Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Counties roll out emergency rent and utility assistance programs
Bucks sheriff sales go online
Chesco to offer webinar on Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program
Brandywine Battlefield property purchased
Lower Merion extends business privilege/mercantile tax deadline
Philadelphia rental and utility assistance program open for tenants and landlords
Pa. school-funding lawsuit appears headed to trial
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's education funding formula is moving closer to trial after Commonwealth Court dismissed state legislators' last remaining objection to the case. The suit, first filed in 2014 by the Education Law Center and Public Interest Center, alleges that Pennsylvania is failing in its constitutional mandate to thoroughly and efficiently educate children, and is discriminating against children based on where they live. The group of plaintiffs is led by Delaware County's William Penn School District, which is one of the lowest-performing districts in the state but whose residents pay among the highest property taxes. State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) had argued that the case should be dismissed, citing the updated education funding formula passed in 2016 that directed more money to school districts with greater student needs. Plaintiffs said disparities between low- and high-wealth districts had increased despite the formula, which applies only to a small portion of what Pennsylvania spends on public education. The court's recent decision allows the case to move forward to trial, though lawmakers may still file additional motions. According to Maura McInerney, legal director of the Education Law Center, the next step in the process is deciding what the trial will look like, how the issues will be presented and the timetable for producing evidence.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 8/21/2018
Governor opens hotline for flooding victims
Governor Tom Wolf said a public inquiry hotline is now available to citizens who need assistance cleaning up after devastating flooding in Pennsylvania, including the southeastern portion of the commonwealth. “We’re working with volunteer organizations that have offered to help residents in these communities,” said Wolf. “I know that some of these survivors have been hit multiple times in the last few weeks, and the willingness of these volunteers to do this hard work is greatly appreciated.” Anyone who would like to request help should call 272-200-3211 for assistance. The hotline will be staffed daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., including weekends, through Friday, Aug. 31. Volunteers will provide physical labor, such as mucking out basements, removing damaged flooring and drywall, and removing debris. Callers will need to provide basic information, including but not limited to their addresses, the type of work they need help with, and the status of utility services at their sites. Callers will also need to verbally give permission for call takers to share their information with the volunteer organizations. PEMA Director Rick Flinn said that while every effort will be made to help those who need it, the responding organizations will prioritize service delivery according to their own criteria and ability to assist. It may take several days for volunteer teams to respond. Another hotline, the Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990) is a 24/7 service available nationwide that is dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual and confidential crisis-support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.
Source: Daily Local; 8/20/2018
Aqua Pennsylvania files for rate increase
Rates for customers of Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. could be going up. The utility filed an application with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for approval of a $71.8 million increase in water and wastewater rates for its customers. It is the company’s first rate increase request since 2011. Under the proposed rate increase, a water bill for a typical residential customer using 4,080 gallons per month would go up about $9 from $60 to $69 — or 15.4 percent, according to the company. A typical commercial customer with a 5/8-inch meter using 37,800 gallons a month would see their bill increase from $380 per month to $440 per month — or about 13.6 percent. Aqua Pennsylvania said the primary reason for the request is to recover $2.2 billion the company has invested in infrastructure, including upgrades to its distribution and treatment systems to improve drinking water quality and service reliability throughout its water and wastewater operations. Aqua Pennsylvania has approximately 450,000 water and wastewater customers throughout Pennsylvania, serving approximately 1.4 million people in 32 counties. Across the region, the company has:
For more information about Aqua Pennsylvania visit www.aquaamerica.com/our-states/pennsylvania.aspx.
Source: Daily Times; 8/22/2018
Pa. Human Relations Commission expands definition of sex discrimination
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission released new guidance expanding the definition of “sex” under the state Human Relations Act. The new guidance states that, “The Commission will accept for filing sex discrimination complaints arising out of the complainant’s sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender transition and gender expression using any and all legal theories available depending on the facts of the individual case.” Click here to read the full guidance.
