NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
PUC seeks comment on terminations and consumer protections

Bucks County
Middletown to consider anti-discrimination ordinance

Chester County
West Chester’s new budget reality — $9 million in cuts

Delaware County
County drafts housing plan

Montgomery County
Public input needed for Montco Pikes roadway plan

Philadelphia County
How will the repeal of the fair housing rule affect Philadelphia?

 

News Briefs Archive Aug. 3, 2020

 

General News

HUD revokes fair housing rule designed to diversify the suburbs
The Trump administration is revoking an Obama-era housing regulation designed to eliminate racial disparities in the suburbs. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson said the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (AFFH) was “unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with.” It will be replaced by a new rule that reduces the burden on local jurisdictions to prove that they are actively taking steps to address historical patterns of racial segregation in order to qualify for HUD financing. “The National Association of Realtors® is disappointed that HUD has taken this step, which significantly weakens the federal government’s commitment to the goals of the Fair Housing Act,” said NAR president Vince Malta. "The viability of our 1.4 million members depends on the free, transparent and efficient transfer of property in this country, and NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities." Read the full Associated Press article here.
Source: Associated Press; 7/23/2020 

NAR advocating for federal priorities
Congress is back in session in Washington, and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is working on a number of legislative priorities. Congress is currently negotiating a fourth round of stimulus funding to address the pandemic — dubbed “Phase 4.” The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, which included several provisions supported by NAR. The U.S. Senate is expected to introduce its own Phase 4 legislation as the two chambers negotiate the final bill. NAR sent a letter to both chambers highlighting its support of housing security, business permanency and community provisions for the next pandemic response bill. Beyond the pandemic response legislation, Congress also is starting to discuss spending bills to address the federal fiscal year ending on Sept. 30. NAR is advocating for a full, one-year extension for the National Flood Insurance Program, as well as infrastructure funding to expand access to reliable broadband. It’s expected that broadband access funding will be included in the transportation funding legislation. Visit the NAR website for more information on NAR’s advocacy efforts.
Source: PAR JustListed; 7/29/2020

Bucks County

Elcon officially withdraws application for Falls facility
Elcon Recycling Services no longer intends build a waste processing facility in Falls Township and will be withdrawing all applications, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The company generated controversy when it proposed building a facility to treat chemical and pharmaceutical waste on a 23-acre parcel of land situated at the Keystone Industrial Port Complex along the Delaware River. Last week, Elcon representatives said the current business climate and COVID-19 forced the company to reevaluate its plans for expanding its hazardous waste treatment business in the U.S. The proposed facility would have treated up to 210,000 tons of waste a year. Residents rose up in opposition to the plan, and township supervisors voted in April 2019 to deny Elcon’s land development application. The company had appealed the township’s decision in county court, but the proceedings were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Source: Courier Times; 7/29/2020  

Penndel planning 1% earned income tax
Penndel Borough Council intends to enact an ordinance establishing a 1% earned income tax. The tax will be levied on income and net profits earned by residents on and after Jan. 1, 2021, and on income and net profits earned by nonresidents of the borough for work done or services performed or rendered in the borough. The tax will support general government administration and is expected to raise $430,000. A copy of the proposed ordinance can be viewed on the Penndel Borough website. The borough council will consider the proposed ordinance at a hearing during its regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 17.
Source: Courier Times; 7/24/2020 

Solebury eyes purchasing Route 202 land
Solebury Township took a major step Tuesday toward ensuring it has a say in what gets developed — or not developed — along its Route 202 corridor. The township proposes to buy the 12-acre flea market along Route 202, along with a lot at the corner of Route 202 and Reeder Road. The sale also would include an easement on the New Hope Star Diner property for a network of township trails. “The township offer to purchase these two properties reflects the community’s desire to control development that can only be accomplished by the owner of this property,” said Supervisor Kevin Morrissey. Under proposed terms worked out with the owner, the purchase price for the properties would be $2.35 million. The funding would come from open space funds borrowed at just over 1% interest. The cost to the average taxpayer would be an increase of $28 a year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 7/23/2020  

SRA survey: Tell us your experience working in Falls Township
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) wants to hear from Realtors® who have conducted business recently in Falls Township. “Falls has undergone a lot of administrative changes in the past year, and we had hoped to see improvements there,” SRA president Jamie Ridge said. “Unfortunately, we continue to hear very concerning stories from our members about basic government functions related to real estate.” The survey responses will provide a broader view of the situation in Falls to help the SRA craft an appropriate response to the ongoing issues. The online survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Participants’ names will not be shared with the township. Complete the survey on the SRA website by Aug. 31.

