Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Opportunity zones added to Realtors® Property Resource
Morrisville hears $100M redevelopment plan
Affordable homes subject of 2020 Citizen Planners meeting
Clifton Heights sues Upper Darby schools
Lower Pottsgrove schedules sneak peek at new township building plans
Why new houses in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) aren’t made of brick
NAR urges House to support the Mortgage Choice Act
On Feb. 5, the National Association of Realtors® sent a letter to the US House of Representatives urging support for H.R. 1153, “The Mortgage Choice Act.” H.R. 1153 is bipartisan legislation that would make adjustments to the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) definition of points and fees under the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage (QM) rule. An identical bill passed the House with a greater than two-thirds vote in the last Congress. The Mortgage Choice Act will enhance competition in the mortgage and title insurance markets, and ensure that consumers will be able to choose the lenders and title providers best suited for their home-buying needs.
Source: Nar.realtor; 2/5/2018
Why Realtors® should care about net neutrality
Last year, the FCC issued a proposal to roll back the 2015 Open Internet Order and voted to dismantle its net neutrality regulations. The repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules become final 60 days after the FCC’s order is published in the Federal Register, a daily publication of the US federal government that issues proposed and final administrative regulations of federal agencies. The rules have not yet been published so the clock has not yet started. Once the rollback is final, supporters of net neutrality are expected to file lawsuits challenging the FCC’s authority. At the same time, Congress will consider legislation to write into law net neutrality protections. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) supports legislation that will protect American businesses and consumers by preventing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking, throttling or discriminating against internet traffic, and prohibit paid prioritization (“fast lane”) arrangements. The business of real estate is increasingly conducted online. Streaming video, virtual tours and voice-over-internet-protocol are just some of the technologies that are commonly used by real estate professionals today. Read more about this issue here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 2/2/2018
New area code in Philadelphia region
A new area code overlay will soon be in place for phone customers served by 215 and 267 area codes. The 445 area code overlay includes all of Philadelphia and parts of Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh and Berks counties. According to Verizon, an overlay is the addition of another area code in the same geographic area as an existing area code or codes. Existing numbers in the overlay area will not change, but future numbers within the geographic areas may begin with the new area code.
Source: Limerick Patch; 1/31/2018
Yardley to consider anti-discrimination ordinance
Yardley Borough Council will consider advertising an anti-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s race, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or use of support animals or mechanical aids. The ordinance, introduced by Councilman David Bria, is modeled after an existing ordinance in Doylestown Borough, and would create a three- to five- person Yardley Human Relations Commission. The commission would receive and handle complaints from borough residents alleging discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations or access to educational institutions. Although Bria has not personally heard of any such discrimination taking place in Yardley Borough, he wanted to lock in a protection not yet afforded to LGBTQ individuals under state or federal law. If adopted, Yardley would be the fifth Bucks County municipality to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance. New Hope passed one in 2002, and Doylestown Borough, Newtown Borough and Bristol Borough followed suit between 2010 and 2013. Yardley could give final approval to the ordinance by the end of the month after the advertisement and a public hearing.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/6/2018
Tax decrease in Morrisville
Morrisville Borough residents will see a property tax cut for the second straight year. The property tax rate for 2018 was set at 46.85 mills, down from 50.90 mills in 2017. The owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $20,000 will pay $937 in property taxes, a decrease of $81 from the previous year. For the first time in three years, borough officials did not have to seek permission from a county judge to raise the borough’s general fund millage above 30 mills, the ceiling state law places on municipalities’ general funds. The court allowed Morrisville to dedicate 32.75 mills to the general fund in 2016 and 2017. Morrisville officials allocated 30 mills exactly to the general fund for administration, police, streets and sanitation expenses. Borough Manager Scott Mitchell attributed the decrease to spending reductions and the borough’s active collection of delinquent receivables.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/5/2018
Central Bucks 2018-19 budget looks steady
The $336.3 million preliminary 2018-19 school year budget of the Central Bucks School District has revenues exceeding expenses by just over $300,000. If passed without change, the preliminary budget would hold the line on school property taxes in the district for the fourth straight year. Total millage would remain at 124.1 mills, or $4,964 for a resident with a property assessed at the district average of $40,000. District Business Administrator Dave Matyas said there are no planned program cuts or additions for the upcoming school year, nor are there any major renovations or construction projects. Central Bucks is in a unique position among Bucks County school districts in that its revenue is projected to exceed expenses. Matyas attributed the positive budget outlook to a robust economy within the school district.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/5/2018
Amended Warminster budget available for public review ahead of vote
Warminster Township supervisors initially adopted a 2018 fiscal year budget on Dec. 21, 2017, then reopened it on Jan. 18 to amend it. Pennsylvania’s Second-Class Township Code allows the supervisors to reopen the budget with a proposed tax increase in the month of January following a municipal election, and the law gives the supervisors until Feb. 15 to act. The supervisors are considering adding a 3.61-mill property tax increase. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. The current tax rate is 17.07 mills, so the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $25,490 receives a $435 township property tax bill. If the property tax increase to 20.68 mills is approved, the township property tax bill for the same home will increase to $527. The proposed amended budget is available for public review at the township administration building, 401 Gibson Ave., as well as Warminster Township Library, 1076 Emma Lane, and online at www.warminstertownship.org. The board of supervisors will consider adoption of the final amended budget at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 15.
