NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
NAR cheers bill to extend Fair Housing protections to LGBT

Bucks County
Upper Southampton Authority inspecting sump pump connections at point of sale

Chester County
Chester County awarded $3.7M to preserve farms

Delaware County
U.D. school board OKs study of proposed new school on Clifton fields

Montgomery County
Norristown Day set for April 6

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia launches $40 million home repair loan program
 

 



 

News Briefs Archive February 25, 2019

 

General News

Analysis examines redistribution of Pa. tax revenue
An analysis of how approximately $20 billion in Pennsylvania state tax revenues are redistributed throughout the commonwealth showed that 40 counties get more than they give, while 27 counties receive as little as 40 cents on each dollar in taxes their residents pay. Chester and Montgomery counties receive about 40 percent, Bucks County sees a 50 percent return, and Delaware County receives about 76 percent back. The analysis was conducted by the website Facing the Future (pa2018.org), which compared county-level tax data from the Department of Revenue to a 2017 report from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee listing all state grants and subsidies sent to counties, school districts and local governments. The reasons for the disparities include school district sizes, poverty levels, transportation needs and economic strength. Click here for the full analysis and a map.
Source: Pennsylvania Capital-Star; 2/19/2019

Registration open for PAR Public Policy Regional Trainings
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® (PAR) is offering a series of Public Policy Training sessions to provide Realtors® the tools to be engaged in PAR’s advocacy efforts. Participants will learn how to tell their real estate stories to advocate for their industry and clients. A local session will be held at Crowne Plaza Valley Forge in King of Prussia on Thursday, March 21, from 2 to 5 p.m. Registration opens at 1:30 p.m. Click here to see all available training sessions.

Bucks County

EPA announces plan to address water contamination
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will take steps to address PFAS chemical contamination that has affected communities across the country. According to remarks by Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, those steps include regulating the chemicals, setting safe drinking water limits and performing tests to determine whether contamination is more widespread than currently known. The EPA has been under mounting pressure from the public and elected officials to act on contamination of drinking water supplies caused by the chemicals, which were used in firefighting foam on military bases. Tens of thousands of residents in Bucks and Montgomery counties were affected by tainted drinking water and wells that were shut down due to contamination. An analysis by the Inquirer found that the chemicals are present in drinking water in at least 22 other towns in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and experts say PFAS is likely to continue to spread until the groundwater and soil at the bases are completely remediated. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available on their websites as a public resource — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos. Maps of the contaminated areas have been added to those sites, along with recent news articles and efforts by area legislators to fund testing and cleanup. Realtors® are encouraged to reach out to specific municipalities for more information regarding water safety in areas where they do business.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer & Bucks County Courier Times; 2/14/2019

Preliminary Bensalem schools budget has 3.64 percent tax increase
The Bensalem Township School Board recently approved a $156 million preliminary budget that authorizes administrators to seek exceptions that would allow them to raise taxes above the state-mandated cap of 2.3 percent. The district could seek an exception for special education costs that would allow for a 3.64 percent tax increase. School board members and administrators noted that the eventual tax increase might not end up being that high by the time the budget is finalized in June. The preliminary budget also proposes to draw $4.2 million from the district’s fund balance, which would leave between $7 million and $8 million in the account. A 3.64 percent property tax increase would amount to about $131 more in taxes for a homeowner with a property assessed at the school district median of about $22,600. Several money-saving actions are being considered, including: establishing the district’s own cyber school; outsourcing some services; closing the pool at Robert K. Shafer Middle School; and establishing a revenue-generating, in-house day care center for employees. Those items will be part of the discussion at the next budget workshop meeting on Wednesday, March 13. Visit the Bensalem Township School District website for meeting information.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/15/2019

Richland supervisors discuss door-to-door soliciting
Richland Township supervisors have directed the township solicitor to prepare a revised solicitation ordinance for review by the township’s ordinance review committee. The move was in response to complaints from residents. Supervisor Chairman Tim Arnold reviewed some items he would like to see in the ordinance, including background checks for solicitors, a “no-knock registry,” and a change from the current allowed soliciting hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday, to a shorter period of time. Supervisors hope to have a revised ordinance ready for approval for advertising at their Monday, March 11, meeting.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/14/2019

