NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Infrastructure reform among 2019 NAR policy priorities

Bucks County
Warminster tax hike must be approved by court

Chester County
Landscapes3 adopted by Chester County Commissioners

Delaware County
Cost of new middle school in Clifton Heights to be evaluated

Montgomery County
Norristown budget includes $1.8M deficit

Philadelphia County
City council downsizes new protections for renters in ‘Good Cause’ bill
 

 



 

News Briefs Archive February 19, 2018

 

General News

Realtors® should play by the book, even if municipalities misbehave
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance reminds Realtors® who work in municipalities with use-and-occupancy inspection ordinances that every reasonable effort must be made to schedule timely inspections and request the subsequent resale certificates. Failure to do so can result in several bad outcomes: delaying or even killing the sale; creating an adversarial relationship with the municipality; costing clients time and money; and even opening agents up to potential lawsuits. “We recently heard from a Realtor® who had properly requested and received a code inspection, but never made that final call to request the subsequent resale certificate,” Alliance President Jamie Ridge said. “The township needs to be given the opportunity to follow the proper procedures, even if there are issues during the inspection process. Otherwise, it’s difficult for us to find resolutions when problems arise.” Pennsylvania municipalities are obligated by Act 133 of 2016 to provide resale certificates upon request after code inspections are performed. But even in instances where municipalities are not complying with the law, Realtors® and/or their clients need to follow normal procedures for obtaining resale certificates (i.e., use-and-occupancy, temporary use-and-occupancy or temporary access permits), including scheduling inspections in a timely manner. Realtors® can learn more about local ordinances and contact the Alliance with questions at www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

NAR wins pro-real estate provisions in budget deal
The federal budget deal signed by the President on Feb. 9 contains a number of wins for the real estate industry, including a temporary extension of federal flood insurance and extension of NAR-backed tax provisions that include relief from debt forgiveness, the deductibility of mortgage insurance premiums, and several energy-efficiency related provisions.

  • Flood Insurance — Extends the National Flood Insurance Program until March 23, giving lawmakers time to work on longer-term reauthorization and reform legislation.
  • Tax Extenders — Retroactively extends for the 2017 tax year:
    • Mortgage Debt Forgiveness: This provision will prevent homeowners who were forced to sell their homes through a short-sale last year, or who faced a foreclosure, from being taxed on the “phantom income” they received when a lender cancelled their debt.
    • Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums: This provision will allow approximately four million homeowners to deduct the mortgage insurance premiums they paid as part of their mortgage. NAR estimates that roughly two million homebuyers annually purchase a home that is subject to mortgage insurance. This provision helps make homeownership more affordable for first time and entry-level homeowners.
    • Energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction: This provision extends the deduction for the cost, up to $1.80 per square foot, of energy-efficient commercial building property. Increasing the energy efficiency of commercial buildings not only helps the environment, it saves building owners and tenants money that they can use to grow their businesses and the economy.

Read more here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 2/9/2018

Bucks County

New Hope-Solebury School District eyes $173 average tax increase
The New Hope-Solebury School Board recently approved a $41.2 million preliminary budget that includes a 3.1 percent tax increase. The school district has applied to the state for an exception that would allow the district to increase taxes higher than the 2.4 percent Act 1 index. According to Business Administrator Andrew Lechman, district administrators and the school board would work to see if a tax hike at or below 2.4 percent is an option, but the district is facing a deficit of over $1 million for the 2018-19 school year. A 3.1 percent tax increase would raise $915,000 and the remaining gap could be covered by drawing from the fund balance. The preliminary tax increase would raise the property tax rate by 3.03 mills, or about $173 for a property owner with a home assessed at the school district average of $57,000. The total tax rate would be 100.72 mills for a total school district property tax bill of $5,741 on the average assessed property.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/6/2018