Source: The Intelligencer; 1/26/2018
Planning commission offers survey on Chester Valley Trail’s western extension
The Chester County Planning Commission is studying the feasibility of extending the Chester Valley Trail (CVT) westward to the Lancaster County line. The CVT is already Chester County’s most-used multi-use trail. Extending the Chester Valley Trail to connect with the Enola Low Grade Trail in Lancaster County would establish a statewide, regionally attractive facility serving as a major spine and thruway in a county-wide network of multi-use trails. Public feedback will help the commission understand who will be using the trail and how it will be used. The survey, which can be accessed by clicking here, takes less than five minutes to complete.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; 1/30/2018
54-unit housing development clears hurdle in East Marlborough
The East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors has approved a conditional use order for a 54-unit townhouse development proposed by Doug White. The proposed site is a 22.6-acre tract located at the intersection of Gale Lane and Walnut Road. Before they approved the order at their monthly meeting, the supervisors had a discussion with White’s lawyer, Michael Gavin, about the setbacks and buffer areas between the houses and the surrounding property and roads. Gavin said the developer would try to increase the buffered areas further where possible when the project is in the land-development plan phase.
Source: Daily Local; 2/7/2018
West Bradford to consider ordinance to protect historic structures
The West Bradford Board of Supervisors will consider an amendment to Chapter 450 of the zoning code that will provide for additional provisions to preserve and protect historic resources and structures in the township. A public hearing will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 13, as part of the public meeting that begins at 8 p.m. at the municipal building, 1385 Campus Dr., Downingtown.
Source: Daily Local; 1/30/2018
Draft budget shows 2.55 percent tax increase for Avon Grove schools
The draft version of the Avon Grove School District 2018-19 budget includes a tax increase of 2.55 percent, but that figure could go as high as 3.1 percent before the final version is approved. The draft budget shows $89.3 million in revenue and expenditures totaling nearly $98.2 million. To make up the difference, the district would need to use about $8.9 million from the savings in its fund balance. The state’s Act 1 legislation sets a limit on how much each district may raise taxes before going to a voter referendum for approval. With allowed adjustments, Avon Grove School District could increase taxes by as much as 3.1 percent. Board Vice President Bonnie Wolff reported that the finance committee is recommending the full allowable increase. “There are unknowns that are coming down the pike. It’s a little bit better to plan for them now,” she said. District officials also have financial concerns about the amount of tax assessment appeals that have been approved this year. Wolff reported that appeals were heard for Avon Grove properties valued at $66 million, and the appeals resulted in lowering the values by $9.4 million. That reduction represents a drop of $278,000 in local property tax revenue for the school district.
