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 9, 2018

 

General News

Primary election voting deadlines approach
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.

Call to Action: Support the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® urges all members to contact their state legislators and ask them to support House Bill 1981 and Senate Bill 1066, which would establish the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program. The program would allow Pennsylvanians to save money toward the purchase of a home, with the money saved qualified as a state tax deduction. Parents and grandparents would be eligible to save for children and grandchildren as well. To learn more and take action, visit www.firsthomepa.com.

Bucks County

Quakertown postpones furlough vote
A majority of Quakertown Community School District board members recently voted to delay a vote on seven staff furloughs until Thursday, April 12. Board members are concerned that the furlough of a district guidance counselor, a librarian, a nurse and four district teachers will have a detrimental effect on the students. Board member Keith Micucci said, “I know the public is concerned about taxes, but we are going to have kids who are going to be affected by the decisions we make. By constantly closing schools and laying off teachers, we run the risk of destroying our long-term community.” Both Superintendent William Harner and Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards pointed out that the district will not have the classroom space for the four teachers slated to be furloughed once Tohickon Valley Elementary is closed. If the board decides to vote against the furloughs, an additional $796,000 would be added to the current $2 million shortfall.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/4/2018

Northampton Township to explore purchase of country club
Northampton Township supervisors voted to sign a letter of intent to explore the purchase of the Northampton Valley Country Club on Richboro Road. The letter gives the township a 90-day window to conduct due diligence and determine if it should pursue the $12.5 million purchase of the 125-acre property, located adjacent to Tyler State Park and the township-owned Civic Center. The property is zoned R-1 and, according to Chairman Barry Moore, “There could be more than 100 houses put onto that property, which would put stress on our community, our schools, our roads. This is an opportunity we’ve talked about a number of times, and we’re right at a point now where we have a possible agreement in mind of having the township acquire the property and run it as a golf course.” Moore said about 40,000 rounds of golf are played at the club each year, with anywhere from a third to half being played by township residents. If the township enters into an agreement of sale, it would float a bond for just over $14 million — $12.5 million to purchase, $1 million in reserves and $500,000 for capital improvements. The bond financing would be paid 100 percent from the golf course proceeds, Moore said.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 4/2/2018

Newtown Township unveils trail plan
Newtown Township supervisors recently unveiled the new trail plans for the Lower Dolington Trail, which was identified as the most desired trail route based on public input from surveys, online questionnaires and public feedback from participants at public meetings. The trail will connect Roberts Ridge Park at Frost Lane with a portion of Upper Silver Lake Road, and it will be approximately 10 feet wide and paved with asphalt. Supervisors voted unanimously to apply for a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) grant that will help pay for half the $1 million expected construction costs for the trail. The $500,000 needed to match the DCNR grant would come from the Recreation Capital Fund, said Assistant Township Manager Micah Lewis. The fund is subsidized by developer fees paid in lieu of providing open space or recreation facilities. The township has also applied for a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant, in case the DCNR grant is not approved.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/22/2018

Perkasie approves tax abatement for airport development
Perkasie Borough Council voted unanimously to designate five parcels at the Pennridge Airport as eligible for the Local Economic Revitalization Act (LERTA). The approval sets up a 10-year tax abatement program that will discount property tax bills for improvements made to the parcels adjacent to the airport. Pennridge Development Enterprises, owners of the parcels, plans to build two 100,000-square-foot warehouses on the land. The Bucks County commissioners and the Pennridge School Board have to approve the LERTA designation before it can be finalized.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/5/2018

Chester County 

East Whiteland considers transportation impact fee
The East Whiteland Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to discuss an ordinance that would establish a transportation impact fee. The ordinance would establish criteria for the collection of highway/traffic capital improvement assessments in accordance with state law. The ordinance would apply to subdivisions and new development within the established transportation service area, and lays out the purposes, findings, uses, calculation method, collection and payment procedures for the fee. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11, at the township building, 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer. For updated township meeting information, visit the East Whiteland Township website.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/3/2018

Oxford Borough sewer reps balk at payment
At the March 27 meeting of the Oxford Area Sewer Authority Board, members discussed how to pay a $1.2 million debt due on a $27 million USDA loan. The authority is looking to its four member municipalities help. Three of them — East Nottingham, Lower Oxford, West Nottingham — have agreed to pay a portion of the debt on the condition that all four members contribute, but Oxford Borough remains a holdout. The loan was made in 2010 to cover costs of expanding the capacity of the system, but an unexpected drop-off in housing starts led to a revenue shortfall. Oxford Borough contends that it was not notified of the budget shortfall in a timely manner, which would have enabled it to budget for the payment. The borough’s representatives on the authority board have also pushed to move forward the planned sale of an office building that it owns, which is part of the loan-repayment agreement. “I don’t see how we can pass the buck without doing our due diligence and put this building on the market,” said John Schaible, an authority board member from Oxford Borough.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/30/2018

