NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Counties roll out emergency rent and utility assistance programs

Bucks County
Bucks sheriff sales go online

Chester County
Chesco to offer webinar on Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program

Delaware County
Brandywine Battlefield property purchased

Montgomery County
Lower Merion extends business privilege/mercantile tax deadline

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia rental and utility assistance program open for tenants and landlords

 

News Briefs Archive February 22, 2021

 

General News

NAR supports HUD move to expand Fair Housing Act enforcement
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it will enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. HUD’s move, based on the Supreme Court’s reasoning from last June’s Bostock v Clayton County decision, effectively expands civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans seeking housing and housing-related services. The decision follows an executive order from the Biden administration directing federal agencies to implement the Supreme Court’s interpretation in all federal civil rights activities. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) applauded HUD’s announcement. “NAR has long championed LGBTQ rights in the housing market, first calling for expanded protections in 2011,” said NAR president Charlie Oppler. “There are few greater human needs than housing, and to exclude LGBTQ individuals from the protections afforded to other Americans is cruel. This is a just and historic decision by HUD.” Since 2011, NAR’s Code of Ethics obligates Realtors to provide equal professional service without discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2013, that obligation was extended to include gender identity. NAR opposes discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and national origin. Read more here.
Source: PAR JustListed; 2/12/2021

Counties ask residents not to share vaccine appointment links
Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties have all asked residents not to share their vaccine appointment links. Sharing the links with people not in the current vaccination phase is causing delays in delivering the vaccine in an efficient and equitable manner. The counties have started canceling appointments and turning people away if they are not in the eligible categories to receive the vaccine. Every county requires appointments for vaccination. For more information on vaccinations, visit the county vaccination program websites:

SRA’s Norristown survey ends Feb. 26
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) survey on Norristown’s use and occupancy process will close on Friday, Feb. 26. Realtors who have recently conducted business in Norristown are asked to complete the brief survey about their experience. "The frequency and intensity of complaints we've been hearing about Norristown's use and occupancy process indicates there's a serious problem there," SRA president Jamie Ridge said. The survey responses will provide a broader view of the situation in Norristown to help the SRA craft an appropriate response. Participants’ names will not be shared with the municipality. Complete the survey on the SRA website.

Bucks County

Quakertown receives Keystone Communities designation
Quakertown Borough has been designated as a Keystone Communities Main Street. The designation from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will allow for funding that supports targeted investment to support revitalization. Quakertown will be eligible for complimentary technical assistance and programmatic support from the Pennsylvania Downtown Center over the next five years, as well as receiving priority status for various funding applications submitted to DCED. The borough will also be eligible for Neighborhood Assistance Program Enterprise Zone tax credits for private sector development within the designated Main Street Program area. Quakertown Alive will be the administering agency responsible for implementing revitalization efforts in the borough.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/11/2021 

Reminder: BCWSA certs required for home sales or refinancing
It is well known that a sewer/water certification is required for the sale of a property within the service area of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority. The authority also requires one when refinancing or mortgaging a property. Click here for more information.
Source: BCWSA

Yardley votes to loosen floodplain building restrictions
Yardley Borough Council approved a number of amendments to the floodplain ordinance that will make it easier for property owners to improve their properties while the borough maintains its Community Rating System (CRS) credit points. CRS is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Flood insurance premium rates are discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from the community’s efforts. Council and residents spent two years in public debate and discussion to arrive at the amendments. Under the amended ordinance, residents will no longer require a zoning variance to do the following: install driveways made of pervious materials; add 5% to the base floor; add to upper floors up to 50% of the cost of the home if it’s above the base flood elevation; install medically necessary changes to a property, such as handicap ramps or elevators; and relocate existing buildings and structures on the same lot farther away from the waterway. According to Council President David Bria, Yardley residents currently qualify for a 5% discount on NFIP premiums because of the borough’s participation in CRS.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 2/4/2021

Council Rock approves preliminary budget for 2021-2022 school year
The Council Rock School Board voted unanimously to approve a preliminary $259.5 million general fund budget for the 2021-2022 school year. The preliminary budget includes a 3% tax increase that would generate an additional $4.9 million in revenue — not enough to cover the remaining $10.3 million budget deficit. Superintendent Dr. Robert Fraser noted that preliminary adoption of the budget is a procedural item and the first step in the Act 1 process. The school board also voted to apply for referendum exceptions, which would give the district flexibility to raise taxes above the Act 1 index of 3% set by the state without going to a public referendum. Council Rock residents are invited to review the preliminary budget here. Adoption of the proposed final budget is scheduled in April, with a final adoption in June.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 2/14/2021