Source: Daily Local; 1/31/2018
Delco council tables risk assessment study for pipeline
Delaware County Council tabled a risk assessment study on the Mariner East 2 pipelines one week after members agreed to conduct it. At a previous meeting, council established a committee including Council Chairman John McBlain and Councilman Brian Zidek to outline parameters for a study of the pipeline Sunoco is constructing from western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook to transport ethane, butane and propane. Zidek and council members Colleen Morrone and Kevin Madden voted to table the study. McBlain and Councilman Michael Culp opposed the motion. Zidek, who said he was neither pro- nor anti-pipeline, said he didn’t think the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) had the authority or the internal staffing or structure to conduct a quantitative risk assessment. In addition, he said the general public would not have confidence in the report’s objectivity or accuracy. Both sides said they intended to continue the discussion and were hopeful that a compromise could be crafted.
Source: Daily Times; 2/1/2018
All Delco council agenda and regular meetings to be video recorded
Delaware County Council approved video recording of both Tuesday agenda meetings and Wednesday regular meetings. “The changes that will be happening are pretty significant in terms of the impact it has,” Councilman Kevin Madden said. “We took some major steps today.” In addition to video recording meetings, council members agreed to maintain the current structure of county holidays, meeting frequency, meeting days and times, and the council meeting agenda. They agreed to have a preliminary agenda posted on the website Monday afternoon for discussion at Tuesday’s agenda meeting, after which a final agenda would be posted.
Source: Daily Times; 2/2/2018
Court date set in Pa. school-funding case involving William Penn schools
A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, for a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s school-funding system. The suit cites disparities among low- and high-wealth school districts and alleges that Pennsylvania’s funding approach violates the state constitution’s guarantee of a “thorough and efficient system” of education and its equal-protection provision. Advocates have long sought court intervention in Pennsylvania’s approach to school funding, which relies heavily on local property taxes to pay for schools and has resulted in large spending differences among communities. Pennsylvania courts previously dismissed school-funding cases, including this one. When it was first brought in 2014 by a group of plaintiffs including the William Penn School District in Delaware County, Commonwealth Court rejected the case, ruling that school funding was a political issue, not a judicial one. But the state Supreme Court revived the lawsuit last year, ordering the lower court to hold a trial.
Source: Daily Times; 2/2/2018
Developer wants Concord officials off proposal
In Concord Township, the first in what is expected to be a series of hearings regarding the proposed Concord Ventures development took an unexpected turn when the applicant requested that township council members and Township Solicitor Hugh Donaghue recuse themselves from hearing and adjudicating the application. The proposed residential development involves a 49.02-acre parcel, part of an approximately 63-acre tract bordered by Route 202, Watkin Avenue and the Pennsylvania state line. Attorney Marc Kaplin, representing equitable owner the Wolfson Group, said the recusal request was based on contact between the township representatives and Mark Jonas, the attorney appearing on behalf of four homeowners opposed to the plan. After meeting in executive session, Donaghue said the township and Jonas have 20 days to respond. The tentative plan for the development involves constructing 29 attached townhouses in six groupings, 166 apartments in three five-story buildings, a clubhouse and an inground pool on approximately 17 acres of the parcel. The entire tract is split-zoned as residential (PRD-1 and R-2D) and commercial, and the development would be built within the PRD-1 portion. The second night of testimony is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Source: Daily Times; 2/2/2018
North Penn eyes tax increase
The North Penn School Board recently heard details of a motion asking for a tax increase that exceeds the Act 1 limit set by state law. Steve Skrocki, district director of business administration, previewed a budget for the public in January that showed a preliminary deficit of about $9.7 million. Skrocki explained that North Penn must now apply to the state Department of Education for permission to exceed the state’s Act 1 index, which sets a limit of a 2.4 percent increase for the coming school year. The application document requests a tax increase that would actually balance the budget, which in North Penn’s case is 5.61 percent. North Penn only qualifies for one exemption under the law, which would generate an estimated additional $1.7 million and lead to a potential tax increase of 3.38 percent. Such an increase would add about $123 to the tax bill of an average homeowner and leave the district with a $3.38 million deficit to be closed by using reserve funds or cutting the budget. The early deficit will be reviewed as budget discussions continue. The district’s current plan is to give preliminary approval to a final budget on Thursday, May 17, and formally adopt it on Thursday, June 21. Visit www.npenn.org for the most up-to-date information.