Source: Housing Equality Center of PA, Fair Housing News email; 8/17/2018
Richland supervisors approve zoning change for proposed development
Richland Township supervisors approved a zoning change to allow plans for a proposed 220-home development on Rich Hill Road to proceed to the township and county planning commissions for further review. The zoning change would move the 102-acre site from a combination of Rural Agricultural and Planned Commercial to all Suburban Residential Medium. Residents opposed to the plan were not impressed with the reduction in the number of homes from the original proposal of 272, or the offer from developer Rich Hill Associates to fund a new traffic signal at Route 309 and Rich Hill Road. Of the 220 units, 186 would fall in Richland Township and the remaining 34 in West Rockhill, where the developer will also need to gain approval.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 8/17/2018
Tinicum amends tree removal ordinance
Tinicum Township officials have amended an ordinance regulating allowable tree removal in order to deal with trees diseased by the emerald ash borer. The removal of “diseased or dead trees, as determined by a certified arborist or township engineer” will not count against the removal limit of 15 trees per calendar year without a special permit. Another part of the amendment relating to the particular protection of riparian buffers — which are protected waterways and adjacent land — states that removal of similarly determined diseased or dead trees is now allowed in the same fashion as removal of invasive species. The amendment was adopted at the Aug. 7 board of supervisors meeting.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 8/17/2018
Middletown receives grant to update comprehensive plan
Middletown Township was recently awarded a $67,000 grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) to help the township “reboot” its comprehensive plan. Middletown’s current comprehensive plan dates back to the 1990s. Township Manager Stephanie Teoli Kuhls said township staff, elected officials and the planning commission will work to get a plan in place that will guide future economic development, community growth, and residential and commercial development. Supervisor Chair Amy Strouse said the township will reach out to neighboring municipalities to see where they can work together. The grant awarded to Middletown was part of $1.8 million awarded to 23 projects in Pennsylvania and New Jersey by the DVRPC.
Source: Levittownnow.com; 8/20/2018
Council Rock redistricting could be finalized in December
The redistricting committee for the Council Rock School District has posted a tentative timeline on the school district website for the remaining steps toward redistricting. The timeline has final recommendations from the redistricting committee being presented to the school board at the Thursday, Nov. 15, meeting and the board voting on a redistricting plan on Thursday, Dec. 20, although “feedback from the district” could modify the schedule. The redistricting committee is comprised of school principals, district-level administrators and two parents from each of Council Rock’s 15 schools. The committee has tentatively scheduled a public forum for Monday, Oct. 1, to get feedback on a revised redistricting plan after the initial plan submitted in January caused concerns. Since that time, the school board decided to keep all students in grades six through 11 in their current feeder patterns through graduation, meaning that no student then in those grades will have to attend different schools than they had planned, regardless of the redistricting.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/20/2018
Controversial Devon Yard project finally opens
Devon Yard, the lifestyle center designed by Urban Outfitters that brings several of its brands together under one roof, officially opened last week on the site of the former Waterloo Gardens in Devon, near the intersection of South Waterloo Road and West Lancaster Avenue. In addition to Anthropologie, Terrain and BHLDN Weddings, Urban Outfitters also offers dining options in Amis Trattoria and Terrain Café. Devon Yard also has an event space called Terrain Garden. This is a new concept for Urban Outfitters as the retailer seeks to become a destination that offers consumers additional reasons to visit the center. However, the project courted controversy from its very inception, as community members fought to derail its development due to concerns over traffic and other issues. These issues escalated, pitting neighbor against neighbor with signs both for and against the project peppering front yards in Devon.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 8/16/2018
Plan for huge apartment complex in Kennett Township advances
After a three-year battle, it appears a massive, 175-unit apartment complex in Kennett Township will become a reality. A major design change sent it back to square one, but a proposed large apartment development in Kennett Township is once again moving forward. Three years ago, a proposal by Ravello Land Development to build apartments between Anson B. Nixon Park and Miller’s Hill Road was approved as a conditional use, and early the next year its final land development plan was approved. But a substantial revision to the design started the process over again. And at their second August meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved a new conditional use approval for the developers, technically called Merion Kennett Square Developer LLC. The project is still informally referred to as “Ravello.” The new design retains the proposed 175 units on a 14.6-acre tract. David J. Sander, the township solicitor, said the main reason for the revision was the developer’s change from one building to three four-story buildings. After a July 18 hearing on the proposal, the township and developers agreed on a list of conditions, Sander said. Those conditions mostly addressed the distance of various features from neighboring properties, as well as conditions regarding tree plantings, earthwork and types of lighting used. Final conditions addressed creating a crosswalk so people could walk across Walnut Road from the development to the park, and making sure there was also access to future sidewalks on Miller’s Hill Road.
Source: Daily Local; 8/20/2018
Oxford residents air concerns over parking garage plan
Residents packed an Oxford Borough meeting to voice concerns over a proposed downtown parking garage. About a dozen people chose to speak, some in favor and some opposed. Later in the meeting, council voted to condemn a strip of parking lot belonging to Oxford Family Eye Care for a public easement to create an entry lane for a SCCOOT bus layover spot that will be included in the parking garage project. The property in question totals 1,432 square feet. The easement does not impact the building and it would not change the ownership of the land, but it would eliminate one parking space for the business to assure an access path for the short buses. The plan includes making Second Street one-way to allow for the creation of 14 on-street parking spaces during the construction phase. “We are not taking the land itself. The public will have a right to drive over it. On the ground it will look no different other than losing this one parking space,” Borough Solicitor Stacey Fuller said. She added that the next step in the process is determining the financial compensation that will be paid to the property owners for the easement. “We just need to move this forward at this point because we haven’t made progress in discussions with their attorney,” Fuller said. The board approved the condemnation, but the vote was not unanimous. All board members voted in favor of a 30-day extension of the bid contracts for the construction of the garage, pushing back the latest date for a decision to Oct. 24. The delay will give council time to learn if they have been approved for an additional grant that would reduce their share of the cost of the project.
