NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Opportunity zones added to Realtors® Property Resource

Bucks County
Morrisville hears $100M redevelopment plan

Chester County
Affordable homes subject of 2020 Citizen Planners meeting

Delaware County
Clifton Heights sues Upper Darby schools 

Montgomery County
Lower Pottsgrove schedules sneak peek at new township building plans 

Philadelphia County
Why new houses in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) aren’t made of brick 
 

 

News Briefs Archive August 12, 2019

 

General News

New ‘Clean Slate’ law helps secure housing
Pennsylvania recently began automatically sealing certain criminal records from public view. Act 56 of 2018, called the Clean Slate Law, seeks to alleviate hardships that can come as a result of having a criminal record, which is often an impediment to finding housing and employment. While complete criminal records will still be accessible by law enforcement and court personnel, general access to criminal records will be limited if charges were dropped, if the individual was found not guilty, or if 10 years have passed since the entry of a summary or minor misdemeanor without a new conviction. Once an individual’s record has been “wiped clean,” that person may respond to questions from employers and landlords as though the offense had never occurred. A person cannot be required to disclose the information, nor will it be searchable. If a background check on a potential tenant reveals a criminal history, keep in mind that the guidance issued by HUD in 2016 is still valid. A criminal history is one factor among many to consider when evaluating potential tenants but should not serve as an immediate disqualifier.
Source: PAR JustListed; 7/31/2019

Study: Pennsylvania's economy is the most diverse
Pennsylvania edged out Texas to claim the title of America's most diverse state economy, according to Bloomberg’s inaugural Economic Diversity Index. Bloomberg analyzed the contribution to gross domestic product by industry and government in all 50 states to create the diversity index. It's modeled on the Herfindahl-Hirschman method, a mathematical measure used to detect monopoly in marketing and biodiversity in ecosystems. Theoretically, scores can range from 0 — representing maximum diversity — to 1, which signals single-industry domination. The study found a balance of industries in Pennsylvania, including real estate (12.2%), manufacturing (11.9%) and health care (9.9%). "Pennsylvania's proximity to large population centers and more affordable real estate remains fertile ground," Toronto-Dominion Bank said in a recent research note. "Health care has been leading job creation for the past half-decade," while "Pittsburgh is in the process of making the transition from steel city to tech town." Read more here.
Source: Reading Eagle; 8/5/2019

Bucks County

Plumstead discusses ‘town center’
Plumstead Township supervisors recently discussed a draft mixed-use village overlay ordinance that focuses on creating a “vibrant town center” in the 27-square-mile township. In its early stages, the draft ordinance would “promote a pedestrian-oriented environment,” encouraging both commercial and residential development in the area known as Plumsteadville. The overlay district would follow Stump Road between the Point Pleasant-Plumsteadville EMS station and German Road, and Route 611 from near Huntingdon Valley Bank to Groveland Grill. Utilities would be buried and properties that front the main road would be responsible for sidewalk installation and other streetscape improvements. The development of Plumsteadville has been a consideration since the township’s 2011 comprehensive plan. Plumstead officials and the Bucks County Planning Commission have been working on the current draft ordinance since the beginning of 2019. Supervisors would need to approve the draft for public advertisement before any final approval vote could be taken at a subsequent meeting.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/6/2019

County’s final public demo of voting machine options is Aug. 19
Bucks County will conduct a third and final public demonstration of new voting machine options at Bucks County Community College’s Newtown campus on Monday, Aug. 19. The demonstration will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Gallagher Room of the Charles E. Rollins Center on the campus, located at 275 Swamp Road in Newtown Township. There will be separate stations for the five certified voting machine vendors, where they can explain how each system works. Members of the public are invited to try the machines and provide feedback. The county expects to make a selection by the end of this year.
Source: Bucks County; 7/31/2019

Operator wants to fill Wrightstown quarry
Eureka Stone Quarry is seeking state permission to use “clean fill” to fill the Rush Valley 2 quarry near the Davis Feed Mill on Swamp Road once it concludes mining the site. Professionals for Eureka appeared before the Wrightstown supervisors on June 17 to discuss the plan. Eureka would need to win approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in order to proceed with the reclamation plan. The first step would be mining out the site — which could take four to five years — and then filling the quarry with clean fill materials. DEP defines clean fill as uncontaminated non-water-soluble, non-decomposable inert solid material, such as soil, rock, stone and unpainted brick. Once the pit is filled to about the level of the land prior to mining, it would be become open space like a meadow, with Eureka likely retaining ownership of the land. Another option would be to fill the quarry with water, but Eureka indicated it does not want to go that route; saying returning the quarry to open space is a safer, “more aesthetic option.”
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/20/2019