Gas-to-energy winding down at Bucks landfills
Exelon plans to shutter its gas-to-energy Fairless Hills power plant in Falls after more than 20 years of operation. First built in the 1950s to power the nearby U.S. Steel Fairless Works, the plant was converted in 1997 to run off gas created by nearby landfills owned by Waste Management. The arrangement won environmental awards at the time for beneficial re-use of landfill gas. Exelon has determined that landfill gas operations are being replaced by less costly options, such as natural gas plants, and will “retire” the site by June 2020. Waste Management has said it is working on a “new renewable energy project” to use the gas from its nearby landfills but, in the meantime, it will have to install large flares to burn off gas emissions. Proposals posted by the state show Waste Management planning to install three new flares and two emergency, diesel-powered generators at its Morrisville (GROWS Landfill) and Fairless sites, along with two more flares at the Tullytown site, to combust gas instead of using it for energy generation. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Virginia Cain said the flares will make sure the landfill emissions are controlled and that, until Waste Management tests, “it is hard to say if there will be a net increase, decrease or no change in all to the actual emissions in the area.”
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/4/2019

Chester County 

Regal Builders receive feedback from Caln residents
Regal Builders hosted an informal meeting to allow Caln residents ask questions about its proposal to build an age-qualified residential community with nearby commercial uses. Many residents informed the developer they are not opposed to homes for people aged 55 and older, but they had concerns about the impact to traffic, stormwater management and the future of the farmhouse on the Lloyd Farm property, which Regal owns. Regal’s plans include two four-story apartment buildings with parking underneath and about 120 single-family 55-plus homes. Additionally, developers are proposing to build commercial uses on the property known as Lloyd Farm on Route 322 (Manor Avenue). Harry Miller, president of Regal,  estimated that apartment rentals would range between $1,800 to $3,000 a month and single-family homes could sell for $500,000. He noted that, in the 55-plus community, no one under the age of 18 can live in the home with the residents who are of age to purchase the home.
Source: Daily Local; 2/14/2019

West Chester Borough carves out budget surplus
West Chester Borough Council Member Bernie Flynn reported at a recent finance and revenue committee meeting that the borough banked $719,000 originally budgeted for 2018. Borough Manager Mike Perrone, who has worked for the buildings, planning and zoning department for decades and has served as borough manager for the past year, said he found ways to run the borough more efficiently. “I asked every department head to look at staffing levels and asked for the biggest needs,” he said. About $100,000 of the savings will go to pay for items not included in the 2019 budget. Flynn wants to add most of the savings to a $7.4 million capital reserve fund, which he hopes to grow to $20 million.
Source: Daily Local; 2/20/2019

Natural Lands transfers 57 acres to Marsh Creek State Park
Natural Lands announced that it has purchased and transferred a 57-acre property to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as an addition to the 1,727-acre Marsh Creek State Park. It will be open to the public for hiking, birdwatching, horseback riding and other passive recreation uses. Located in Wallace Township, the donated land was slated to be developed into a large-scale resort community with residences, hotel space and a golf course, but a downturn in the housing market a decade ago put a hold on the developer’s plans. Natural Lands approached the landowner when foreclosure seemed likely and offered to purchase the property for its appraised value. After several years of planning and gathering the needed public funding, Natural Lands purchased the property at the close of 2018. Chester County Commissioners said in a statement, “This is the year that we are planning to reach a goal of 30 percent preserved open space in Chester County.”
Source: Natural Lands; 2/19/2019

Plans unveiled for $15M library in Kennett Square
Plans are in place for construction of a $15 million, state-of-the art library in downtown Kennett Square that will include a 110-seat auditorium. Ground will be broken in 2021, and the library will open in 2022, assuming funds can be raised. “This will raise the value of everyone’s house in town,” said Jeff Yetter, vice president of the Kennett Library Board of Trustees. “With the services that will be offered, everyone will want to live here.” The library will be built at the intersection of State and South Willow streets. A $12 million capital campaign to fund the project will be launched later this year. Library officials plan to use $3 million in library reserves, which includes the recent sale of land the library owned in Kennett Township.
Source: Daily Local; 2/20/2019