Chester County 

Pandemic causes pause in use and occupancy certifications in South Coatesville
South Coatesville residents wishing to sell their properties soon will be unable to get a residential use and occupancy certificate due to the coronavirus pandemic. During a July 14 Zoom meeting, officials said borough contractor Technicon Enterprises Inc. II will not be handling certifications due to liability reasons, but the company will still conduct building inspections. The cost to the seller is $75 for the inspection. Council President Sylvia Washington said certifications are piling up, making it difficult to operate without them. Council heard suggestions to fix the problem but made no final decision. Council Vice President Montez Jones advised the council to consider renegotiating the contract with Technicon and outsourcing certification services. “If they don’t have a projective plan for the near future, then we have to figure out what our plan will be,” Jones said. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance has contacted the township regarding best practices in the region.
Source: Lancaster Online; 7/17/2020 

West Chester ‘open-air marketplace’ gets green light
Plans to shut down the heart of West Chester Borough to vehicular traffic — a means to boost foot traffic and restaurant business on Gay Street during the coronavirus pandemic — are close to complete, as necessary permits have been awarded to facilitate on-street dining and shopping. The borough’s new 24/7 car-free open-air marketplace, slated to begin Aug. 3, will allow diners and shoppers more room to physically distance as they patronize businesses. The state Department of Transportation and the U.S. Highway Administration recently gave the borough the green light for the closure from Matlack to Darlington streets. Concrete “Jersey barriers” will block traffic from the east-to-west state thoroughfare, while cross streets will remain open for deliveries and through traffic. Chestnut Street will act as a traffic bypass, and visitors will be directly led to park in one of the borough’s parking garages. Hand-sanitizing stations will be installed, and signs requiring masks will be posted in shop and restaurant windows.
Source: Daily Times; 7/22/2020 

County planners discuss circuit trail feasibility
On July 14, the county planning commission held a public meeting about the Southern Chester County Circuit Trail Feasibility Study via Zoom. A video recording of the meeting can be accessed here. Comments and feedback can be submitted via the Wikimap through July 31. Click here to learn more.
Source: Chester County Planning Commissioner; 7/28/2020 

Questions raised about West Chester's finances, plans
West Chester Borough Council adopted a revised 2020 budget that is meant to address a $4.4 million revenue shortfall reported by the finance committee in May. Several borough employees were either laid off or furloughed, although most have since been re-hired or brought back to work. West Chester attorney Samuel C. Stretton has alleged that the council hid from the public details of a million-dollar overpayment in a street paving contract that will have far-reaching impacts on the borough’s finances, including layoffs, an inability to hire new police officers and a delay in annual salary increases for employees, and lead to a state where many borough functions, such as paving, auto maintenance and grass-cutting in parks, are contracted out to reduce budget costs. “The bigger issue is that it appears that the borough is starting a policy of privatization without any public discussion or vote,” Stretton wrote in an open letter. Borough Council President Michael R. Galey said that Stretton’s allegations are uninformed and misplaced, but he acknowledged that there had been a problem with payment of a paving contract that led to a $600,000 shortfall in the 2020 budget. The back-and-forth between the two men comes against the backdrop of a serious deficit in borough finances brought on, in large part, by the COVID-19 pandemic and its concurrent damper in revenue from parking, real estate and earned income taxes, and cancellation of borough special events.
Source: Daily Local; 7/28/2020 

