin during the 2018-19 school year, with completion in 2020-21. According to the district, in 20 years the district could jump from its current enrollment of 11,928 students up to 13,560, which could mean a tax increase for the average taxpayer of about $7 annually.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/27/2018

Sadsbury to consider amending sidewalk maintenance ordinance
Sadsbury Township will hold a public meeting to consider enactment of an ordinance that would amend Chapter 105 of its municipal code, which regulates streets and sidewalks. The ordinance would add a new section, “Sidewalk Maintenance,” that requires property owners abutting sidewalks to keep the sidewalks free and clear of obstructions, including removing snow and ice within 24 hours after a snowfall has ceased. The proposed ordinance also sets forth penalties for violations and a process for how violators will be notified. The public hearing will be held Tuesday, April 3, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 2920 Lincoln Highway, Sadsburyville.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/23/2018

At Landscapes3 meeting, residents look to county’s future
The first in a series of public meetings about the future of Chester County was held at Henrietta Hankin Library, as county planners solicit public input for Landscapes3, the county comprehensive plan. David Brant, a Realtor® who serves on the Landscapes3 steering committee, participated in an interactive map activity during the open portion of the meeting, which allowed people to point out aspects of Chester County that are important to them. Brant talked about how he enjoys downtown areas like Malvern, but also appreciates scenic spaces like the Chester Valley Trail. “We need a mix of everything — preservation as well as economic development,” said Uwchlan Township Manager Doug Hanley. “They have a tendency to feed off each other.” The meeting included stations for each of the core goals of Landscapes3: preserve, protect, appreciate, live, prosper and connect. Planners were available at each station to answer residents’ questions. There are three more meetings coming up, all running from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.: New Garden Township Building on Tuesday, April 10; Penn State Great Valley on Tuesday, May 1; and the Public Safety Training Campus in Coatesville on Wednesday, May 16. For more information, visit www.chescoplanning.org/CompPlan.cfm.
Source: Daily Times; 3/26/2018 

Easttown Township to vote on new comprehensive plan
The Easttown Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public meeting to consider adoption of the Easttown Township Comprehensive Plan of 2018, which would replace the current plan that was passed in June 2001. The comprehensive plan will guide the future development of the township based on information regarding existing and projected population, mapping, and recommendations about pedestrian and bicyclist mobility, the Village of Berwyn, Devon Center, the Route 30 Corridor, public services, and future land use. The public hearing shall be held Monday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at the Easttown Township Municipal Building, 566 Beaumont Road, Devon. The draft 2018 comprehensive plan and the current plan from 2001 can both be viewed on the township website.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/26/2018

Delaware County

Springfield plans hearing on new high school
Springfield School District is moving forward with its high school master plan, and will hold an Act 34 hearing to review cost projections and other details of progress in the construction of a new high school. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11, at 7 p.m. in the Board Room of the district offices, located at 111 W. Leamy Ave. The hearing, which is open to residents and employees of the district, will include a description of the new building and educational, physical, administrative, budgetary and fiscal matters. According to Don Mooney, executive director at the school district, the underlying purpose of the meeting is to monitor costs with respect to the state’s Plancon system, which offers substantial reimbursements for school construction and facilities. Per school board resolution, the maximum cost of construction will be $77.3 million, and the maximum overall cost will be $137.5 million. The public will have the opportunity to offer testimony regarding the project at the hearing. Learn more about the high school master plan at the district website.
Source: Daily Times; 3/26/2018 & Springfield School District; 3/20/2018 

Final scheduled reassessment meeting set for April 4
Delaware County will hold a public informational meeting on Wednesday, April 4, from 1 to 2 p.m. at Haverford Recreation Center, 9000 Parkview Dr., Haverford, to educate residents about the ongoing countywide reassessment project. The county was ordered in March 2017 by the county Common Pleas Court to conduct a countywide property tax reassessment, effective for the 2021 tax year. Reassessment began in December and is expected to conclude in 2020. Street-level photography of properties is ongoing, and pictometry, or image collection from the air, begins in the spring. The Haverford meeting, which is the last in a series of four, was rescheduled from a March date due to snow. Registration is not required. A Reassessment Hotline has also been set up at 610-891-5695 for residents to call with any questions or concerns.
Source: Daily Times; 3/26/2018 

Widener, Natural Lands partner on arboretum master plan
Widener University has forged a partnership with Natural Lands, a nonprofit land conservation group, to plan the future of Taylor Arboretum at the school. The joint effort seeks to transform the site into an integral research environment for Widener and affiliated institutions and protect it as an important resource for public enjoyment. The university acquired the arboretum, a 30-acre preserve of plantings and natural lands located in Nether Providence Township, in 2016. Sections of the property had fallen into disuse and invasive plants were beginning to degrade native vegetation. The university is collaborating with Natural Lands to develop a master plan and stewardship plan for the sustainable management of the arboretum.
Source: Widener University; 2018 

Delco zip code tops disposable-income list
According to rankings compiled by the Philadelphia Business Journal, Villanova places first on a list of zip codes in the Greater Philadelphia region in terms of disposable income. Residents of Villanova, zip code 19085, have a median disposable income of $135,809. Eight Delaware County zip codes were ranked among the top 50 on the list, including: 7. 19373/Thornton ($108,872); 15. 19041/Haverford ($95,639); 16. 19317/Chadds Ford ($95,080); 24. 19060/Garnet Valley ($91,065); 30. 19087/Wayne ($87,995); 44. 19073/Newtown Square ($80,140); and 49. 19342/Glen Mills ($79,171).
Source: Pivot.today; 3/21/2018

