NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
$11B budget package passes state legislature

Bucks County
Bucks County releases preliminary budget

Chester County
Valley Township to consider vacant property registration ordinance

Delaware County
Delco 2021 budget calls for no tax hike, significant job cuts

Montgomery County
Schwenksville eyes 22% tax increase

Philadelphia County
City council passes bill to curb real estate scammers

 

News Briefs Archive August 17, 2020

 

General News

PUC seeks comment on terminations and consumer protections
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is seeking public input about what kind of protections should be in place for at-risk customers in the event the moratorium on utility terminations is lifted. PUC Chairwoman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille issued the moratorium on March 13 due to the spread of the coronavirus. The proclamation halted utility shut-offs for customers and also directed utilities to reconnect service to customers that had previously been terminated “to the extent it could be done safely.” The prohibition on disconnects was stated to last for the duration of Gov. Wolf’s Disaster Emergency Proclamation, or “until a time otherwise established by the commission.” Dutrieuille recently said it is time to reconsider the March 13 order. “Maintaining a total moratorium for a time period that is too lengthy may only work to accelerate the accrual of arrearages for many utility customers and place them at increased risk of default and termination in the future, when large bills inevitably become due,” she said. A public meeting to discuss the issue has been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 27. Parties interested in commenting on the issue of the moratorium on service disconnections must both eFile their comments using an eFiling account through the commission’s website and email them directly to the PUC secretary at rchiavetta@pa.gov — referencing PUC docket number M-2020-3019244. All comments must be received by Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 4:30 p.m. 
Source: Daily Local; 8/12/2020

Watch: NAR virtual appraisal summit examines fair housing issues in real estate
On Aug. 5, during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Virtual Appraiser Summit, panelists discussed solutions to maintain a fair and equitable system for valuing real estate. View the agenda and speakers here. Watch a recording of the entire webinar here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 8/5/2020

Simon Properties talks with Amazon could impact region
Simon Property Group, owner of the King of Prussia Mall, is reportedly in talks to lease vacant department store space to Amazon.com as fulfillment centers. Simon has been in talks with Amazon for months — before the onset of the coronavirus — about converting some stores into distribution centers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Simon has long been in talks with Upper Merion to make King of Prussia more of a mixed-use property. Simon has 11 properties in Pennsylvania, including the King of Prussia mall, Philadelphia Mills and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 8/10/2020

Bucks County

Middletown to consider anti-discrimination ordinance
Middletown Township supervisors recently voted to advertise an anti-discrimination ordinance that would include the formation of a Human Relations Commission. The ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and access to education on the basis of race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap or disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. It also prohibits discrimination against people who use guide or support animals. The new Human Relations Commission would be comprised of the same members that currently make up the township’s Disabled Persons Advisory Board, creating a dual role for the group. Municipalities across Pennsylvania have taken to adopting local anti-discrimination ordinances because comprehensive, statewide protections are not in place. Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the proposed ordinance at the Monday, Aug. 24, meeting. Visit the township website for meeting information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/10/2020

Short-term rental regulations included in East Rockhill comprehensive plan update
East Rockhill planners and residents recently heard 49 plan recommendations and 13 plan actions in the draft version of the proposed update to the township’s comprehensive plan. According to Luke Rosanova from the Bucks County Planning Commission, plan actions are for things that are “the most critical to success and have measurable outcomes.” Following discussion at the meeting, the draft of the first plan action, which read, “Consider amending the zoning ordinance to address short-term rentals,” will be changed by dropping the word “consider.” Any changes to regulations will be decided by the board of supervisors in the future, but the plan action will say the zoning ordinance should be amended to address short-term rentals in the township, said planning commission Vice Chairman Joe Chellew. The change in wording followed public and written comment from a group of 12 East Rockhill and two Bedminster residents that requested more urgency regarding short-term rentals.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 8/8/2020