Caln Township considers update to property maintenance code
Caln Township supervisors have scheduled a public hearing to consider an ordinance amending the “Property Maintenance” section of the municipal code. The proposed ordinance would adopt the 2018 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code, re-adopt a rental permit program, and add a new chapter, titled “Use and Occupancy Certificate Upon Transfer of Property,” in order to comply with provisions of the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act as amended by Act 133 of 2016. The hearing will be held Thursday, April 12, at the Caln Township Municipal Building, 253 Municipal Dr., Thorndale. The Alliance has requested a copy of the proposed ordinance.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/4/2018

Sunoco pipeline friction continues
Residents who live near the route of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline continue to clash with the company, as it works to construct a 350-mile pipeline that would transport ethane, butane and propane from Marcellus shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and western Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. Among the recent developments in the dispute: Three Chester County residents so far have filed a class action suit, alleging the company used improper drilling techniques that caused sinkholes on their properties. Sunoco has offered to cover the daily costs of displaced residents who live near the sinkholes. In Edgmont Township, Delaware County, what appear to be new sinkholes have opened up at a pipeline construction site near homes, though Sunoco has said the holes are rodent holes that the company fenced off for safety. And a community group called The Risk Assessment Committee of Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety has raised about half of a $50,000 goal toward funding a study of risks associated with the pipeline.
Sources: Daily Times; 3/27/18; Philly Mag; 4/3/2018; Daily Times; 4/4/18; & Daily Local; 4/2/2018

Delaware County

Aston commissioners advance plan for 180-unit development
Aston commissioners approved a conditional use application by Grace Real Estate Investment Partners for the construction 180 housing units in three buildings, each with a maximum height of 42 feet, on a 10.4-acre parcel located at 104-106 Old Pennell Road. The units would be a mix of condominiums and apartments, and the proposal includes 364 parking spaces, which is more than is required by the township. Commissioners President Jim Stigale explained that the vote was just for the dimensions of the property and is a first step in a lengthy approval process that will include traffic, sewer and other issues to be addressed. Several residents spoke at the meeting to urge Grace to build all condominiums and not apartments. “These are our property values … We have apartments right here in the township that already are not rented,” said Anthony Morelli, who owns a nearby business. Township Engineer Joe Viscuso said that the parcel is zoned for apartments, and the developer would need to submit a proposal to the commonwealth to build any condominiums.
Source: Daily Times; 4/1/2018

Sunoco pipeline friction continues
Residents who live near the route of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline continue to clash with the company, as it works to construct a 350-mile pipeline that would transport ethane, butane and propane from Marcellus shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and western Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. Among the recent developments in the dispute: Three Chester County residents so far have filed a class action suit, alleging the company used improper drilling techniques that caused sinkholes on their properties. Sunoco has offered to cover the daily costs of displaced residents who live near the sinkholes. In Edgmont Township, Delaware County, what appear to be new sinkholes have opened up at a pipeline construction site near homes, though Sunoco has said the holes are rodent holes that the company fenced off for safety. And a community group called The Risk Assessment Committee of Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety has raised about half of a $50,000 goal toward funding a study of risks associated with the pipeline.
Sources: Daily Times; 3/27/18; Philly Mag; 4/3/2018; Daily Times; 4/4/18; & Daily Local; 4/2/2018

Middletown plans loop road at congested intersection
Middletown Township Council has taken early steps toward building a loop road that would ease congestion at Baltimore Pike and Pennell Road. The council voted to give the township authority to acquire necessary easements, including through eminent domain if necessary. The municipality has existing easements on properties surrounding the Lima Shopping Center, and it is negotiating to secure 0.17 acres for permanent rights-of-way and 0.32 acres as temporary construction easements. The township-built road would wind behind CVS and Chick-Fil-A, easing the burden on vehicles turning onto Route 452 from neighborhood streets and improving the entrance to local businesses.
Source: Daily Times; 4/4/2018

Delco man admits to role in $13M mortgage fraud
A Newtown Square man has admitted to defrauding lenders out of nearly $13 million dollars in an elaborate scheme involving mortgage and title businesses that he owned. George Barnard pleaded guilty to 24 counts of wire fraud, six counts of bank fraud and three counts of filing a false tax return before U.S. District Chief Judge Lawrence F. Stengel. According to the indictment, Barnard took funds from Capital Finance Mortgage Corp., which he co-owned, that were intended to be used on mortgage loans and instead used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that included yachts, luxury vehicles and multimillion-dollar beach homes. The shortfall in escrow accounts at his title companies caused delays in paying off first mortgages of borrowers in the process of refinancing their homes. To keep the scheme going, Barnard kept opening new title companies, rolling the shortages over into them. One title company closed with a shortage of more than $4 million, leaving it unable to satisfy approximately 17 outstanding mortgages. Barnard faces a maximum of 669 years in prison, a five-year period of supervised release, a $12.3 million fine and a $3,300 special assessment at sentencing, which is scheduled for June. His business partner, David Fili Jr., also pleaded guilty to 12 counts of wire and bank fraud.
Source: Daily Times; 4/3/2018