Edgmont supervisors to vote on nonresidential inspection ordinance
The Edgmont Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider an ordinance that would require “inspections of commercial and nonresidential properties and buildings for the protection of life and promotion of safety.” The proposed ordinance adopts the Life Safety Code as written by the National Fire Protection Association as the township’s fire prevention code. It provides for the appointment of a township fire marshal and a deputy, and sets regulations and procedures for annual, emergency and as-needed nonresidential property life and safety inspections, outlining the reasons for such inspections, the requirements to pass such inspections, and penalties for violations. It contains regulations to mitigate fire hazards and other dangerous conditions, as well as the handling and storage of combustible or explosive matter or other flammable materials. The public hearing will be held Tuesday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the township building, 1000 Gradyville Road, Gradyville.
Source: Daily Times; 3/26/2018

Montgomery County

Cleanup of Upper Merion Superfund site nears
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said a $1.8 million settlement has been reached with the owners of a Superfund site in Upper Merion to clean a portion of the area. Called Crater Resources, the 50-acre site was contaminated by coking and steel operations that sent hazardous chemicals into soil and groundwater. Part of the settlement has two of the four quarries on the site being cleaned by their owner, Renaissance Land Associates, with the goal of building up to 300 multi-family units at one end of the property. Cleanup of the property began in 2009 with removal of contaminated soil and building of caps designed to prevent contaminants from leaching into groundwater and to reduce the threat to public health. The EPA said the company could build residential units provided the protective caps were built and the company agreed to take the extra measures as part of the agreement.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/27/2018 

Norristown selected as winner of NLC Small Cities Resilience Competition
The Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) has announced the Municipality of Norristown has been selected as the winner of the National League of Cities (NLC) Small Cities Resilience Competition. Norristown was chosen from cities with 100,000 residents or less. The first phase of the effort created an actionable report designed to address the needs, challenges and most pertinent threats faced by small communities. During the second phase, IBTS will develop a set of strategic recommendations to implement one of the promising resilience projects identified during the first phase of the competition. Norristown will receive assistance to help find and secure the funds necessary for project implementation. Click here for the press release.
Source: Norristown.org; 3/27/2018 

Hatfield Township views updated plans for Walter property
Hatfield Township supervisors and residents took a first look at updated plans for a 35-acre parcel on Cowpath Road. The township is considering a zoning change for the property, from limited industrial to residential religious cluster use. The property is directly adjacent to the BAPS Hindu temple on Township Line Road. The original plans presented in 2016 showed 64 single-family detached houses spread evenly around the property. The new “cluster” plan shows a total of 65 houses on 9,000 square foot lots, with a 2.68-acre slice of the property on the west side to be deeded to BAPS for future expansion, and additional open space to be used for stormwater management features on the west side instead of the east. The average house is expected to market in the $450,000 to $500,000 range.
Source: Times Herald; 3/23/2018 

Spring-Ford approves $11 million high school expansion project
The Spring-Ford school board voted 7-1 to accept the bids for the $11 million expansion of Spring-Ford Area High School. Six years of debate, analysis and meetings preceded the vote. The proposed project includes three additions: a 10,700-square-foot performing arts expansion, a 17,200-square-foot physical education expansion and a 6,900-square-foot corridor expansion. Former school board member Joe Cerisi called the decision “one of the greatest steps we’ve seen this district take in a long time.”
Source: Daily Local; 3/22/2018

Philadelphia

Apartment complex proposed in Northern Liberties
Developer Bart Blatstein is proposing a complex of close to 1,200 rental apartments in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood. The complex would be the final project on a cluster of properties Blatstein owns, centered on the former Schmidt’s brewery site. The plan calls for six connected buildings with 45,000-square-feet of lower-story shops and restaurants around a central plaza and includes a hidden-from-view garage space for about 500 cars. The project would be built on a 4.4-acre lot south of the Shops at Schmidt’s retail building and across the street from the Piazza at Schmidts — now Schmidt’s Commons — which Blatstein built and later sold. The project will need to go before Philadelphia’s Civic Design Review Board, which offers nonbinding suggestions for the city’s biggest development proposals. Blatstein said no variances or other zoning changes would be necessary under area land-use rules. He hopes to break ground on the $350 million, five-year project by the end of March 2019.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/27/2018

New bike lanes coming to Fairmount Park and West Philly
Philadelphia City Council is considering adding bike lanes in Fairmount Park and the Parkside section of West Philadelphia. Councilman Curtis Jones, who introduced the bike lane bills at a recent council meeting, said they are essential for bicyclists to feel safe. “I actually ride my bike in from time to time, and when you go down [parts of] Parkside it's very dangerous,” he said. The bills, which are expected to be voted on in April, would extend a lane that currently runs from Bryn Mawr Avenue to North 53rd Street down to Girard Avenue, and within Fairmount Park install bike lanes on parts of Lansdowne Drive and South Concourse Drive. While the new lanes would mark a victory for bike proponents, some advocates like Dena Driscoll of the urbanist group 5th Square, say the city should be doing more, including adding physical buffers between bike and automobile lanes. Of the 200 miles of bike lanes in Philadelphia, only 2.5 miles are protected from traffic. Mayor Jim Kenney announced recently that he hopes to add more protected lanes downtown.

 


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