Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Teams legislation introduced
Central Bucks $342 million budget holds the line on taxes
Smart growth topic of June 20 forum
Delco puts spotlight on opportunity zones
Lansdale council discusses alleys
Philly to increase homestead exemption to $45,000
Region could face apartment glut
At the end of 2017, more than 16,000 rental units in 68 projects were in various stages of development in the Philadelphia region, leading some observers to wonder whether an oversupply of apartments is coming. Of that number, about 13,500 units are in early stages of planning and discussion, about 1,500 are under construction, and about 1,000 are in the lease-up phase. In Philadelphia, 8,100 units have been built in Center City since 2010, increasing supply by 20 percent. “The problem with the suburbs is apartments caught on later than in the city,” said Michael Markman, president of BET investments, which develops apartments in Philadelphia suburbs. The surge in apartment construction reflects the lingering effects of the Great Recession, which led people away from homeownership and toward rentals in urban centers. David Della Porta, of Villanova-based CornerstoneTracy, which develops multifamily projects, said, “Overall, the supply is in balance, but there are pockets of oversupply and we are really watching that.”
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 4/4/2018
No bidders for state’s sixth casino license
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will consider opening its casino license auction process to out-of-state casinos or non-casino businesses, after it received no bids for a sixth mini-casino. Five licenses have been awarded, raising more than $127 million for the commonwealth, but no bids were received by the deadline for a sixth license. In 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 271, a gambling expansion act that allows for up to 10 satellite casinos, each of which having between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games. Ten of the state’s 12 existing casinos were eligible to bid on licenses to open the casinos, with minimum bids starting at $7.5 million. In the event no bids are received, the law gives the gaming board the power to decide whether to continue holding auctions and to change the criteria for who can bid. With 12 operating casinos, Pennsylvania has the second highest commercial casino revenue in the nation, behind Nevada. At $1.4 billion, it has the highest tax revenue from casino gambling in the nation.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/18/2018
Bucks County Board of Elections relocates polls in three districts
The Bucks County Board of Elections unanimously approved three permanent polling place relocations ahead of the May 15 General Primary. Location changes have occurred in the following districts: Falls Township 1-7; Solebury Township Upper; and Warminster Township 5. Voters in the three relocated districts will be notified by mail of the change. Click here for more information. Detailed information about all of the county’s 304 voting districts is available on the Board of Elections section of the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org.
Source: Bucks County press release; 4/10/2018
Richland Township to notify quarry of potential road impact
Richland Township supervisors recently authorized Township Manager Paul Stepanoff to notify the owners of Rockhill Quarry of concern about the potential impact of heavy truck use on Rock Hill Road. The board authorized its traffic engineer, Gilmore & Associates, to take core samples of the road in order to determine the roadway’s underpinning. Gilmore’s Amy Kaminski noted the present condition of the road as very good, while other officials noted the presence of low shoulders and “S” turns. The official government notice will add to a growing chorus of concerns about the proposed reopening of the long-dormant quarry.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/13/2018
Sellersville officials broaden zoning uses at planned business campus
Sellersville Borough Council broadened the types of businesses that can operate at the planned Sellersville Business Campus in an attempt to attract quality businesses to the community. Council voted to approve a zoning ordinance amendment that allows commercial recreational and entertainment facilities to operate by conditional use in the borough’s industrial zoning district, where the 40-acre business park is located. A developer/business owner that wishes to have a recreational/entertainment establishment in the industrial zone would need to meet particular conditions, such as parking, and receive special approval from the borough. The Sellersville Business Park is the former home of U.S. Gauge, once one of the largest employers in Upper Bucks County.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/13/2018
Lower Makefield opens new community center
Lower Makefield Township’s new community center has been officially open for about a month. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, former state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, who also formerly served as a township supervisor, called the building “a jewel” for Lower Makefield. “The word community is the most important word in the title of this building, because this truly is a place for all of us to gather, for all of us to share a sense of community and a place where we will build even stronger bonds,” Santarsiero said. The building, located at 1550 Oxford Valley Road, is home to the Lower Makefield Seniors and the township’s Parks and Recreation Department, both of which have relocated from the township building. Visit the township website for more information.