Bucks County Planning Commission offers valuable resources
The Bucks County Planning Commission assists the county commissioners and its 54 constituent municipalities with the introduction, establishment and administration of sound land use practices and policies that serve to protect the health, safety and welfare of all residents in accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. The BCPC also provides a wealth of resources and information for reference, including trail maps, parcel viewers and more. Click here for more.
Source: Bucks County Planning Commission

Chester County 

West Whiteland readying official township map
West Whiteland Township will consider enacting an ordinance to adopt the official West Whiteland Township Map. The map includes all existing and proposed sidewalks, trail alignments, intersection improvements, streetscape enhancements and road improvements. A hearing will be held on Wednesday, Aug 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the West Whiteland Township Municipal Building, located at 101 Commerce Drive, Exton.
Source: Daily Local; 7/31/2019

Oxford Borough considers amending rules for signs
Oxford Borough Council will consider amending Chapter 27 of its borough code, regarding directional signs and signs located within the historic district. The changes would add new subsections requiring that any application for a sign permit in the Historic District be subject to the terms and procedures of the Historic District Ordinance. It would also permit directional signs in the C-3 District and require that the area on any one side of the sign not exceed two square feet. The ordinance will be considered at a public meeting scheduled on Monday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. to be held at the borough building, 401 E. Market St.
Source: Daily Local; 8/6/2019

East Whiteland Township to consider in-law suites
East Whiteland Township Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance to add the definition for in-law suites and provide standards for such usage. The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m. at the East Whiteland Township Municipal Building, 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer.
Source: Daily Local; 7/31/2019

Phoenixville reviews update to comprehensive plan
Phoenixville Borough Council will conduct a public hearing to consider the Phoenixville Regional Planning Commission Comprehensive Plan Update. A complete copy of the proposed comprehensive plan is posted on the borough’s website. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. at Phoenixville Borough Hall, 351 Bridge St.
Source: Mercury; 8/5/2019

PennDOT to close Route 52 bridge in Birmingham
PennDOT will close the Route 52 (Lenape Road) bridge over the Brandywine Creek floodplain in Birmingham Township, from Monday, Aug. 19, through May 2020. PennDOT will repair, strengthen and restore the deteriorating seven-span, stone masonry arch bridge. In addition, the contractor will rebuild the stone walls at the north end of the bridge at the Route 52 and Creek Road intersection and move the walls a bit farther away from the intersection to provide additional room for vehicular turning moves. Motorists will be detoured over Route 926 Birmingham Road and Route 52. Local access will be maintained up to the work zone for both closures. All scheduled activities are weather dependent and subject to change. The entire project is expected to finish in summer 2020.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 8/2/2019

Delaware County

Upper Darby spending millions on capital projects for schools
An update at a recent Upper Darby School Board meeting showed that the school district is doing much to improve existing facilities. A presentation by the administrators to the school board at its facilities and operations committee meeting detailed more than $8.6 million in capital improvements throughout the district that have been completed or will be completed by the end of the summer. One of the largest projects was an HVAC update at the Beverly Hills Middle School. Improvements at the Upper Darby High School include bathroom renovations and replacement of the track and field. A complete list of the capital improvement projects can be found online here.
Source: News and Press of Delaware County; 8/7/2019

Countywide reassessment resources
Delaware County has set up a website dedicated to educating residents about the countywide tax reassessment project. The goal of the reassessment project is to estimate "fair market value" for all of the residential, exempt and commercial properties in Delaware County. Learn more about the data collection and research steps that are being undertaken here. A Reassessment Hotline has also been set up for residents to call with any questions or concerns: 610-891-5695. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance has also created an informational flyer on the assessment process here.
Source: Delaware County

Radnor approves new 25-year lease with Willows Park Preserve
After some wrangling, the Radnor Board of Commissioners approved a new 25-year lease with the Willows Park Preserve (WPP), a nonprofit group that plans to renovate the more than 100-year-old mansion in the park. There is a non-disturbance clause that construction will not bother neighboring residents from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. The group is restricted to 25 major private events a year at the mansion. Those events do not extend beyond the red line drawn around the mansion. If the WPP has a community program, it will work with the director of community programing to make sure there is nothing else going on and the park will not be closed. WPP President Tish Long said the renovated Willows mansion will have a dedicated public space with restrooms that will be open during park hours. Now that the WPP has secured the township approval of the lease amendments, they are moving ahead on fundraising efforts and phase one of construction. The first order of business will be to make the mansion watertight by replacing the roof and windows, among other exterior projects. That work will begin in the next six months.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 7/27/2019

Newtown Township to adopt 2015 IPMC
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors will consider adopting the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code. This code will regulate and govern the condition and maintenance of all property, buildings and structures, and provide the standards to ensure structures are safe, sanitary and fit for occupancy and use. It will provide for the condemnation and demolition of buildings and structures unfit for human occupancy and use, and for the issuance of rental permits and fees. The ordinance amendment will be considered by the supervisors on Monday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Newtown Township Municipal Building, 209 Bishop Hollow Road, Newtown Square.
Source: Daily Times; 7/29/2019