Pennsbury schools face $5.8 million deficit
The Pennsbury school board approved a $209.7 million draft preliminary budget for the 2018-19 school year that projects a $5.8 million deficit. To cover the deficit using a tax increase alone would amount to a 4.4 percent tax hike, which is above the 2.4 percent Act 1 index allowed by the state. “We can’t raise taxes 4.4 percent, so we have our work cut out for us between now and June,” said Business Administrator Dan Rodgers. The district has several options to close the deficit, Rodgers said, including raising revenue, reducing expenditures, and using money from the district’s savings account, also known as the fund balance. The district has relied on a combination of those three things in the past several years in order to pass a balanced budget. Rodgers reported that assessment appeals in the district have been decreasing over the past few years, down to 55 this year from 450 in 2011-12. Fewer appeals mean more stability for the district and the overall assessment growing in the past couple of years, Rodgers said.
Source: The Advance; 2/4/2018

Milford tables peddling ordinance
Milford Township supervisors recently tabled an ordinance restricting door-to-door soliciting following potential free speech concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The draft ordinance regulates door-to-door sales, but a registration requirement in the local law could potentially violate the constitutional rights of political canvassers. Although representatives of nonprofit groups, political campaigns and other surveyors for government or other organizations were exempted in the draft ordinance, it still required those people to carry some form of “satisfactory identification” affiliated with a group or organization. ACLU Regional Deputy Legal Director Mary Catherine Roper warned the requirements in the exemption “put a precondition and a burden” on free speech rights of canvassers. Supervisor Chair Robert Mansfield said the decision to table the ordinance was not an agreement or denial with the issues raised by the ACLU. The township pursued the ordinance after concerns from residents about door-to-door sales in the area.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/8/2018

Doylestown receives loan for sewer project
PennVest approved an application from Doylestown Township for a low-interest loan to pay for the costs associated with the construction and installation of the Pebble Ridge/Woodridge Sewer Project. Although the township applied for the loan through the state’s PennVest program to fund the initial cost of the sewer project construction, it will be 252 homeowners in the area who pay the loan back. Doylestown Township supervisors approved the project last summer to bring public sewer to homeowners near Pebble Ridge and Woodridge roads. Individual on-lot septic systems that serve the homes in the area are showing signs of failing and polluting stormwater runoff, leaving no other option but to extend the public sewer line. The project is scheduled to begin this summer. Click here for more information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/8/2018

Chester County 

Kennett school officials plan 2.2 percent real estate tax hike
Residents of the Kennett Consolidated School District might see their real-estate taxes go up by 2.27 percent under a proposed preliminary budget. School board members voted unanimously at their February meeting to adopt a preliminary budget for 2018–2019. The $86 million budget would increase taxes for the average household by $123, according to Board Treasurer Michael H. Finnegan. The budget includes a $714,330 contribution from the district’s fund balance to lower the tax burden on homeowners, Finnegan said. Proposals in the state budget could mean, if things go well, that the final tax increase could go down to 1.94 percent. The final budget will be adopted in June.
Source: Kennett Paper; 2/13/2018

Uwchlan supervisors vote to fight pipeline
The Uwchlan Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to enforce a township zoning ordinance that would stop Sunoco Pipeline from constructing the Mariner East 2 pipeline in the township. The current route of the pipeline violates the township’s 2014 zoning ordinance, which forbids pipeline construction in high-density areas and near occupied structures such as houses and schools, supervisors said. Pipeline construction was halted for more than a month after a Jan. 3 ruling by the state Department of Environmental Protection that cited “egregious” violations by Sunoco Pipeline during construction. But last week, when Sunoco and the DEP signed off on a $12.6 million civil penalty, Sunoco was given the green light to resume construction on the controversial, 350-mile project.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/2018

Natural Lands adds acres to ChesLen
The largest privately owned nature preserve open to the public in Southeastern Pennsylvania just got even bigger with the addition of 20 acres of rare habitat. Natural Lands, a regional land conservation organization, announced that its ChesLen Preserve in Newlin Township expanded to 1,282 acres when the organization purchased land from an adjacent neighbor. The recently acquired acreage is part of a rare ecosystem known as the Unionville Serpentine Barrens, which supports a number of threatened plant and animal species. In addition to habitat restoration, Natural Lands has established a nine-mile trail system at ChesLen Preserve, installed five trailheads, created Ollie Owl’s NaturePlayGround, and built the Lenfest Center, which serves as a management center and hosts dozens of events and community gatherings each year.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 2/9/2018