Source: Daily Local; 8/22/2018
Palmer Park in Coatesville to undergo green makeover
Coatesville officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a unique nature and water play area at Palmer Park. The new play area, set to be constructed at the site of a former public pool at the park, will feature: a splash area; a small, constructed creek; several nature play elements; a gathering area with seating; new trees; and more. Palmer Park’s nature-based play area will promote natural play and environmental stewardship. The project is set to be completed this fall. The project at Palmer Park is made possible through the Greening Coatesville initiative, a partnership of the City of Coatesville, Natural Lands and Brandywine Health Foundation. Major financial support was provided through a Building Better Communities Grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association.
Source: Daily Local; 8/22/2018
Drexeline delays draw packed house
An overflow crowd attended an Upper Darby Township Council meeting to protest the delay of the Drexeline Town Center construction due to an appeal filed in county court. The township Zoning Hearing Board approved the application of MCBH Drexeline LP’s 11 variances to include apartments, an indoor storage building, 80 percent impervious coverage rather than the 70 percent required, side yard setback on one section of the 17.5-acre site, no stream buffer rather than the 50 feet required, and a special exception for the reduction of parking spaces required at 5100 State Road. Plans include redevelopment of the entire site to include a Wawa, a new ShopRite supermarket, walking trail along Darby Creek, underground parking garage and a medical center. Township residents Bonnie Hallam, Janice Haman and Donald Fields filed a civil appeal last month in Common Pleas Court seeking a reversal in the township zoning hearing board’s approval of the project in June, though Fields subsequently withdrew from the suit. According to Mayor Thomas Micozzie, the financial impact tied to the delays is significant. “Stores are vacant now,” Micozzie said. “Now we’re paying legal fees [to defend].” The township plans on defending the zoning board’s decision through the appeal process.
Source: Daily Times; 8/20/2018
Radnor declares disaster from flooding
With residents and businesses still reeling from the severe flooding that hit parts of Wayne on Aug. 13, Radnor commissioners have issued a disaster declaration. The declaration opens the door to allow residents and businesses affected by the flooding to apply for loans from the Small Business Association. Affected residents and business owners should contact Police Sgt. George Smith, who is the township’s dedicated emergency management operations commander, to file paperwork. The board also voted to send a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf detailing the stormwater damage the township faces. Larry Bak of Delaware County Emergency Management Services said the disaster declaration was the first thing needed for residents and businesses to request loans, depending on whether their losses meet the criteria. He encouraged them to clean up and remove damaged carpets, appliances and drywall, but also to document them. A separate funding track for municipal losses is also available. “It’s been a very difficult time for so many of you,” said Commissioners President Lisa Borowski. “We are going to work hard and make some improvements… We are committed. We know that stormwater is a priority and definitely a priority for this board.” Meanwhile, the township issued a press release Tuesday regarding the fee waivers. It stated, in part: “The Community Development Department stresses that the fee waiver does not mean that the permits and inspections are no longer required. All repairs that would otherwise need a permit and inspection still require the necessary paperwork to be filed with the township. These permits are an important step towards the safety of the public to ensure that contractors are registered and that their work is code compliant. Questions about the program can be directed to the Radnor’s Community Development Department at 610-688-5600.
Source: Daily Times; 8/22/2018
Morton parking app available
The Borough of Morton will soon launch PassportParking®, which is a mobile application (app) in downtown Morton. The app is powered by Passport, a company specializing in mobile payments for parking and transit. The app is also available in Swarthmore, Phoenixville, Kennett Square and West Chester. For the first time, residents and visitors in downtown Morton, including SEPTA regional rail users, will have the option to pay for parking with the app. Drivers can download the free PassportParking® app from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Users can also manage their parking online at ppprk.com.
Source: Daily Times; 8/21/2018
Municipalities attempt to skirt MCOCA
The Suburban Realtors Alliance has had several reports of municipalities in Delaware County forcing the hands of buyers and sellers with respect to repairs at point of sale. The Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act clearly states that buyers and sellers have a minimum of 12 months to complete repairs. The timeline may not be reduced, but in some cases it may be extended at the discretion of the municipality. As such, a municipality should not require a buyer and seller to sign an agreement that repairs resulting from a point-of-sale Use and Occupancy inspection be completed within a 30-, 60- or 90-day window. The law is applicable to all municipalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If a person signs such an agreement, the protections provided by MCOCA are being forfeited. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance is here to help if you encounter such a situation. Contact us at 610-981-9000 or email@example.com if you need assistance or have questions about a Use and Occupancy issue.
