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 30, 2018

 

General News

Report: Housing affordability down from a year ago
According to a joint research report from the National Association of Realtors® and realtor.com, housing affordability at the national level is down from a year ago and fewer households can afford the active inventory of homes currently for sale on the market based on their income. The Realtors® Affordability Distribution Curve and Score is designed to examine affordability conditions at different income levels for all active inventory on the market. The report includes state and metro affordability data. Click here for the full article and here for the report, including state and metro area breakdown.
Source: nar.realtor; 4/18/2018

HUD secretary says rents should go up in federally subsidized housing
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has proposed changes to federal housing subsidies that could triple the rent paid by the poorest households and make it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements. The initiative would raise the rent for tenants in subsidized housing to 35 percent of gross income (or 35 percent of their earnings working 15 hours a week at the federal minimum wage), up from the current standard of 30 percent of adjusted income. About half of the 4.7 million families receiving housing benefits would be affected, according to HUD officials. The cap on rent for the poorest families would rise to about $150 a month — three times higher than the existing $50 ceiling. About 712,000 households would see their monthly rents rise to $150, the officials said. Carson said the change is necessary because the current model is convoluted and unsustainable.  “Every year, it takes more money, millions of dollars more, to serve the same number of households,” Carson said. Housing advocates criticized the HUD proposals as “cruel hypocrisy,” coming after tax breaks to wealthy Americans and corporations. The proposals would need to be confirmed by Congress before taking effect.
Source: Washington Post; 4/25/2018

Bucks County

Long-awaited Yardley sidewalk project to begin
The long-awaited, discussed and delayed North Main Street sidewalk project will finally get underway in Yardley Borough. The aim of the project is to provide safe pedestrian access to the business district for residents living north of Afton Avenue. The first phase of the project includes the installation of a stormwater drainage system and the construction of a sidewalk and curbing on the east side of the street from the Grist Mill parking lot to 88 North Main St. “It’s only a portion of the sidewalk, but it’s a start,” said Councilman Ryan Berry. Berry continued that council is applying for a new round of grant money for the second and third phases of the project, which will eventually extend the sidewalk from 88 North Main St. to the borough line. Much of the first phase will be funded by a $454,000 Multimodal Transportation grant the borough secured from the state last fall. The remaining balance will be paid from the borough’s sidewalk fund. The project is expected to be completed in 90 days.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 4/25/2018

Doylestown awards bids for Pebble Ridge sewer extension
Doylestown Township supervisors awarded over $560,000 in construction bids for a pump station servicing a controversial sewer line extension near Pebble Ridge Road and Woodridge Drive. The Pebble Ridge/Woodridge and Vicinity Project has caused controversy because the 250 homeowners in the area will ultimately be the ones paying back an $8.6 million Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (Pennvest) loan once the project is completed. The estimated price tag is about $34,000 per homeowner. The township has monitored on-lot septic systems in the area since 1998 and contends that requiring homes to connect to the public sewer line if their systems are failing averts a public health and environmental hazard.
Source: The Intelligencer; 4/19/2018

Curb repairs debated in Dublin
About a dozen Dublin homeowners appeared before borough council to voice their concerns about having to pay for the cost to repair curbs outside their homes. The roadway in front of their homes is due to be repaved next year and, in order to do so, about 143 feet of curbs will need to be replaced at the cost of about $65 per linear foot, according to estimates from Borough Engineer Thomas Zarko. According to Council Vice President Brent Smith, the curb and the sidewalk are the responsibility of the homeowners. The residents blame the damage to the curbs on subcontractors hired by the borough for snow removal. The borough will examine the curbs to see what the damage is from and will determine whether or not it is the residents’ responsibility. Council expects to have a response no sooner than next month.
Source: Perkasie News-Herald; 4/25/2018

Bucks County public transportation map
The Bucks County Public Transportation Map provides information about public transportation in Bucks County. The map is an interactive guide to public transportation routes and schedules for the county. Click here to view the map.
Source: BucksCounty.org; 4/2018

Chester County 

Real estate transfer tax funds $766k in affordable housing grants
State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) announced that three Chester County organizations have been awarded a total of $766,000 in state funding to combat homelessness and improve and expand affordable housing options. The funding comes through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Program’s Real Estate Transfer Tax Fund, administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The money will be dispersed as follows: $500,000 to Chester County Department of Community Development for the Decade to Doorways Program, which raises awareness around homelessness issues and services available; $190,000 to Home of the Sparrow, a nonprofit organization that serves women facing homelessness; $76,000 to the Housing Authority of Chester County for the Housing Locator Program to divert homeless individuals living on the streets or in emergency shelters into a permanent affordable housing solution.
Source: State Sen. Andy Dinniman; 4/16/2018

Sewer line’s proposed path into Maryland nixed by Rising Sun
The Oxford Area Sewer Authority’s plan to save money by laying a new dry sewer line in the same trench as a new water pipe has hit a roadblock. Chester Water Authority is taking its service line to Rising Sun, Maryland, and since they are opening the right of way along the roadside for this project, the sewer authority decided to lay its dry line — which would not be used until the area becomes more developed — in the same trench as a cost-saving measure. The municipality of Rising Sun, however, is asking that the lines not be in the same trench and instead that the sewer line be installed on the opposite side of the street.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/22/2018