East Caln Township to consider sidewalk maintenance ordinance
East Caln Township supervisors will consider ordinance amendments to Chapter 180 of the Township Code of Ordinances, “Streets and Sidewalks.” The sections to be amended include property owner obligations for vegetation clearing and penalties. The amendments will be considered for adoption at a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. at the East Caln Township Building, 110 Bell Tavern Road, Downingtown.
Source: Daily Local; 2/9/2018

Willistown to adopt 2018 IMPC     
The Willistown Township Board of Supervisors will consider and ordinance adopting the 2018 International Property Maintenance Code. The full text of the ordinance is available here. The ordinance will be considered for adoption at a meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. at 688 Sugartown Road, Malvern.
Source: Daily Local; 2/9/2018

Delaware County

Radnor commissioner proposes new Gateway Enhancement District
Interim Ward 1 Commissioner Matt Marshall has introduced a motion to have developers help fund a township Gateway Enhancement District. Back in September 2016, Marshall had given the board of commissioners a presentation on the concept, aimed at beautifying the commuter corridor between Sproul Road (Route 320) and the Blue Route (I-476) and sprucing up infrastructure along Wayne Avenue in downtown Wayne. “The Gateway Enhancement District is a visual reflection of Radnor Township’s natural beauty, strong commercial, academic and governmental leadership. The district will accentuate the welcoming reputation, natural aesthetics and quality of community valued by Radnor’s residents,” Marshall said. He would like to see developers, including Penn Medicine, contribute to the plan to clean up the areas that have become rundown, filled with broken sidewalks and discarded trash. While the township solicitor has opined that Radnor cannot hold up approvals of developments based on contributions, Marshall said that many other townships benefit from these sorts of payments. There is already a nonprofit in the township to receive the funding: the Radnor Enhancement Trust. Marshall would like to see that group become more active. Township officials do plan to use about $200,000 to improve downtown Wayne with new street trees, planters and lights on the trees. But with more money in the Radnor Enhancement Trust, other improvements could be made, such as fixing broken sidewalks. That would free township money for park improvements, he said.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 2/9/2018

Airport buys huge parcel in Tinicum to develop new cargo hub
Philadelphia International Airport plans to turn the adjacent Henderson tract in Tinicum Township into a facility to tap into a $54 billion cargo transportation industry in a move to optimize resources during low volume intervals. “From the airport’s perspective, cargo is a great opportunity,” James Tyrrell, chief revenue officer for the Philadelphia International Airport, said. “Cargo traditionally operates during the off hours. That allows us to really maximize the use of infrastructure that would otherwise be sitting there unused.” In January, the city of Philadelphia acquired the 135-acre Henderson tract for $54.5 million. It then held an Air Cargo Workshop at which approximately three dozen cargo and logistics companies had conversations with officials about what they’d like to see in a transportation facility. To provide direct airfield access from the Henderson tract, Tinicum Island Road would need to be relocated. Tyrrell explained that it could be redirected along the perimeter of the land along the natural pathway following the creek. However, airport officials would work with township and county representatives and other stakeholders to determine what would be best. In the meantime, the Delaware County Common Pleas Court will have its Board of View review the value of the Henderson tract.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/2018

Upper Darby to consider adoption of comprehensive plan
The Upper Darby Township Council will hold a final Public Meeting on adoption of the Upper Darby Township Comprehensive Plan on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. in Council Meeting Room #202 of the Municipal Building, 100 Garrett Road, Upper Darby. Copies of the proposed Comprehensive Plan are available on the township website and at the hearing.
Source: Daily Times; 2/9/2018