Schuylkill Township to consider impact fees
Schuylkill Township supervisors will consider adopting an ordinance providing for the assessment of transportation impact fees. The township passed Resolution No. 2020-23, creating a transportation service area and providing for impact fees to be assessed to fund transportation and capital improvements. The supervisors plan to assess an interim impact fee of $1,000 per PM peak hour vehicular trip generated by new development proposed in Schuylkill Township with the initial application made during the 18-month retroactive period or prior to adoption of the transportation impact fee ordinance.
Source: The Mercury; 7/28/2020 

Chesco assessment roll now available; appeals due by Aug. 3
The 2021 assessment roll for properties in Chester County is now open for public inspection in the Chester County Assessment Office, 313 W. Market St., Suite 4202, West Chester, during regular business hours. Any person desiring to appeal an assessment should file with the board of assessment appeals by Monday, Aug. 3. The assessment office can be reached at 610-344-6105.
Source: Daily Local; 7/17/2020

Delaware County

 

Delco’s new executive director outlines his goals
A week into being Delaware County’s new executive director, Howard Lazarus is focused on gaining an understanding of the direction Delaware County Council wants to go. He said his priorities include cultivating a strong, energetic, motivated workforce who understand and are committed to public service; building sustainable environmental, economic and equitable systems; and ensuring that the governmental entity is economically sound. Lazarus added that he sees the importance of “engaging with different parts of the community so there is trust in the government.” He said one emphasis will be on challenging the approximate 3,000 county employees while also supporting them, empowering them to solve problems and provide customer service. In addition to addressing ongoing reassessment issues, Lazarus said economic development measures would be part of his longer-term goals. He also said he wants to create strong relationships with municipal governments while addressing some of the social and economic inequities that exist in the county.
Source: Daily Times; 7/23/2020 

Chester women organize bi-weekly cleanup in the city
At the end of June, Carol Kazeem, Kristie Barnes and Me’Chelle Gadson organized a cleanup on the west side of Chester by Chester High School. They decided to continue it the following Saturday, and then the next, dividing the city up into sections and cleaning one at a time. Now, calling it “Chester Sweeps,” they meet every other Saturday with the intention of sprucing up the whole city. Kazeem said volunteers have come from the city, as well as Swarthmore and as far as Delaware. “It gives them something positive to do especially during this pandemic,” she said. “The best we can do is bring some type of positivity. The cleanup is not going to stop until we get all the way through Chester.” Snacks are provided to volunteers. A limited supply of masks and gloves are available, but participants are asked to bring their own if possible. The next event is Saturday, Aug. 8. Information on the "Hub" location will be provided the week before the event. Those interested in volunteering can contact Carol Kazeem through the group’s GoFundMe page.
Source: Daily Times; 7/24/2020 

Edgmont Township to consider changes to basement regulations
Edgmont supervisors will consider an ordinance amending the Edgmont Township Building Code by eliminating section R310.6, “Alterations or repairs of existing basements,” of the 2015 International Residental Building Code. The primary purpose of the ordinance is to implement exceptions to the code as it relates to emergency escape and rescue openings that were not part of the previous International Residential Code adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The supervisors consider it to be in the interest of residents’ safety to provide emergency escape and rescue openings when basements undergo alterations or repairs that create habitable space within an existing basement. The ordinance will be considered for adoption via video conference on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 7:30 p.m. A copy of the ordinance can be viewed here.
Source: Daily Times; 7/24/2020 

Former state Rep. Nick Micozzie dies at 89
Former state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie passed away on July 28. Micozzie, a Republican who represented the 163rd Legislative District from 1979 until his retirement in 2014, would have been 90 years old on Sept. 7. A former Realtor® and member of Suburban West Realtors® Association, Rep. Micozzie was a champion of Realtor® issues in the state government. Micozzie and his wife, June, had three children: Kathleen Micozzie O’Connor, former Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie and Kelly A. Micozzie-Aguirre, a Realtor® and magisterial district judge in Upper Darby.
Source: Daily Times; 7/29/2020 

SRA survey: Tell us your experience working in Upper Darby Township
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) wants to hear from Realtors® who have conducted business recently in Upper Darby Township. “With the recent passage of a sewer lateral inspection, Upper Darby’s use and occupancy resale process has become more complex and expensive,” SRA president Jamie Ridge said. “Since that time, we’ve heard even more stories about township staff who won’t schedule U&O inspections or in some cases don’t even respond to our members’ applications, calls and emails.” The survey responses will provide a broader view of the situation in Upper Darby to help the SRA craft an appropriate response to the ongoing issues. The online survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Participants’ names will not be shared with the township. Complete the survey on the SRA website by Aug. 31.