Chester County 

Avon Grove Charter seeks $3.7M from Coatesville Area School District
Avon Grove Charter School (AGCS) has filed a lawsuit against Coatesville Area School District and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, seeking $3.7 million it claims it is owed in charter school funding. AGCS operates independent of Avon Grove School District. The lawsuit is the second suit filed against the Coatesville School District in the past three months over charter school funding. Collegium Charter School filed a similar claim in November 2020. Earlier this year, Coatesville school directors acknowledged the district’s obligations under charter school law and concluded that “upon the District’s review of Collegium’s claims for payment from the District or from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for per-pupil charter school tuition, it appears to the school board that the District is obligated to pay the sum of at least $5.4 million to Collegium.” More than any other school district in Chester County, Coatesville has seen an exodus of students preferring to attend either Collegium in Exton or AGCS in West Grove. Thus, under a school funding formula set up by the state, Coatesville School District is responsible for reimbursement to these charter schools. Coatesville pays $11,500 per pupil per year for each student at the two charters. More than 3,000 students from the Coatesville Area School District now attend charters, up from about 1,700 five years ago. In that time, Coatesville’s payments to charters have increased by $33 million up to about $54 million per year.
Source: Daily Local; 2/15/2021 

Spring-Ford board OKs three-year pact with teachers, 3% raises
The Spring-Ford Area School Board has approved a three-year contract between the district and its teachers’ union, the Spring-Ford Education Association (SFEA). Although the contract includes a step freeze in the first year, professional staff will see step movement in the second and third years. Teachers will receive a 2.3% raise in the first year of the pact, which begins on June 1; a 3.4% raise in the second year and a 3.2% raise in the third year. According to a district press release: the contract includes “an average increase of less than 3.34% a year over the next three years. This increase includes salary, health care benefits, and PSERS retirement benefits.” There are many variables and potential changes, including retirements, that were included in the draft school budget the board publicly reviewed at its last meeting and on which a vote is likely at the Monday, Feb. 22, meeting. “The respectful and productive negotiations will continue to move our district forward and build the trust needed to continue to grow positive energy at Spring-Ford,” School Board President Colleen Zasowski said. “Thank you to all of our incredible teachers who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.”
Source: Daily Local; 2/15/2021

Committee to Establish Rail Service to West Chester will hold meeting
There will be a special meeting of the Committee to Establish Rail Service to West Chester on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. The public can join the virtual meeting via a computer or phone via the WebEx link on the West Chester Borough website. Residents can submit comments by email to webex@west-chester.com prior to the meeting to be read aloud. Participants may also provide public comments during the meetings.
Source: West Chester Borough; 2/17/2021

Businesses from across Pa. to talk energy policy, opportunities with CCEDC
Businesses from 13 Pennsylvania counties are preparing to participate in Chester County Economic Development Council’s (CCEDC) ninth annual Energy Briefing on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The online briefing will forecast 2021 energy markets, policies and opportunities, including the status of alternative energy incentives. The commonwealth’s key energy players will interact with facilities managers, building owners, developers, municipality managers and sanitation managers to discuss key issues like the future of energy conservation provisions in Act 129. The act imposed new requirements on electric distribution companies with the overall goal of reducing energy consumption. Details and registration are available on the CCEDC website.
Source: Daily Local; 2/17/2021

Delaware County

Haverford moves on plans to demolish Brookline School
Haverford Township Commissioners voted to take bids on the demolition of the former Brookline School. In 2019, the township took ownership of the property from the Haverford Township School District with hopes of turning it into the township library. At that time, the 100-year-old school building housed a kindergarten-enrichment program, a day care and Surrey Services for Seniors. In September 2020, commissioners voted to keep the township-supported library at its present location on Darby Road and move forward with a $12 million renovation to that building while they examined other uses for the old school. The township was limited from pursuing other uses for the building, such as refurbishment by a private developer for apartments, by the agreement of sale from the school district, which required that the property be used as a public use. At the February 2020 meeting, a number of comments from the public noted that developers put a rough ballpark of $1.75 million value on the building should the agreement be renegotiated or the property be returned to the school district for development. The field behind the school is already protected from development. Preservationists in the community have been fighting to save the historic school building, which dates to 1913 and was designed by David Knickerbacker Boyd, a prominent architect. Developers in the early 1900s used plans for the school, along with its proximity to the Philadelphia and Western Railroad, in newspaper advertisements to entice Philadelphia workers to the new suburb of Brookline.
Source: Daily Times; 2/10/2021