Concord officials plan response to request for recusal
Concord Township Solicitor Hugh Donaghue reviewed the process for responding to the request from Concord Ventures that he and council recuse themselves from hearing and adjudicating its application. The proposed residential development involves a 49-acre parcel, part of an approximately 63-acre tract bordered by Route 202, Watkin Avenue and the Pennsylvania state line. Wolfson Group, the equitable owner, has submitted tentative plans to construct 29 attached townhouses in six groupings, 166 apartments in three five-story buildings, a clubhouse and in-ground pool on approximately 17 acres of the parcel. The township planning commission voted unanimously last month not to recommend the plan to council. The developer’s attorney, Marc Kaplin, based the objection and request for recusal on contact between township representatives and Mark Jonas, the attorney appearing on behalf of four homeowners opposed to the plan. He also referenced a 2015 vote by the then-supervisors to deny a request for a subdivision and lot consolidation for a section of the tract, a decision subsequently reversed by Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Burr. The second night of testimony in the hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Source: Daily Times; 2/10/2018

Upland adopts balanced budget
Upland Borough Council adopted a 2018 operating budget totaling $3.5 million, reflecting no tax increase for residents. This marks the 31st consecutive year of no tax increase in the borough. The millage rate was set at 2 mills, as in previous years. A homeowner with a property assessed at $80,000 can expect to pay $160 in real estate taxes in 2018. The annual trash fee remains the same at $135 per household.
Source: Chester Spirit; 1/24/2018

Delco pipeline risk study committee reconfigures, tries to move ahead
Delaware County Council continues to try to devise a way to do a risk assessment study of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, even as the committee has been reconfigured and new parameters are set. Mariner East 2 pipeline work created a mess along Chester Creek Road in Brookhaven last June, spurring residents to ask local officials to halt construction. Councilman Michael Culp replaced Council Chairman John McBlain on the Pipeline Response Committee. Councilman Brian Zidek is the other council member on the committee. McBlain said he chose to leave the committee after Zidek spoke about McBlain’s law firm, Swartz Campbell, having done work for Sunoco, although McBlain maintains he has not done any work himself for Sunoco. “I think we have made some grounds toward that end and have a plan as to what next steps we might take to try and reach common ground,” Zidek said. Some of the outstanding issues are who will conduct or commission the study and what the study will actually evaluate.
Source: Daily Times; 2/10/2018

Montgomery County

Lower Merion School District will not increase taxes more than 2.4 percent
The Lower Merion Board of School Directors unanimously approved a resolution promising not to raise taxes for the 2018-19 school year above the state Act 1 index limit of 2.4 percent. The initial $272.7 million budget for next year is higher than the current year budget of $265.2 million and calls for the use of $3.7 million of the district’s savings, along with the tax increase, in order to balance the budget. If finalized, a 2.4 percent tax hike would result in a 28.7477 millage rate for an additional $169 in taxes on a home assessed at the district average of $250,680. This will be the first year since the Act 1 limit on taxes was enacted that Lower Merion will not use exceptions to increase taxes over the Act 1 index. The budget is scheduled to be finalized in June. The district is in the midst of an ongoing lawsuit filed by resident and attorney Arthur Wolk over the 2016-17 tax increase of 4.4 percent. Montgomery County Judge Joseph Smyth ordered Lower Merion to rescind the 4.4 percent tax increase and not go above the 2.4 percent index. The district has been putting that two percent into a special account until the case is settled. The case has been appealed and is now going before the state Supreme Court. Wolk responded to the recent resolution to limit the current tax increase to 2.4 percent and said, “The problem is that because you did not adjust the millage for 2016-17 and 2017-18, the actual tax increase for 2018-18 is 6.5 [percent], not 2.4 [percent].”
Source: Main Line Times; 1/28/2018

East Norriton to update U&O ordinance, rental property regulations
The East Norriton Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider enacting several property related ordinances at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the East Norriton Township Building, 2501 Stanbridge St., at 7 p.m. The first ordinance will amend Chapter 152, “Property Maintenance,” to adopt the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code. The second will amend Chapter 159, which is related to rental properties, to adopt rental regulations regarding licensing, registration and management of rental properties located within East Norriton Township. The third will amend Chapter 190, “Use and Occupancy Permits,” to add provisions for issuance of temporary use-and-occupancy and temporary access certificates. The proposed ordinances have been requested by the Alliance. Visit East Norriton’s website for more information.
Source: Times Herald; 2/12/2018