DEP hearing on Mariner East 2 scheduled for April 30
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has scheduled a public hearing on two proposed changes to Sunoco’s permit for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. The hearing will be held Monday, April 30, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Pierce Middle School, 1314 Burke Road, West Chester. Sunoco has requested to change the drilling techniques it is using to construct the pipeline at two sites in West Whiteland Township — from horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to conventional bore at one site, and from HDD to a combination of HDD, conventional bore and open trench drilling at the other site. State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) said the request seems to be the result of recurring problems in the area, including sinkholes and contaminated wells.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/18/2018

East Caln considers ordinance regarding on-lot sewage
The Board of Supervisors of East Caln Township has scheduled a public hearing to discuss a proposed ordinance governing municipal management of on-lot sewage disposal facilities. The ordinance adds a new article, which includes: “introduction; purpose; definitions; applicability; permits; responsibilities of persons who own properties served by on-lot sewage disposal and small flow sewage treatment facilities; rights of the Township; notice to comply, fees; administration; and enforcement remedies.” The public hearing will be held Wednesday, May 2, at 1:30 p.m. at the township building, 110 Bell Tavern Road, Downingtown. The Alliance has requested a copy of the proposed ordinance.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/20/2018

Delaware County

Ridley Park Borough manager pick stirs controversy
Ridley Park Borough Council recently appointed its fourth borough manager in six years, and some residents and council members are criticizing the hiring process. The borough did not advertise the position before interviewing candidates and ultimately selecting Richard Tutak Jr., who is 25 years old, as its new manager. Tutak earned a master’s degree in political science from Widener University in 2017 and most recently worked as a legislative aide in state Sen. Thomas Killion’s (R-9) office. Councilman Dane Collins noted that the $70,000 salary is high for someone with no municipal administrative experience. Councilman Jared Brennan raised the fact that Tutak is the grandson of former county Republican Chairman Thomas Judge, though Council President Jim Glenn said he was initially unaware of that relationship. “Education is not experience,” said resident Mike Dougherty. “To pay someone $70,000 without experience is wrong.” Glenn said the salary was in the budget and would ensure Tutak was fully committed to the borough. Tutak was appointed with the three Democratic members of the seven-person council voting no.
Source: Daily Times; 4/23/2018

Clifton Heights increases fees for permits and licenses
At the recommendation of the borough’s new code enforcement officer, Clifton Heights Borough Council voted to increase the fees for permits and licenses. Fees rose from $45 to $50 for a permit for residential contractors; a use and occupancy transfer increased from $60 to $100; the rental license fee increased from $60 to $75 annually per unit; contractor’s license increased from $50 to $75; and subdivision/land development fee increased from $25 to $75. John Gould III, the new enforcement officer who replaced Anthony Tartaglia, said the fee increase was based on comparison with 10 nearby municipalities. The $100 business use and occupancy fee did not increase.
Source: Daily Times; 4/21/2018

Concord considers 254-townhouse development proposal
Concord Township Council has begun hearings on the conditional use application from Pulte Homes to construct a 254-unit townhouse community on Ridge Road near Route 202. The 22.5-acre tract, which was approved in 2008 for construction of a shopping center, is owned by Pettinaro Construction Co., and Pulte is the equitable developer. About 18 acres of the property are zoned C-2 commercial, and the rest is residential. The conditional use application is for placement of single-family homes in the commercial section, which is a permitted conditional use in the township. The homes would be constructed in 23 groupings with a maximum of six attached buildings, each containing two stacked townhouses, with units priced between $300,000 and $400,000, according to Pulte representative Robert Holmes. The next night of testimony is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22.
Source: Daily Times; 4/22/2018

Radnor Planning Commission recommends approval of Penn Medicine project
Penn Medicine’s proposal to develop a former Wyeth Laboratories property at 145 King of Prussia Road got a boost from the Radnor Township Planning Commission, which voted unanimously to recommend approval to the township commissioners. Plans for the 19-acre parcel call for the construction of two parking garages, an ambulatory care center, an office building and a hotel. Community activists had fought previous development efforts at the site, but no members of the public attended the recent Penn Medicine meeting. Penn Medicine’s proposal is in compliance with all but one of the township’s requests — the company asked to plant trees not on the township’s approved list, though the Shade Tree Commission is expected to add them to the list soon. The company has agreed to undertake various traffic improvements, including a new traffic signal at Raider Road, at a shared entrance with Radnor High School.
Source: Daily Times; 4/18/2018

DEP hearing on Mariner East 2 scheduled for April 30
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has scheduled a public hearing on two proposed changes to Sunoco’s permit for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. The hearing will be held Monday, April 30, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Pierce Middle School, 1314 Burke Road, West Chester. Sunoco has requested to change the drilling techniques it is using to construct the pipeline at two sites in West Whiteland Township — from horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to conventional bore at one site, and from HDD to a combination of HDD, conventional bore and open trench drilling at the other site. State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) said the request seems to be the result of recurring problems in the area, including sinkholes and contaminated wells.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/18/2018