Stay lifted on sewer sale decision; talks resume in Lower Makefield
On Aug. 5, Bucks County Judge Robert Mellon lifted a stay on discussion and action by Lower Makefield Township on the potential sale of its sewer system. A township resident had filed a lawsuit to block the pending sale of the sewer system, alleging Sunshine Act violations, and on July 1 Judge Mellon issued a stay pending a hearing. Finding no Sunshine Act violation, Mellon lifted the stay. Sewer bids are scheduled to expire Aug. 14, and supervisors scheduled a meeting on Aug. 12 to again consider the bids. The supervisors had been scheduled to vote on July 1 on whether to sell the wastewater collection system for between $35 million and $56 million to either the Pennsylvania American Water Company or the Aqua Water Supply Corporation. Sale of the system has been discussed for over a year. If a sale is approved, it would take about a year to gain approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 8/6/2020

$24 million in water infrastructure upgrades to begin in Yardley
Pennsylvania American Water has announced the start of construction on $24 million in capital investments to its Yardley system. An ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection system will be installed at the Yardley water treatment plant. It will help to further reduce chlorine-resistant pathogens and microorganisms. Other improvements include upgrades to pre-treatment systems and replacing a below-ground pump station. The projects will enhance water quality and help continue to provide reliable water service to nearly 13,000 homes and businesses in Lower Makefield Township, Yardley Borough and portions of Falls Township.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 8/5/2020

Chester County 

West Chester’s new budget reality — $9 million in cuts
More than $9 million has been pared from the 2020 budget for West Chester Borough, with reductions in items from salary costs to capital projects, to address the severe revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, most significantly in parking fees and fines. The possibility of further budget reassessments for next year is very real, officials said. “We are pretty confident that our reductions should get us through the end of the year. But our 2021 budget will take a lot of estimating,” said Borough Manager Michael A. Perrone. “We are going to continue this ‘new normal’ until we get a vaccine.” The council voted unanimously on July 15 to adopt a revised, balanced budget for the year that reduced expenses by $9 million. The new budget came after weeks of intensive work by Perrone and the borough’s department heads, and a multitude of virtual meetings of the council’s finance committee. Michael Galey, president of the council, said the budget that was presented to the council last month had made necessary cuts to expenses that address the looming deficit in revenue from real estate and earned income taxes and parking income, but none that would severely hamper the services provided to borough residents and visitors. Work has already begun on the 2021 budget, with the expectation that because West Chester University would not be in session in the fall there will be a continuation of losses in real estate and earned income tax revenue. An ad hoc committee of borough business leaders has been assembled to look over the borough finances to explore ways of coping with future shortfalls.
Source: Daily Local; 8/9/2020

Franklin Township comprehensive plan task force to meet
Franklin Township’s comprehensive plan task force will hold its next regular meetings on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 29, beginning both nights at 6:30 p.m. A comprehensive plan community workshop will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. The meetings will be held virtually via Zoom. Information on how to attend will be posted to the township website on the day of the meeting.
Source: Daily Local; 8/4/2020

West Goshen to consider sustainability advisory committee
West Goshen Township will consider an ordinance that will establish a sustainability advisory committee, with the goal of increasing collaboration between township departments on issues regarding environmental sustainability. The committee will develop initiatives aimed at increasing township staff knowledge, developing community partnerships and fostering sustainable management practices. The committee will not perform administrative duties or have executive authority, but will perform in an advisory capacity to the board of supervisors. A public hearing to consider the ordinance creating the committee will be held during the regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m., at the township building, 1025 Paoli Pike, West Chester. Information on how to join via teleconference will be posted on the township website at least five days prior. Contact the township manager, Casey LaLonde, with any questions at clalonde@westgoshen.org.
Source: Daily Local; 8/11/2020

Mariner East pipeline construction spills up to 10,000 gallons of drilling mud into Marsh Creek
Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline construction caused an estimated 10,000 gallons of drilling mud, or bentonite clay, to spill into Marsh Creek and Marsh Creek Lake. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has shut down two underground drilling sites, in West Whiteland Township and Upper Uwchlan Township, pending an investigation. At Marsh Creek State Park in Upper Uwchlan, thousands of gallons of drilling mud seeped into the creek and made its way into the lake, according to the DEP. The lake is a popular recreation site and provides drinking water for Chester County residents. It’s unclear whether any drinking water supplies have been or will be affected. The DEP urged residents to report any suspected pollution events to a 24/7 hotline: 484-250-5900.
Source: Daily Local; 8/11/2020