Source: The Reporter; 2/5/2018
Planning Smarter Montco offers calendar of 2018 events
Planning Smarter Montco, an initiative launched by the Montgomery County Planning Commission, provides information to enable residents to better plan for the future of their communities. The group recently released a schedule of events that includes: Meet the Planning Commission; The Course in Community Planning; The Course in Subdivision and Land Development Review; Local Water Resource Success Stories; Bike Montco; The Course in Zoning; Future of Manufacturing in Montgomery County; and the Montgomery Awards Celebration.
Source: Montgomery County Planning Commission; 2/7/2018
West Conshohocken seeks resident volunteers
The Borough of West Conshohocken is seeking residents who would like to volunteer their time and talents to fill vacancies on the planning commission (one opening), the civil service commission (one opening), the zoning hearing board (two openings for alternates) and vacancy board (one opening). Residents of West Conshohocken Borough interested in these opportunities to serve can visit www.westconshohockenborough.com/volunteers-needed/ for more information.
Source: West Conshohocken Borough; 2/2/2018
Royersford Borough soliciting new businesses for downtown district
Royersford Borough is actively seeking area business owners who are either starting a new business or relocating an existing business to consider the borough as their new home. Borough officials are excited about the revitalization of several Main Street properties, including a large riverfront property that has been purchased by a developer with plans for commercial and residential use. Available spaces range from 800 to 5000 square feet and larger. Interested business owners can contact the borough via its Facebook page and send their name, email/phone and type of business. Royersford officials will connect them with appropriate developers.
Source: Limerick Patch; 2/6/2018
Rowhouses proposed for ex-Foxwoods casino site
A plan by National Realty Investment Advisors (NRIA) calls for 169 four-story rowhouses on part of the South Philadelphia waterfront property where a Foxwoods casino was once proposed. The property was acquired by developer Bart Blatstein for $13 million in 2014 after its previous owners failed to obtain a license to operate a casino at the site. Blatstein sold 15 acres to NRIA in December for $20.4 million. The proposed homes would each be about 3,100 square feet with ground-floor space to park one or two cars, according to plans on the Philadelphia Civic Design Review website. A second phase for the 15-acre NRIA site proposes 45 more houses on a pier attached to the site and a waterside public plaza at the end of an extended Dickinson Street, along with other public recreational spaces. The Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DRWC) hopes to work with NRIA to build part of a landscaped walking/cycling trail from Fishtown to South Philadelphia. The stretch through the project site is the only section of the proposed 3.3-mile trail that is not under the control of the DRWC. Negotiations over the trail with Blatstein had been unsuccessful, but the project’s designer, Shimi Zakin of the architecture firm Atrium Design Group, said the trail is integral to NRIA’s plans for the site.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/25/2018
City begins discussion about modernizing plumbing code
Philadelphia took a first step toward modernizing the city's plumbing code in ways that development industry insiders say could lead to more affordable housing and lowered construction costs. Mayor Jim Kenney hopes the newly reconstituted Plumbing Advisory Board will bring the code up to contemporary standards, while also serving the interests of the public and various industry groups, including politically powerful trade unions — a challenge that no previous mayor has been able to accomplish. "The plumbing code hasn't changed in decades; we are a modern city that needs a modern code,” said Karen Guss, spokeswoman for the Department of Licenses and Inspections. "But we also have a very specific history, including in our buildings, and the Philadelphia plumbers are the experts in how to take care of those buildings. So, we need everyone's best thinking to end up with the kind of code that will work for our city.” Philadelphia adheres to old standards that require copper and iron piping in any building over three stories high, while other American cities moved over to less costly plastic PVC piping, a more affordable choice for builders and a standard adopted by the International Code Council (ICC), an industry organization whose guidelines are enshrined across local and federal agencies. The decision to retain the old code has kept plumbers happy while frustrating builders and some housing advocates. The board took testimony from a couple dozen interested parties. Representatives from the ICC and Green Building United testified in favor of a more dramatic update, while master plumbers, contractors and representatives of pipe manufacturers urged caution. The Plumbing Advisory Board expects to present its findings to the administration in June, after holding several more meetings that are closed to the public.
Source: Plan Philly; 2/2/2018