Uncertain future for 43-acre former Village site in Radnor
At over 43 acres and containing one of the Main Line’s historic old mansions, the Village in Rosemont is on the market. Nearby residents, township officials and developers are trying to figure out what could be in store for the property as it sits vacant along the quiet 400 block of Roberts Road in Radnor. The main house on the property is known as Glencoe and was built in 1906 as a home for Thomas McKean Jr. It was purchased in 1926 by Samuel Robinson, president of Acme Markets. In 1959, it was left to the Presbyterian Church and became the Presbyterian Children’s Village. A few years ago, the name was changed to the Village but it still functioned as a nonprofit organization offering trauma-informed care to children and families. In late October, the board for Gemma Services, the site owner, voted to cease all operations at the Rosemont facility. Township Manager Bill White said while the property is up for sale, Gamma Services has been in contact with Radnor Police and the area is being patrolled. John Rice, solicitor for Radnor Township, said there had been no formal application for the property and that people should not fall for rumors whenever a property like it goes on the market.
Source: Daily Times; 2/13/2021

Comcast pours $1M into broadband services in Chester
Comcast Business is investing $1 million into the city of Chester’s Avenue of the States corridor to install 2.5 miles of infrastructure so businesses there have access to broadband services in the next few weeks. In addition, the company is looking to award small businesses whose owners are Black, indigenous and persons of color (BIPOC) $10,000 through its RISE program. Chester was chosen as one of five cities across the United States to participate in the program that will see 500 grants of $10,000 each awarded to BIPOC-owned businesses hardest hit by COVID. “Chester has elements to be a wonderful showcase city,” Stephanie Kosta, Comcast’s vice president of government affairs, said. “You can’t revitalize a town without internet capability.” The upgraded network will be capable of delivering up to one gigabit of network capacity for small and medium businesses, or 100 Gigabits-per-second for larger ones.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/2021

Edgmont to hold special meeting relating to DELCORA
The Board of Supervisors of Edgmont Township will hold a special meeting to review and take public comment on a proposed settlement with Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) in connection with the proposed sale of DELCORA to Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc. The supervisors may take action on the proposed settlement following the completion of the public comment period. More information is available on the township website. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at or after 5 p.m.
Source: Daily Times; 2/13/2021

Montgomery County

Property reassessment a big hit to Lansdale budget
A group of property assessment appeals approved last month may have a large impact on Lansdale Borough’s budget. According to Borough Manager John Ernst, an assessment appeal for the former St. Mary’s Manor property could cost the borough $42,000. The amount reflects six years of refunds for the taxes on the property dating back to 2015. The owner, 701 Lansdale Realty LLC, appealed the assessment of the property and had it reduced from $10.39 million down to $9 million for the prior six years. The assessment appeal also affects the North Penn School District, but the roughly $111,000 impact is absorbed by a budget that totals over $270 million. Lansdale passed a $35.4 million 2021 budget without raising taxes, but staff warned that the post-pandemic budget would show only a small surplus, if any, and that was before the impact of new assessments.
Source: The Reporter; 2/10/2021

Oak Street in Pottstown to become one-way
Pottstown Borough Council recently voted unanimously to set in motion the procedure to make Oak Street a one-way street. The change will make traffic on one of the borough’s narrowest streets easier to navigate. Oak Street will be one-way west from North Charlotte Street to North Hanover Street. A study by the police department determined the only way to safely keep the street two-way would be to eliminate parking on one side of the street. In an area where parking is already at a premium, none of the residents preferred that option. Borough Manager Justin Keller said the change may come by late spring.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 2/16/2021

Lower Merion gives tentative sketch plan approval for Rock Hill Road development
Lower Merion commissioners approved a tentative sketch plan for a new apartment building on Rock Hill Road. Two lots, 21 and 25 Rock Hill Road, will be consolidated and the existing buildings demolished. A new six-story, mixed-use building with 57 apartments on the upper floors and 5,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor will be built in their place. The sketch plan had been tabled in December to consider if the developer could include office space as commercial usage. It was determined office use was permitted.
Source: Main Line Media News; 1/31/2021