Delaware County

County drafts housing plan
The Delaware County Planning Department (DCPD) recently completed its draft Delaware County Housing Plan. The plan examines housing in the county and outlines a path toward quality housing for all residents. The draft is available for public review and comment on the planning department website until Aug. 26. When approved, it will be officially adopted as a component plan of the county’s comprehensive plan, Delaware County 2035, which establishes a long-range vision for the county and sets goals to be met through zoning and other land use and development tools. The draft housing plan is the product of a collaboration between the DCPD and the county’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the agency responsible for the ongoing distribution of federal housing funds and planning for affordable housing. The plan examines the existing housing stock, housing needs and trends likely to influence housing needs in the future. The plan outlines actions the county and its municipalities can take that are in line with the broader goals of Delaware County 2035. Following the public review period, the plan will be officially adopted by County Council in the fall of 2020.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 8/10/2020

Folcroft to consider repealing disorderly houses ordinance
Folcroft Borough will consider a repeal of Ordinance No. 972, pertaining to the declaration of disorderly houses as public nuisances and ascribing criminal penalties for meeting the definition of a disorderly house. The ordinance will be considered at a meeting held via Zoom on Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m. At that same meeting, the borough council will consider an ordinance providing for an increase in the indebtedness of the borough in the amount of $4.69 million for construction of a borough administration, police station and community building. For meeting information, visit the borough events webpage.
Source: Daily Times; 8/11/2020

Upper Darby resumes trash collection with some changes
Upper Darby Township trash pick-up service resumed Aug. 10, after being suspended when the entire township sanitation staff was quarantined due to a COVID-19 outbreak. “Working together with the [Transit Workers Union] and a private company, we were able to secure a combination force of CDL drivers and laborers to ensure continuity of service,” Mayor Barbarann Keffer said. Upper Darby officials had quarantined about 70 of its sanitation and public works employees after several workers tested positive for the virus. In the summer, Upper Darby normally has twice-a-week collection, but it has been reduced to once a week due to the situation. Recycling services are suspended until the week of Aug. 24. Questions about the plan or process can be directed to the Mayor’s Request Line at requests@upperdarby.org or 610-734-7625.
Source: Daily Times; 8/9/2020

Chester residents work to clean up city
A group of Chester residents known as Chester Sweeps have stepped up to battle illegal dumping of trash in their community. Last weekend, community groups including Making A Change Group, The Bridge Church and volunteers from Covanta, a trash-to-steam facility, gathered near the Edgemont Park Apartments to clean up a large pile of illegally dumped trash and furniture. Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland confirms there have been trash issues in the past few months as contactors have had employees come down with the coronavirus, have had to be quarantined, or have become so overwhelmed and depleted they actually quit. Kirkland also pointed out the city is shorthanded with a number of employees laid off. “Many of our city workers are still laid off, and many are working partial days,” Kirkland said. He noted that, in addition to the pandemic, the borough is in receivership. Kirkland urged residents to report illegal dumpers to police via the Chester Police app or by calling 610-447-7931. For those who would like to volunteer, Chester Sweeps will hold its next clean-up on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 10:30 a.m. at Memorial Park at Ninth and Ward streets.
Source: Daily Times; 8/12/2020

Montgomery County

Public input needed for ‘Montco Pikes’ roadway plan
Montgomery County will take a closer look at six main corridors as part of its Monto Pikes project. The county wants to ensure the roadways — Easton Road, Butler Pike, Germantown Pike, Sumneytown Pike, Geryville Pike and Swamp Pike — can support 21st century lifestyles. The study will establish an overall vision for the future of each roadway. Over the next few months, the county and its consultant team will reach out to municipal leaders and the public to gather information about existing corridor features, traffic conditions, safety concerns and future travel needs. The public will have an opportunity to review the project and share thoughts through an online community engagement platform. Click here for more about the vision plan, including access to the public comment platform.
Source: Montgomery County; 8/11/2020