Montgomery County

Trappe to allow payment in lieu of open space
Trappe Borough Council is considering changing its municipal code to allow developers to pay a fee in lieu of establishing open space and recreational facilities. The proposed ordinance amends Section 295, and says that, “If a developer is unable to establish private recreational space facilities as per the design standards aforesaid, or if said developer determines not to set aside land for open space and recreational facilities within the development for private use of the development, and if approved by the borough council, the developer may pay a fee in lieu thereof.” The fee would be $1,800 per unit, as established, pursuant to the parks open space plan and the market value studies made by the borough. A public hearing with a possible vote will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. The hearing will be conducted via GoToMeeting. Anyone interested in attending or participating should contact the borough manager at 610-489-7181 or at borough.manager@trappeborough.com.
Source: Mercury; 7/27/2020 

Whitpain purchases Mermaid Lake
Whitpain Township is purchasing the 63.5-acre Mermaid Lake property that for decades was home to the popular Mermaid Swim and Golf Club. The board had previously approved a resolution to take the 63.5-acre property off Jolly Road by eminent domain, but the township reached a deal with Metropolitan Development Group, which acquired the property in 2019. The township will pay $8.1 million for the land, which will be preserved as open green space that is open to township residents. “Had the property not been purchased by the township, the developer had the opportunity to put 53 single family homes up by right,” said Whitpain Supervisors Chairwoman Michele Minnick.
Source: The Reporter; 7/28/2020 

Lansdale opens skate park
After a decade of discussion, years of planning, three bid attempts, two contract awards, and one global pandemic, Lansdale’s skate park is open. Borough Councilwoman Mary Fuller, who has chaired the parks and recreation committee for the decade of discussion on the skate park, said the discussions helped build ties between local lawmakers and a group that may not have felt they were heard before. "Seeing the youth in Lansdale attend meetings and share their thoughts was refreshing and allowed us to build something that they can use today, but will also remain meaningful to them in the future because they know they were part of the process," she said.
Source: The Reporter; 7/28/2020 

MCPC website identifies ‘low-stress streets’ for recreation
With trails in the county being heavily used and social distancing measures being tested, the Montgomery County Planning Commission has created an interactive website to help residents find exercise opportunities in their neighborhoods. The web-based app, called “Low-Stress Streets for Bicyclists and Pedestrians,” features an interactive map that highlights the thousands of miles of local streets. Click here for the website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/5/2020

Philadelphia

Philly public schools will stay all-online at least until November
Philadelphia public school students will not return to classrooms until November at the earliest, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. announced, after plans for a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction sparked fierce opposition. Under a new plan that is still subject to school board approval, the year would begin fully virtually for the district’s 125,000 students in September. Instruction would happen via computer at least through the first marking period, which ends Nov. 17. Students would receive instruction from teachers at their assigned school. The previously planned “Digital Academy” model, with teachers from across the district instructing students whose families opted into a 100% digital school year, has been scrapped. After Nov. 17, students could transition to a hybrid learning model, if officials deem it safe to do so. The school year begins on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
Source: Inquirer; 7/28/2020 

Refinery owner to detail cleanup efforts
The company that purchased the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex has scheduled a public information session on its efforts to clean up the site after a massive explosion at the facility in June 2019. The virtual event will be held Thursday, Aug. 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams or by calling 1-844-855-4444 and entering access code 6716760#. The event link will be posted to Evergreen’s website at least 24 hours prior to the event time under the Public Involvement tab.
Source: Inquirer; 7/29/2020

 
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