Montgomery County

Upper Gwynedd to define short-term rentals
Upper Gwynedd Township Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday, August 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the township building, 1 Parkside Place, West Point, to consider an ordinance amending the township zoning code. The proposed ordinance would: provide a definition for short-term rentals; amend the definitions of dwelling unit and family; and permit short-term rentals in the Garden Apartment Residential District, Village Commercial District, Business Professional District and Transit Oriented Overlay District. The draft ordinance is available for inspection at the township building. Visit www.uppergwynedd.org for meeting information.
Source: The Reporter; 8/5/2019

Lower Merion planners approve tentative sketch plan for Suburban Square
The Lower Merion Building and Planning Committee recently gave tentative sketch approval for a new mixed-use building proposed for Suburban Square. A tentative sketch plan allows the developer to lay out the general idea of a project. The project first went before the planners in May 2017 and generated concern over the size of the building, traffic and other issues. The township planners tabled the plan, recommending the developer, Kimco, revise it. Among the recommendations were to have fewer units, reduce the building’s footprint, lower the height and add more green space. The new proposal includes 152-units, 19,000 square feet of retail space, a reduction of the building area and changes to the building façade along Coulter Avenue. The committee approved the plan, and added it to the consent calendar for the August board of commissioners meeting.
Source: Main Line Times; 7/30/2019

Interest is high for Towamencin shopping center revival
Towamencin Township and the Philadelphia Suburban Development Corp. (PSDC) have been in ongoing discussions since 2015 about how PSDC can bring businesses back into the Towamencin Village Shopping Center at Forty Foot and Allentown roads. Earlier this year, Towamencin approved a Local Economic Tax Assistance Act (LERTA) tax incentive meant to phase in the increased local taxes on the shopping center property once the value rises. The developer is in talks with several potential tenants and has refined the plans for improvements around the shopping center. Towamencin is also considering changes to the Village Commercial and Village Overlay districts at a future public hearing, most likely in September, according to Township Manager Rob Ford.
Source: The Reporter; 8/2/2019

Officials review ambitious agenda for Ridge Pike revitalization
State Rep. Joe Webster (D-150) recently hosted a community policy hearing on revitalizing Main Street (Ridge Pike) from Norristown to Pottstown, which links together several parts of the 150th District. Webster said his goal was to discuss issues related to prospective development along Ridge Pike in four municipalities — West Norriton, Lower Providence, Collegeville and Upper Providence. Nearby Skippack Township was also included in the discussion. Rep. Mike Sturla (D-96), chair of the Policy Committee, Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-127), chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, and several other state representatives also attended, as did municipal officials and representatives from the Montgomery County Planning Commission, the King of Prussia Rail Coalition, the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, and the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation. “I was just looking to get an idea of where we are today, what the future might be, and my role as a state representative to help these municipalities make it so,” Webster said. Read more about the topics discussed here.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 7/28/2019

Philadelphia

Advisory group considers future of South Philadelphia refinery land
An advisory group established by the city in the wake of the announcement that Philadelphia Energy Solutions will cease operations at their 1,300-acre refinery in South Philadelphia, recently held its first public meeting. Most of the input heard by city officials and experts on the future of the Point Breeze site came from nearby residents and environmentalists, with only three of the more than 20 public comments coming from refinery employees. The meeting was the first of five intended to help the city gather input on the closure of the refinery and possible future uses for the 1,300-acre site. The city will issue a report with recommendations by fall. But the city’s managing director, Brian Abernathy, who co-chairs the advisory group, stressed the city has limited authority when it comes to private property. Refineries have operated at the site since 1866, contaminating soil and groundwater with petroleum hydrocarbons that have negative effects on human health. The advisory group committees will hold four other public meetings focusing on the community (Tuesday, Aug. 20), labor (Wednesday, Aug. 21), the environment (Tuesday, Aug. 27), and business (Monday, Sept. 9) at Preparatory Charter School in Point Breeze. Residents can also provide written comments. The city created a special website with details of the process coming forward.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 8/7/2019

Twice as many Washingtonians as New Yorkers are apartment hunting in Philly
Apartment List’s first “Renter Migration Report” found that 39.5% of all out-of-towners looking for apartments in Philly are searching from Washington. That’s more than twice the percentage of would-be renters looking to move here from New York (16.4%). And that’s more than 13 times as many people as are looking from Allentown, the No. 3 city on the inbound search list. Apartment List analyzed location data for users conducting searches on its site from Jan. 1, 2018, to May 1, 2019, to come up with its figures. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Magazine; 8/6/2019


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