Hobart’s Run expands Pottstown focus area
Hobart’s Run, the community development arm of The Hill School, is expanding the area in which it operates. The current boundaries of the initial 600-parcel focus area run from North Adams Street on the west to Beech, Grant and Jackson streets on the north, Keim Street on the east, and Queen Street on the south. The new area extends the western boundary to North Washington Street and includes the 500-600 blocks of High Street. The change adds about 200 more parcels and encompasses landmarks like Pottstown Regional Public Library, Washington and Chestnut Street Park, and the Mosaic Community Garden. The boundaries determine eligibility for initiatives like block clean-up support and Hobart’s Run Façade Improvement Grants and Homeownership Incentive Program funds. The Hobart’s Run Neighborhood Improvement initiative was formally established by The Hill School in the fall of 2016.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 8/11/2020

Lansdale may add property to LERTA boundaries
Lansdale Borough Council will consider a proposed ordinance that will add a property — 117 S. Broad Street — to the current boundary area of the township’s tax-exemption program under the Pennsylvania Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA). A public hearing will be held Wednesday, Aug. 19, via Zoom. Members of the public wishing to participate in the public hearing must register ahead of time by emailing feedback@lansdale.org or calling 267-638-9345. The public may also submit questions and comments to feedback@lansdale.org by Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 4:30 p.m. A name and address must be included. Questions/comments will be read during public hearing period.
Source: The Reporter; 8/6/2020

Drive-in movies pop up in Oaks
As the coronavirus pandemic closed movie theaters across the country, a new “old” concept has made its way to Montgomery County. A pop-up drive-in theater has been operating at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks since July 24. Cars are spaced at least eight feet apart, and guests use the traditional FM radio options as well as a new sound distribution system that gives them the ability to stream audio over a local network and allow the use of personal wired or wireless devices to hear the film. Click here for more information from the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board.
Source: Times Herald; 7/23/2020

Philadelphia

How will the repeal of the fair housing rule affect Philadelphia?
The Trump administration recently announced it rescinded a Fair Housing Act rule known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation (AFFH) that targeted racial housing discrimination and segregation, with Trump saying that the decision would reduce crime and increase housing prices in the suburbs. The AFFH rule told local governments that they needed to analyze housing discrimination and segregation in their areas, and come up with plans to address those issues in order to receive federal funding. A new rule known as Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice has replaced the AFFH. Philadelphia completed a fair housing report in 2016 that was approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and adopted by the city. The report outlined challenges to fair housing in the city and a list of goals to combat those problems. Even though AFFH has been repealed, the city can still work to address housing inequalities, said Vincent J. Reina, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, however local efforts can go only so far without the support of the federal government. The official repeal of AFFH may change little, because the Trump administration hasn’t enforced it for years. City County President Darrell Clarke said in a statement, “We must acknowledge today, as our leaders did with the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, that our systems are not yet fair and that people of color continue to face tremendous biases in securing a fundamental right: a safe home for their families.” Click here for the full article.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 8/2/2020

Tiny homes made in Amish country may help solve Philly homelessness
In the town of Leola, Lancaster County, a small workshop hums and bustles with the creation of a product that could help the homeless in Philadelphia — tiny homes. Philadelphia officials and organizers of the homeless encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway have discussed the possibility of using tiny homes to house many of those now living in tents at the encampment. Stephanie Sena, a professor who teaches about poverty at the Widger School of Law at Villanova University, has worked for years helping individuals who are homeless. Sena has been working with city council as well and the city department of licenses and inspections on a plan that could recalibrate current thinking on homelessness. She wants to start a pilot program that would create a village of 20 tiny homes per acre for the homeless on available city land. She’s looking at a price tag of $40,000 to $50,000 per unit, 8½ feet wide by 30 feet long by 13½ feet high. The cost includes water, sewer and electrical hookups. Several members of city council have already indicated they are on board. Sena joined forces with Leola-based Liberation Tiny Homes to make the dream a reality. “We’re on board with Stephanie’s vision,” said co-owner Matt Meshy. “She talks about a community setting with wellness centers in a village. It’s more than just houses for people. She’s been fighting for this for years. She impressed us.”
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 8/11/2020

 
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