Source: The Advance; 3/16/2018
Valley Township considers allowing zoning for casinos
Valley Township supervisors have scheduled a public hearing to consider a proposed amendment to the township zoning ordinance that would add language regarding casinos. The amendment would alter Chapter 27 of the township code to add “casino” as a conditional use and to set criteria including traffic, parking and signage. The amended code would define a casino as: “an establishment that offers, whether as an accessory or primary use, any form of legalized gambling authorized under the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and limited to table games, slot machines, live card games, live card game tournaments, video poker, keno, and gambling machines. This does not include adult-related facilities or uses.” The public hearing will be held Wednesday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 890 W. Lincoln Highway, Coatesville.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/11/2018
Kennett school district may hike taxes by 2.27 percent
The Kennett Consolidated School District Board of Directors is considering a 2.27 percent tax increase as part of an $86.3 million budget for the 2018-2019 school year. The board voted to adopt the budget in April after introducing it preliminarily in February. At 2.27 percent, the tax hike would raise the average tax bill by $123 for a $330,000 property. Board Treasurer Michael H. Finnegan noted that the increase could be less than 2 percent, depending on factors like retirements and state funding. The major factors behind the increase include salaries and benefits, particularly rising retirement-fund contributions, Finnegan said.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/11/2018
County preserved more than 4,000 acres of open space in 2017
Chester County commissioners announced that an estimated 4,240 acres of open space were protected in 2017 — more than double the amount preserved the previous year. Overall, a total of 136,020 acres, or 28 percent of the county, was preserved as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the county’s Protected Open Space Tracking system, a web-based database and mapping program. County-funded agricultural conservation easements account for more than 1,300 acres of protected open space, and more than 1,000 acres are protected due to the preservation of the Bryn Coed Estate. “Open space preservation has been supported by the growth goals in the Chester County Strategic Plan and in Landscapes2, the county’s existing comprehensive plan,” noted Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “It will continue to be a priority for Landscapes3, the county’s next long-range plan for the future.”
Source: Chester County; 4/17/2018
New Garden considers tax breaks for volunteers
The New Garden Township Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings to consider a pair of ordinances that would provide tax incentives for volunteer emergency-responders. Both ordinances would amend Chapter 176, “Taxation,” of the municipal code to provide incentives for active volunteers of volunteer fire companies and nonprofit emergency medical services agencies, provided they meet certain criteria. One ordinance would create an earned income tax credit in the amount of $200, and the other would establish a tax credit in the amount of 20 percent for tax levied on property in the borough. The public hearing will be held during the supervisors regular meeting on Monday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building, 299 Starr Road, Landenberg.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/16/2018
Developers to present plans for Don Guanella site in Marple
Sproul Road Developers LLC is planning a public presentation of its proposal for development of the Don Guanella property, a more than 213-acre site in Marple Township bounded by Sproul Road, Reed Road, I-476 and Cardinal O’Hara High School. The developer has an agreement to purchase the property, which is currently owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The plan, which would reportedly seek to preserve nearly 175 acres as open space, is in sharp contrast to the concept presented several years ago by Goodman Properties, who proposed nearly one million square feet of business/consumer-oriented retail space, nearly 250 residential units and recreational amenities. The presentation is scheduled for Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the Marple Newtown High School, 120 Media Line Road. For more information on this and other developments in the area, visit the Proposed Township Development Projects section of the township website.
Source: Marple Township; 4/2018
Springfield updates community on high school plans
Springfield School District recently held a hearing to update community members on the plan to construct a new high school on the southeast section of the current high school campus, near Saxer Avenue. The current high school complex, located closer to Leamy Avenue, will be demolished. The total project cost is pegged at $137 million, and the maximum building cost is $77.3 million. According to Superintendent Tony Barber, the new school will focus on four pillars: academics, arts, athletics and service. District Executive Director Don Mooney said a home at the average assessed value of $146,000 will see a tax increase of $110 to $150 for the new building, but it will be phased in gradually. The hearing was a legally required step to qualify for the state Department of Education’s Plan Con program, which would make the district eligible for reimbursement of nearly $12 million. Mario Cimino, the president of Morton Council, expressed concern that the reimbursement might never happen. District officials said it was reasonable to assume the state would provide the reimbursement, but adjustments could be made if it didn’t happen. More information is available on the school district website.
Source: Daily Times; 4/12/2018
County Council continues road show in Radnor
Delaware County Council will move its weekly meeting outside of its usual chambers and into Radnor on May 2. This offsite meeting is part of council’s ongoing efforts to improve communication with residents by taking meetings into various parts of the community. “We enjoy holding meetings at various locations throughout the county where we can highlight events and accomplishments of the residents, local groups and leaders,” said Council Chairman John McBlain. Past offsite meetings have been held in the City of Chester, Concord, Brookhaven, Clifton Heights, Chadds Ford, Ridley Township, Upper Darby, Glenolden, Marple, Bethel, Springfield, Prospect Park, Newtown Township, Aston, Garnet Valley, Haverford and Brandywine Battlefield Park. The Radnor meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 2, at 6 p.m. at the Radnor Township Building, 301 Iven Ave. in Radnor. For a full schedule of council meetings, visit the county website.