Montgomery County

2018 Montco Housing Fair is April 28
The Montgomery County Partners for Homeownership Housing Fair will be held Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting. The annual Housing Fair is a great opportunity to have questions answered by experts, including lenders, Realtors®, insurance agencies, home inspection firms, and nonprofit and government agencies. Learn about mortgages and grant programs, new government programs, sheriff sales, foreclosure prevention, and how to understand a difficult real estate market. Workshops will be held throughout the day. Click here for more information.

YMCA closure generates questions
The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA formed a task force to advise how services could still be provided at various locations once the Pottstown YMCA facility is closed in June. One of the reasons for the closure is an annual operating deficit averaging $700,000, a number confirmed by Shaun Elliot, CEO of Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA. The YMCA did not reveal, until pressed for more information by the task force, that there is an “administrative overhead” and “intra Y expense” fee charged to the Pottstown YMCA by the larger regional organization that adds up to more than $676,000. When Don Smale, a task force member asked what the fees were for, “[Elliot] said it was for things like [human resources] and [information technology].” Smale and another task force member, James Konnick, raised questions about several topics, including: Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that had $5.3 million in revenues after expenses in 2016; Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA had $19 million in available cash in 2016 with a $3.8 million increase in available cash from 2015 to 2016; 11 top executives at Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA are paid $2.6 million in compensation; there have been no fundraisers at the Pottstown YMCA location since 2007, though fundraisers used to bring in $125,000 to $150,000 a year; and the task force was not permitted to recommend keeping the Pottstown YMCA location open as an option. “They keep saying it’s hard to close the Y, but what’s hard is keeping it open, which Pottstown did just fine for 138 years,” Konnick said. A growing chorus of local officials, including the members of the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee — representing Pottstown, Lower Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, North Coventry, East Coventry, New Hanover and Douglass — have joined to oppose the closing of the facility.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/2/2018

Pottstown schools draft budget has $2.4M shortfall
Pottstown School Board member Kurt Heidel reported during the March 15 meeting that the 2018-19 school year budget includes a $2.4 million deficit. The Pottstown School District has not raised property taxes for the past three years. The Act 1 index — the amount the state allows the school district to increase taxes — is 3.5 percent for Pottstown. The revenue from a 3.5 percent tax increase would still leave the district about $1 million short. The budget for the 2018-19 school year will be finalized in June.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/28/2018

Ambler works through bamboo regulations
Ambler Borough Council prepared an updated version of a proposed bamboo ordinance to be reviewed by the planning commission prior to advertisement and a vote. The proposed ordinance would forbid the planting of new bamboo within the borough and would require residents to remove existing bamboo in certain circumstances. Bamboo existing prior to the passage of the ordinance would be permitted, unless the plant grows within 10 feet of any property line or the edge of a property’s pavement. Then the bamboo owner would be responsible for removing, trimming or cutting any part of a bamboo plant that grows in violation of the ordinance’s parameters. Violations would be punishable by an initial fine of $100, and enforcement of the ordinance would begin in 2019.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 3/29/2018

Philadelphia

Mayor announces picks for new school board
Mayor Jim Kenney has announced his picks for Philadelphia School District’s new Board of Education. They are: Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Chris McGinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker and Joyce Wilkerson. Kenney’s picks will determine the future of the Philadelphia School District, its $3 billion budget, and over 200,000 students in traditional public and charter schools. The nine unpaid board members will begin running the school system July 1, after the state-created School Reform Commission ceases to exist. The new board members will participate in a series of community learning sessions across the city, beginning on April 25:

– Dobbins CTE High School: Wednesday, April 25, from 6 to 8 p.m.
– South Philadelphia Library: Saturday, May 5, from 2 to 4 p.m.
– Blackwell Regional Library West: Thursday, May 10, from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Coleman Regional Library: Friday, May 18, from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Northeast Regional Library: Wednesday, May 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Source: Philly.com; 4/4/2018

City parking amnesty program runs through April 30
The City of Philadelphia is offering a program to forgive older unpaid parking tickets, as well as towing and storage fees. The program opened March 1 and will run through Monday, April 30. For more information or to register online, visit www.phila.gov/parkingamnesty or go to the Parking Amnesty office at 917 Filbert St. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/27/2018

 


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