Ridge Pike public webinar scheduled for Feb. 24
The Ridge Pike Improvement Project, which is divided into four sections, will involve major reconstruction of Ridge Pike between Norristown and Philadelphia. A public meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. via Zoom to discuss the preliminary design of Section A, which extends between School Lane and Belvoir Road in Plymouth Township. The section also includes the two bridges over the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Norfolk Southern railroad. The roadway in the section will be reconstructed with raised and widened bridges. The webinar will begin with a short presentation and review of the preliminary concept, and attendees will have an opportunity to share comments with the project team to help inform the design going forward. The event will conclude at 9 p.m. Registration is required to attend.
Source: Montgomery County Planning Commission; 2/16/2021

Spring-Ford board OKs three-year pact with teachers, 3% raises
The Spring-Ford Area School Board has approved a three-year contract between the district and its teachers’ union, the Spring-Ford Education Association (SFEA). Although the contract includes a step freeze in the first year, professional staff will see step movement in the second and third years. Teachers will receive a 2.3% raise in the first year of the pact, which begins on June 1; a 3.4% raise in the second year and a 3.2% raise in the third year. According to a district press release: the contract includes “an average increase of less than 3.34% a year over the next three years. This increase includes salary, health care benefits, and PSERS retirement benefits.” There are many variables and potential changes, including retirements, that were included in the draft school budget the board publicly reviewed at its last meeting and on which a vote is likely at the Monday, Feb. 22, meeting. “The respectful and productive negotiations will continue to move our district forward and build the trust needed to continue to grow positive energy at Spring-Ford,” School Board President Colleen Zasowski said. “Thank you to all of our incredible teachers who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.”
Source: Daily Local; 2/15/2021 

Philadelphia

Philly faces a $450M budget gap, and the pain won’t stop there
Philadelphia officials offered a grim outlook for the city’s finances as they warned that the budget Mayor Jim Kenney presents this spring could come with painful cuts to fill a $450 million deficit. The pain won’t end there: It could take years for the city to recover from the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said, and there will soon only be enough money in reserves to run the city for about three days. The warning came as local and state governments across the country are hoping for relief from a new federal coronavirus relief package. Philadelphia officials expressed optimism about the desperately needed lifeline from Washington but said it won’t solve the city’s dire financial situation by itself. “We’re hoping that the feds will come somewhat to the rescue, but we have to prepare in the interim,” Kenney said. The mayor’s annual budget proposal has been pushed back from early March to April 15, to allow more time for officials to gauge the potential impact of a federal relief package. As Kenney braces for his second pandemic-era budget proposal, he no longer has the reserve and rainy-day funds that were spent to soften the blow of last year’s $750 million budget hole. Even with that cushion, the current budget — reworked after the pandemic hit in March and negotiated during mass protests against systemic racism in June — still included layoffs for 450 employees, hikes in the parking tax and wage tax for nonresident commuters, and spending cuts for several departments. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/16/2021

Philadelphia seeks 16.9% water rate increase, citing revenue erosion from pandemic
Citing a financial hit from the pandemic, Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) announced it was seeking a 16.9% residential rate increase phased in over two years that would boost a typical customer’s bill by $11.72 a month. The agency said it was forced to seek the steep increase because it deferred hiking prices last year during the COVID-19 outbreak. It also blamed a dramatic fall in revenue last year after the city barred shut-offs of customers behind on their bills. Those factors, plus a reduction in revenues due to the pandemic, “created a ‘perfect storm’ of issues for PWD which, if left unaddressed, will be debilitating for the department’s finances,” Water Commission Randy E. Hayman said in testimony submitted to the city’s water rate board. A typical residential bill for a customer using 500 cubic feet of water a month (3,740 gallons) would increase $7.74 a month to $74.47, or 11.6%, on Sept. 1, under the proposal. Bills would increase an additional $3.98 to $78.45 on Sept. 1, 2022, or 5.3%. About 154,000 of the city’s 496,000 water accounts had fallen behind on payments by the end of September 2020. Nearly 70,000 customers are so far behind they could face a service shutoff when the moratorium on termination during the winter is scheduled to be lifted on April 1. The rate increase request, which applies only to city customers, would generate an additional $49 million in the first year and an additional $32 million in the second year. The city said it needs more money to maintain existing service, improve infrastructure, offset lower collections and consumption, and replenish “limited financial reserves.” The five-member Water, Sewer and Storm Water Rate Board was created as an independent body by a 2012 Home Rule Charter change. It will schedule public hearings and technical hearings to evaluate the proposed rate request. A final decision is expected by June 16.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/16/2021

 

Email grassroots@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com to receive our weekly News Briefs. It's as simple as submitting your contact information so we can create a user profile.

Designed and delivered by Accrisoft