Source: Delaware County; 4/2018
Middletown development loses 14 lots to Sunoco pipeline
Middletown Township Council accepted an application of Ponds Edge LP to amend its prior conditional use approval granted by Resolution 2013-101 with respect to property it plans to develop, located between 1278 and 1328 Baltimore Pike. The reconfiguration of the lots was necessitated by condemnation proceedings instituted by Sunoco Pipeline LP, which resulted in the loss of 14 lots, decreasing the total number from 211 to 197.
Source: Daily Times; 4/11/2018
‘Conversations with the Commissioners’ 2018 Series dates announced
For the sixth year in a row, the Montgomery County commissioners are holding “Conversations with Commissioners” events across the county. The “Conversations” have been well-attended and give county residents the opportunity to discuss issues important in their communities with the commissioners. The 2018 series of conversations will be held in Pottstown (April 23), Pennsburg (May 30), Bryn Mawr (May 3) and Abington (May 8). Click here for more information.
Source: Montgomery County press release; 4/5/2018
Pottstown School District facing $1.7 million shortfall
The Pottstown School District has posted an overview of the $61 million preliminary 2018-19 budget on the district website. The district is considering a tax increase for the first time in four years. The district is projecting a loss of $1.7 million in revenues in the coming fiscal year, as well as another $500,000 in refunding of tax assessments — both attributed to Pottstown Hospital being purchased by Tower Health and being removed from the tax rolls. The school district would add just under $1 million in revenue by raising property taxes by the maximum amount allowed by this year’s state index for the district — 3.5 percent —leaving a deficit of just over $350,000. However, according to the advocacy group Equity First, the tax increase would not be necessary if Pennsylvania funded public education according to the “fair funding formula” the legislature adopted two years ago but has only partially implemented. Equity First, which seeks the full implementation of the fair funding formula, presented an analysis that ranks Pottstown fifth on the list of most-underfunded school districts in Pennsylvania. If the fair funding formula, which takes into consideration median incomes, local tax effort and other local factors, was fully implemented, Pottstown would be receiving an additional $13.8 million per year from the commonwealth.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/17/2018
Bridgeport to consider anti-discrimination ordinance
Bridgeport Borough Council will consider the adoption of an anti-discrimination ordinance on Tuesday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Borough Hall, 63 W. Fourth St. The proposed ordinance would: establish a Human Relations Commission; provide for membership terms and requirements, responsibilities, powers and duties of the commission; prohibit discrimination in housing, commercial property, employment and public accommodations based upon actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or the use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids; and provide for exceptions, definitions and penalties.
Source: Times Herald; 4/17/2018
Cheltenham posts information regarding potential sewer system sale
Cheltenham Township has posted information regarding the township’s consideration of the potential sale of its sanitary sewer system. Information pertaining to Aqua’s bid submission to purchase Cheltenham Township’s sanitary sewer system and additional related information is available here.
Source: Cheltenham Township press release; 4/14/2018
City council announces affordable housing bills
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke recently announced a package of affordable housing bills that includes a “construction impact tax,” which would levy a one percent tax on new construction. The legislation is the result of months of debate over inclusionary zoning and the city’s 10-year tax abatement. The one percent tax will be levied on the estimated cost of construction and will be due at the time the building permit is issued. Rehabilitation and repair work, with the exception of “ordinary upkeep and maintenance,” will also be included in the levy. The bill also proposes to segment the Housing Trust Fund into two separate “sub-funds,” one for the current revenue stream from a fee assessed on deeds and mortgages (which currently brings in about $13.5 million annually), and one for the proceeds from the proposed construction tax (an analysis of the last 10 years of building permits estimates this to be about $25 million a year.) The bill does not specify how the funds would be split between affordable housing production and a new down-payment assistance program. The proposed legislation shares the construction tax across the building industries and is not limited to residential development, which was targeted in an earlier version of the plan. Affordable housing groups support the legislation, as does the Building Industry Association, which had opposed an earlier version. Other real estate groups are not as supportive as the BIA. David Feldman, the director of the Development Workshop, which represents larger developers in Philadelphia, expressed concerns about the proposed legislation “coming on the heels of a real estate transfer fee increase, doubling of L&I fees, and proposed increases to property taxes.” Click here for more information.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 4/11/2018
Philadelphia Water Department proposes rate hike
The Philadelphia Water Department has proposed an 11 percent rate increase over the next three years. The city’s water-rate board will hold seven hearings to listen to public testimony about the department’s proposal to increase the monthly bill of a typical customer using 500 cubic feet (3,740 gallons) from $66.50 to $73.20 by 2020. The water department cites increasing operating costs for upgrades to water- and wastewater-treatments plants and increased replacement of aging sewer and water mains. The water department’s request is explained on the water-rate board’s website along with hearing information.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/16/2018