Lansdale to consider ordinance defining ‘accessory dwelling unit’
Lansdale Borough Council will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Lansdale Borough Hall, 1 Vine St., at 7 p.m. to consider a zoning ordinance amendment to define and provide use regulations for “accessory dwelling unit.” A copy of the proposed ordinance is available for inspection at Lansdale Borough Hall, at the offices of the Reporter newspaper and at the Montgomery County Law Library, all during regular business hours. The proposed ordinance has been requested by the Alliance.
Source: The Reporter; 2/7/2018

Jenkintown Borough Council to host Community Conversation
Residents and interested parties are invited to Jenkintown Borough Council’s Community Conversation on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Jenkintown School District Cafeteria, 325 Highland Avenue (new location). Borough Council will discuss its ongoing efforts to welcome new business developments to Jenkintown, hear from potential developers and provide feedback on potential proposals. Click here for information about current land development proposals in Jenkintown Borough.
Source: Jenkintown Borough e-news; 2/9/2018

East Norriton schedules public meetings for Comprehensive Plan review
The Comprehensive Plan Committee of East Norriton Township has announced a public meeting schedule for 2018. The purpose of these meetings is for the committee to work with East Norriton supervisors in reviewing, assessing and making recommendations to achieve sound planning and comprehensive community goals and objectives in accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. The two remaining meetings are Thursday, Feb. 22, and Thursday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the East Norriton Township Building, 2501 Stanbridge St.

Philadelphia

'Just cause' eviction bill clears committee
A bill intended to protect Philadelphia renters from being evicted without “good cause” has passed out of committee and will go to the full city council for consideration. Introduced by City Councilman Curtis Jones, the bill’s progression came two weeks after the city announced a slate of new and improved city-funded programs designed to increase legal support for renters in danger of losing their homes. Jones’ bill defines “good cause” as nonpayment of rent, property destruction or not conforming to the terms of the lease. It would also require that landlords give 30 to 60 days’ notice — depending on the length of tenancy — before eviction or a substantial change to the lease, even if there is “good cause” for such an action. The bill carries the potential for significant impact — between 2010 and 2015, one in every 14 renters in the city was served with an eviction filing, according to a 2017 report by Reinvestment Fund. Of the council representatives in attendance, Republican David Oh offered the lone voice of opposition. He said that he feared additional rental protections could dissuade property owners in low-income neighborhoods from entering the rental market, potentially hurting rental supply in neighborhoods that need affordable units. The Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors® submitted written testimony denouncing the legislation as an attack on property and Constitutional rights. The bill has undergone some revision since Jones first introduced it last year, and more changes are likely. Councilmembers Cindy Bass and Allan Domb both stated that they wanted to see further changes. Domb, who is a real estate developer, said he felt the current language in the bill is too broad, making it hard for people to sell investment properties. Domb also expressed concern that one caveat in the bill — which allows landlords to evict a tenant quickly or not renew a lease if they or an immediate family member need to move in — should be expanded to include extended family, as well.
Source: Plan Philly; 2/13/2018

Loophole in law for the poor spurs gentrification
Special home loan products that are designed to help low-income people and blighted neighborhoods, where banks are required to lend under the landmark Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, have recently come under scrutiny. The law was designed to correct the damage of redlining, a now-illegal practice in which the government warned banks away from neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrants and African-Americans. But the law didn’t anticipate a day when historically black neighborhoods would be sought out by young white homebuyers. So instead of lending to longtime black residents of Point Breeze, most of the loans there are going to white newcomers. The Community Reinvestment Act “is based on geography, so it’s perfectly possible to comply with CRA and have that pattern,” said Patricia McCoy, a law professor at Boston College who oversaw mortgage policy initiatives for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Barack Obama. The result is nearly all financial institutions nationwide have passed their Community Reinvestment Act inspections since 2009, even though racial disparities in lending remain as pronounced as ever. Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed 31 million mortgage records made available under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and found 61 metro areas across America where people of color — African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans — were denied conventional home purchase loans at significantly higher rates than whites. That was true even after controlling for nine economic and social factors, including applicants’ income, the size of the loan they sought and the neighborhood where they wanted to buy. African Americans and Latinos were more likely to be turned away in major metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/2018

 


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