Lansdale approves Human Relations Ordinance
Lansdale Borough Council unanimously passed a Human Relations Ordinance that establishes legal protections for the LGBTQ community in the borough. Prior to the vote, Councilmen Leon Angelichio and Steve Malagari both expressed disappointment that such legislation was required. Malagari took aim at the state of Pennsylvania for not offering protections at the state level. The ordinance also creates a Human Relations Commission to hear complaints and mediate disputes concerning alleged discrimination based on numerous protected classes, including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, which are not covered by the state Human Relations Act, as well as race, age and religion. [Note: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission recently updated the state Human Relations Act, broadening its criteria for protected groups. See the General news section for more information.]
Source: NorthPennNow.com; 8/16/2018
New app allows Montco residents to submit crime tips
Montgomery County officials recently unveiled a crime tips app program called MontcoCrimeTips, becoming the first county in Pennsylvania to use such an app. “If you see somebody dealing drugs, text it to us. If you hear something about a homicide, text it to us. If somebody thinks they’re hearing somebody in trouble, somebody being abused, text it to us,” said District Attorney Kevin R. Steele. He stressed that the tipster’s phone number remains anonymous and is not captured or saved in any way. If a tip requires an immediate response, police or firefighters will be dispatched. To participate, residents can download the free STOPit app and use the access code “MONTCOPA” to acquire the localized version of the app. The STOPit app is available to download for free on iOS and Android platforms. View the press release here.
Source: The Phoenix; 8/12/2018
Sale of Limerick sewer system finalized
The sale of the Limerick Township sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania was approved by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission on July 13, and the sale closed on July 25. The township sold the sewer system to Aqua for $75.1 million, but after deductions are made for debts by the township, the net gain for Limerick is $70.5 million. According to Elaine DeWan, chairwoman of the Limerick Township Board of Supervisors, the township decided to sell the sewer system because of the potential for increased operating costs and the need for a number of major capital improvements driven by an increasing population. “When I moved here in 2001, there were 9,000 people, and now there are 19,000,” she said. The sale was made easier under the recently enacted Act 12, which allows municipalities that own water and wastewater systems to sell their systems to regulated public utilities at fair market valuation. Aqua’s bid for the Limerick Township sewer system includes an additional $400,000 for future developments and requires that sewer rates not be raised for three years.
Source: The Phoenix; 8/12/2018
Lower Salford moves Sept. 5 meeting to Indian Valley Middle School
The meeting of the Lower Salford Board of Supervisors scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 5, has been moved to the Indian Valley Middle School auditorium. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the middle school, 130 Maple Ave., Harleysville. The meeting is a continuation of the Aug. 1 township meeting., which drew hundreds of Lower Salford residents opposing zoning amendments that would permit high-density home development on about 60 acres of land near Oak Drive and state Route 113 (Harleysville Pike). If the rezoning is approved, the plans call for 87 townhouses at Oak Drive and Route 113, and 46 twin homes on the Maple Avenue tract, with 23 acres being donated to the township for the expansion of the existing Alderfer Park. Those opposed to the plans are concerned about increased traffic and the need for services that could bring additional taxes. However, representatives for the developer say that if the current zoning is maintained, it would allow the properties to be developed with uses that would have a greater impact on the area, including office space, day care facilities, a car wash and a nursing home, with large parking areas required. Click here for more information about the development application and zoning map amendment.
Source: The Reporter; 8/21/2018
City officials hope to recoup $50M in Market Street deal
The City of Philadelphia has a deal to unload a property once pegged as the new home of the Philadelphia Police Department. Under the agreement with a private developer, the space at 4601 Market St. will become a health campus, Mayor Jim Kenney said Monday. The deal will help the city recover some of more than $50 million it spent on renovations. “The work that was done at 4601 Market needed to be done anyway,” he said. “It needed a new roof, it needed new windows, and it needed interior demolition.” City officials changed their minds on the location, and the former Philadelphia Inquirer building on North Broad Street will become the new police headquarters. Once the city sells the current police headquarters — known as the “Roundhouse” — at Eighth and Race streets, Kenney said he hopes to recoup the funds spent on renovating the West Philadelphia location.
Source: Plan Philly; 8/21/2018
Philadelphia schools to start before Labor Day
Students in the Philadelphia School District will report to school this year on Monday, Aug. 27 — a full week ahead of the usual post-Labor Day start. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the change was made in part by a desire to stack the year with as many uninterrupted weeks of class as possible. “We wanted more instruction days earlier in the year,” Hite said. “Closer to the end of the year, you get spring-itis and summer-itis. This gives us more days to be in front of children before they sit for any assessments — state, Advanced Placement, SAT.” If there are no days off for inclement weather, the last day of school for district students will be June 4, 2019. Visit the Philadelphia School District website for more information.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 8/22/2018