Delaware County

Middletown wants to purchase property from Elwyn
Middletown Township officials intend to purchase 81 acres of Sleighton Farms property from Elwyn, and will seek township voters’ opinion on the purchase in a referendum in the May election. The parcel is west of Valley Road along the Middletown and Edgmont lines, and extends to the Hanson Quarry. According to a township statement, “The intended use of the land will be as an extension of Sleighton Park for passive recreation purposes and for preservation in perpetuity.” Council expects to have an agreement of sale available by its Monday, Feb. 25, meeting, as well as the full details of the acquisition. The price has not yet been made public. If the acquisition proceeds, Middletown will be the largest holder of municipal open space in Delaware County. Other municipal open space in Middletown includes 150 acres at Linvilla, 150 acres at the Darlington tract and 76 acres at Smedley Park.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/2019

Chester, state talk infrastructure redevelopment
Chester City officials welcomed representatives from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), including Secretary Dennis Davin, to discuss the new Restore Pennsylvania infrastructure proposal and its potential impact on the city. DCED’s $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania program, to be funded by Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed severance tax on natural gas production, would rebuild state infrastructure and provide municipalities with aid to demolish blighted properties for new development or green space. “I appreciate the fact that the governor put this initiative forth. Hopefully the funding will be in place to make it a reality,” Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said. The mayor said discussions included the long-proposed demolition and rebuilding of properties in Highland Gardens, and demolition of blighted waterfront properties to create new commercial development space. City and state official also discussed Chester’s financially distressed municipality status under Act 47 as a possible factor in expediting the city’s participation in Restore Pennsylvania.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/2019

Volunteer opportunities for Concord residents
Concord Township is seeking resident volunteers to fill vacancies in the areas listed below. Applicants may send or email a resume and/or letter of interest by Friday, Feb. 22, to Amanda Serock at aserock@concordtownship.org. For more information, visit www.twp.concord.pa.us.

  • Planning Commission: Members review all subdivisions and land development applications, proposed ordinances, and revisions to the comprehensive plan. Their recommendations are advisory and are forwarded to township council.
  • Historical Commission: Members help to preserve township history within the bounds of the historic preservation ordinance. They are asked to attend monthly meetings and review/write reports as needed.
  • Park and Recreation Board: Members plan, coordinate and attend a variety of events.

Source: Concord Township; 2/14/2019

Applications available for Habitat’s home repair program
Habitat for Humanity MontDelco’s Critical Home Repair program provides low-cost home repairs to residents of Montgomery and Delaware counties. Repairs must address critical needs that threaten health, safety, security or accessibility. The program prioritizes low-income elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners who are struggling to maintain their homes. Through this program, Habitat MontDelco aims to stabilize communities, address aging housing stock and prevent low-income homeowners from being displaced. Applications are being accepted until March 31. To qualify, residents must: be unable to afford and/or perform the needed repairs; make between 20 to 80 percent of median income for the county, based on household size; be current on all mortgage and property tax payments; have a current homeowner’s insurance policy; and be able to afford a portion of the cost of the repair. Click here for more information.
Source: Habitat MontDelco

Montgomery County

EPA announces plan to address water contamination
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will take steps to address PFAS chemical contamination that has affected communities across the country. According to remarks by Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, those steps include regulating the chemicals, setting safe drinking water limits and performing tests to determine whether contamination is more widespread than currently known. The EPA has been under mounting pressure from the public and elected officials to act on contamination of drinking water supplies caused by the chemicals, which were used in firefighting foam on military bases. Tens of thousands of residents in Bucks and Montgomery counties were affected by tainted drinking water and wells that were shut down due to contamination. An analysis by the Inquirer found that the chemicals are present in drinking water in at least 22 other towns in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and experts say PFAS is likely to continue to spread until the groundwater and soil at the bases are completely remediated. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available on their websites as a public resource — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos. Maps of the contaminated areas have been added to those sites, along with recent news articles and efforts by area congressmen to fund testing and cleanup. Realtors® are encouraged to reach out to specific municipalities for more information regarding water safety in areas where they do business.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer & Bucks County Courier Times; 2/14/2019