Montgomery County

Montco housing market surges
A recent Montgomery County Planning Commission report shows that the overall median sales price ($285,000) of homes in the county increased 2.3 percent in 2017. A total of 12,202 homes were sold in the county last year — the most in the past 10 years. The report reviews housing in terms of existing and new units. Existing units, which are the best gauge of actual home values, had a median sales price increase by 2.2 percent and the median sales price for new units ($453,000) grew more modestly with an increase of 1 percent. Many boroughs and town centers are seeing gains in their median values, partially driven by a scarcity of housing stock. The report also highlights emerging trends in the county and provides data for each municipality. The report can be viewed on the county website.
Source: Montgomery County press release; 4/18/2018

Lower Providence supervisors to host open house
Lower Providence supervisors will host a “one-stop” open house for residents to learn about ongoing projects and activity in the township. The event will be held Wednesday, May 9, at 2621 Van Buren Ave. in Audubon, with a presentation starting at 5:45 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Supervisors will provide information on residential and commercial development, transportation strategies, scheduled road paving, as well as recreation and cultural projects. More than a dozen exhibitors will be on hand to answer questions about their services or development projects, including SEPTA, Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, Bald Birds Brewing, Providence Place Senior Living, Courts at Brynwood, Lower Providence Volunteer Fire Department and others. To help the township anticipate attendance, those planning to attend should contact Bill Roth via email at broth@lowerprovidence.org.
Source: Times Herald; 4/18/2018

Norristown Area School District reconsiders preliminary budget
In January, the Norristown Area school board announced a preliminary 2018-19 budget with no tax increase — a measure that would have required extreme belt-tightening. The preliminary budget of $155 million would have required the district to cut costs or raise revenue by $4 million in order to avoid a tax increase. Teachers, parents and staff packed a recent school board meeting to implore the school board not to cut programs and services, even if it meant increasing taxes. School Board President Turea Hudson said board members had been approached by parents and teachers concerned about potential program scale-backs, staffing cuts and the possible elimination of full-day kindergarten. At the meeting, school board members listened to their constituents and were rethinking the proposed austerity measures in order to better serve the district’s students. “They were overwhelmingly in favor of increasing taxes to maintain the integrity of the programs that we offer our students,” said Hudson.
Source: Times Herald; 4/25/2018

Upper Merion supervisor resigns
Upper Merion Township Supervisor Erika Spott submitted her resignation from the board of supervisors, effective May 31, citing personal reasons. Spott has been a supervisor in the township for 10 years. In accordance with state law, Upper Merion Township Board of Supervisors must fill Spott’s place on the board within 30 days of her effective resignation.
Source: Times Herald; 4/25/2018

Philadelphia

Housing and shops proposed at Frankford Chocolate Factory site
Developer Ori Feibush recently acquired the site of the former Frankford Chocolate Factory in South Philadelphia for $15.5 million. Feibush plans to raze most of the historic building to make way for apartments, townhouses and stores on the North side of Washington Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets. Although redevelopment of the historic building may allow for tax credits, Feibush said the original structure has deteriorated to a level where its full rehabilitation would not be feasible. Calling the area “the true connective tissue between” the neighborhoods of Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze, Feibush aims to transform the area from a strip of warehouses and blighted industrial buildings into a commercial and residential corridor. Feibush will seek to have the property rezoned from its current industrial-use designation. The proposal for the site includes 176 apartments above 22,000 square feet of retail space along Washington Avenue in a five-story structure that incorporates a section of the existing property from which the smokestack rises, where the developer will focus preservation efforts. To the north of the apartments will be 20 condo duplexes proposed along a pedestrian way and further north along Kimball Street will be 22 townhouses. The project includes a 176-space underground parking garage. The former chocolate factory was built in phases over more than a century, starting in 1865 as the Howell & Brothers Wallpaper Hangings Manufactory.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/19/2018

Appeals court rules city is not immune from adverse possession law
A state appeals court has ruled that the doctrine of adverse possession applies even when the owner of a neglected property is the City of Philadelphia. Last month, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel ruled in favor of Fishtown resident Frank Galdo, who had sued the city over ownership of a lot near his home. Galdo had cleaned up the city-owned lot in 1989 — which at the time was vacant except for drug addicts, prostitutes and trash — and maintained it for nearly three decades. After the city issued a warning to him in 2013 saying his use of the lot was unauthorized, Galdo sued the city. A lower court determined the city was immune from the adverse possession law, which states that someone who publicly takes possession of and improves an otherwise neglected parcel of real estate may eventually acquire it. Galdo appealed to the state Commonwealth Court, which ruled, 2-1, in Galdo’s favor.  If the city appeals, the case could head to the state Supreme Court; otherwise, it returns to Common Pleas Court.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/24/2018

 


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