236-unit housing project nears approval in Douglass Township
Douglass Township supervisors voted unanimously on Feb. 5 to authorize Township Solicitor Robert Brant to draw up a resolution giving final approval to a 236-unit housing project. The project, known as the Zern tract, is located on 285 acres between Jackson Road and Route 100. Engineer Jason Smeland, of Lenape Valley Engineering, presented the plan recommended by township planners to the supervisors. Smeland said once final approval is received, construction could begin in the spring and will move forward in three phases. Completion may take several years, depending on the market.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 2/18/2019

Pottstown proposes zoning changes aimed at revitalizing downtown
Pottstown Borough Council voted unanimously to authorize the borough solicitor to advertise zoning changes to the downtown area. According to Montgomery County planner Brian Olsak, the changes will update the definitions of allowed uses and remove uses that planners consider inappropriate for a vital downtown area, like drive-through windows, pawn shops and tattoo parlors. One of the most significant changes is to allow outdoor dining, a use currently prohibited under downtown zoning.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 2/19/2019

Applications available for Habitat’s home repair program
Habitat for Humanity MontDelco’s Critical Home Repair program provides low-cost home repairs to residents of Montgomery and Delaware counties. Repairs must address critical needs that threaten health, safety, security or accessibility. The program prioritizes low-income elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners who are struggling to maintain their homes. Through this program, Habitat MontDelco aims to stabilize communities, address aging housing stock and prevent low-income homeowners from being displaced. Applications are being accepted until March 31. To qualify, residents must: be unable to afford and/or perform the needed repairs; make between 20 to 80 percent of median income for the county, based on household size; be current on all mortgage and property tax payments; have a current homeowner’s insurance policy; and be able to afford a portion of the cost of the repair. Click here for more information.
Source: Habitat MontDelco

Philadelphia

Center City housing production strongest since 2002
According to a report released by the Center City District (CCD), 2,810 new housing units were completed in 2018 in the area known as Greater Center City — the largest number since 2002. Greater Center City runs from river to river, and is bounded by Girard Avenue on the north and Tasker Street on the south. The boom is being driven by more than millennials’ desire to live, work and play in Philadelphia — there is evidence of New Yorkers fleeing high real estate rates, as well as empty nesters from the Philadelphia suburbs flocking to the area, said Lauren Gilchrist, senior vice president for research at JLL, a commercial real-estate services provider. According to the CCD report, the majority of housing built in and around central Philadelphia during the past eight years focuses on renters: 72 percent of new housing units added since 2010 are apartments (10,660 units). Construction, however, is slowing, with about 2,100 apartment units under construction at the end of 2018, compared to approximately 3,900 units being built at the end of 2017. Click here to read more.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/20/2019

Landlords must exterminate bed bugs under proposed city council bill
Philadelphia landlords who go soft on bedbugs could face stiff penalties under a new bill proposed by City Councilman Mark Squilla. Philadelphia is currently the only big city that does not employ laws outlining responsibilities for bedbug outbreaks or provide a legal mechanism to report infestations, even though the city is often ranked as having some of the most severe infestations in the country. The legislation would require landlords to notify tenants about past bedbug issues, develop vector control plans, and investigate or exterminate infestations in a timely fashion. Hotel owners would have to comply with similar regulations. Because bedbugs don’t spread disease, the city’s health department does not consider the insects to be a major health concern. The Department of Licenses and Inspections’ regulations target pests that can cause structural damage to buildings, such as termites. The proposed regulations require landlords to distribute informational notices about bedbugs and monitor units that draw complaints. Proposed penalties for scofflaws range from $2,000 fines to other damages, like a mandate to refund rental payments to tenants.
Source: Plan Philly; 2/14/2019

Plan to transform Philadelphia’s waterfront about to become a reality
Ten years ago, the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DWRC) was established to succeed the dysfunctional Penn’s Landing Corp. The DWRC was to oversee development along the Central Delaware River in Philadelphia, and it is now closing in on a master plan adopted by the Philadelphia Planning Commission in 2012. The plan focuses on a six-mile, 1,100-acre stretch of the waterfront. One of the cornerstone projects — capping a portion of I-95 to connect Penn’s Landing to the city — is progressing. The cap will cost $225 million and is in a design process led by PennDOT. The final design is expected to be completed this year. There are also several private development projects in the works along the waterfront.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 2/8/2019


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