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 26, 2018

 

General News

State Supreme Court releases new congressional maps
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new congressional map for the commonwealth after ruling the previous map was gerrymandered to the point of being unconstitutional. The court created the new map after the Republican-controlled state Senate and House, and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, were unable to agree on a new map to submit to the court. The Supreme Court’s map made major changes from the previous map, including reordering the districts. The new maps will likely face challenges in federal courts by the GOP. Among the changes:

  • Brian Fitzpatrick, currently in District 8, would be in the new 1st district centered in Bucks County.
  • Brendan Boyle, currently in District 13, would be in the new 2nd district centered in northeast Philadelphia.
  • Ryan Costello would remain in District 6, centered in Chester County.
  • Dwight Evans, currently in District 2, would be in the new 3rd district centered in Philadelphia.
  • Pat Meehan, currently in District 7 but not running for reelection, would be in the new 5th district, centered in Delaware County.
  • There would not be an incumbent running in the new 4th district, centered in Montgomery County.

An interactive map depicting the new districts is available here and the court decision can be found here.
Source: PoliticsPA; 2/19/18

Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget again includes state police fee
For the second year in a row, Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal includes a $25 per person fee for towns that rely solely on state police coverage. It is estimated that, statewide, $63.5 million would be generated from communities where state police serve a total of more than 2.5 million people. State law requires the Pennsylvania State Police to patrol local communities without local law enforcement, and towns with under 3,000 people can claim 50 percent of traffic fines generated by state police. “This coverage comes at no cost to the municipality and is borne by taxpayers statewide, who support their local police through local taxes,” a budget report states. According to a 2017 Associated Press report, the $25 per-resident fee that Wolf has proposed for municipalities that receive full-time state police coverage is a fraction of what other townships and boroughs pay for their local police departments. The analysis states that approximately 950 municipalities reported spending more than $2 billion on their local police departments in 2014, for an average of about $230 per resident.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/12/2018

Bucks County

Lower Makefield discusses rental ordinance, invites resident feedback
Lower Makefield zoners recently dismissed a township cease-and-desist order against a man who rents his home to up to 14 short-term guests at a time through Airbnb, an online hospitality company. The township zoning hearing board unanimously decided that the Makefield Road home does not qualify as a bed-and-breakfast or boarding situation, and therefor does not meet the requirements for the code provisions cited in the cease-and-desist order. According to John Lewis, the supervisors’ liaison to the zoning hearing board, Lower Makefield supervisors have been considering drafting an ordinance governing township Airbnbs. One option is a registration program for rental properties that would include an inspection after each change in guests at the homeowner’s expense. The ordinance would not include definitions for certain terms homeowners could challenge and property rights infringements, including “short-term rental.” Residents are invited to upcoming supervisors and planning commission meetings to discuss options and concerns. Officials are hoping to introduce a draft ordinance in March. Visit the Lower Makefield Township website for meeting information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/21/2018

Richland approves purchase of conservation easement
Richland Township supervisors authorized the purchase of a 76-acre conservation easement for the Herrman property on Rich Hill Road. The property is located on the eastern side of Quakertown Swamp and is home to the largest great blue heron rookery east of the Mississippi River. Laura Baird, from the Heritage Conservancy, said the “mixed resource” of wetland and prime agricultural soils gave the property “the highest priority rating.” The approved easement calls for the township and Conservancy to each pay half of the $682,500 appraisal, the township’s half will be paid out of its Open Space Fund.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/20/2018

Warminster to create budget committee
Warminster Township supervisors have agreed to create a budget advisory committee to help them develop three- and five-year financial plans and review the township’s budget. Proposed by Supervisor Brian Munroe, the committee could have five members with experience in accounting and finance. The committee would take direction from the township manager or another designated staff member, excluding the five supervisors from the process until plans are ready for their consideration. The supervisors will vote in March to officially establish the committee and the requirements for membership, said Township Manager Gregg Schuster. Warminster supervisors reopened the 2018 budget last month to consider a 3.61 mill property tax increase, but then decided against it.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/20/2018

Warrington Township to establish ‘Street Road at Oak Avenue Water District’
Warrington Township supervisors will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 852 Easton Road, to consider adopting an ordinance establishing the Street Road at Oak Avenue Water District. The ordinance creates the district, approves the construction of a water distribution system and appurtenant facilities; and imposes a special purpose tapping fee in the amount of $7,154 against each property identified in the attachment. A copy of the ordinance is available at the township building during normal business hours and on the Warrington Township website.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/20/2018

Chester County 

Pipeline construction can resume in West Goshen, West Whiteland and Uwchlan 
Construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline will resume in three Chester County communities following decisions by a state court and a state agency. The Commonwealth Court has upheld a ruling by the Court of Common Pleas to continue allowing the building of the pipeline in West Goshen. The court ruled that construction could take place in residential districts and, with a conditional use, industrial districts, despite the township’s 2014 ordinance forbidding such use. Attorney Mark Freed, who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the courts have determined that relief lies with the PUC, which specifically has said that it does not regulate or address the siting of pipelines. “The practical reality is that today’s decision leaves communities exposed to incredible risks without any oversight,” Freed said. Additionally, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that Sunoco Pipeline had satisfied requirements under the July 24 Consent Order and Agreement, which suspended the controversial horizontal directional drilling being used in West Whiteland and Uwchlan townships. DEP and Sunoco entered into the agreement after work at the Shoen Road drill site impacted local water supplies. Sunoco agreed to connect more than 30 homeowners to public water and pay $60,000 to each impacted residence. State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19), a frequent critic of Sunoco Pipeline and the Mariner East 2 project, stressed his concerns about the way the state has handled supervision. “The question is: Who is DEP protecting? Pennsylvania residents and our environment, or Sunoco and its shareholders?” Dinniman said. Jeff Shields, a Sunoco Pipeline spokesman, said that work would begin again soon in West Goshen, but no restart date has been scheduled for the Shoen Road portion.
Source: Daily Local News; 2/16/18 and 2/20/18

Sadsbury Township considers abolishing position of township manager
The Sadsbury Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 2920 Lincoln Highway, Sadsburyville, to consider an ordinance to abolish the position of township manager. The ordinance would abolish the position, and set provisions and an effective date. The full text of the draft ordinance is available for public inspection at the municipal building during normal business hours. For more information, contact Township Secretary Linda Shank at 610-857-9503.
Source: Daily Local News; 2/19/2018

Westtown cites traffic concerns in denial of Crebilly Farm development
Westtown Township supervisors cited traffic woes, roadway construction and the preservation of scenic views as reasons for denying a conditional use permit for a 317-home Toll Brothers subdivision at the historic, 322-acre Crebilly Farm. The supervisors unanimously voted in December to deny the permit and recently released a 53-page Conditional Use Decision explaining their reasons. Supervisors maintain that the internal roadway network proposed by Toll Brothers was not consistent with the township’s Comprehensive Plan or zoning ordinances. Toll Brothers has not yet commented publicly on the decision, but the developer has 30 days to file an appeal with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.
Source: Daily Local News; 2/15/18 and Chadds Ford Live; 2/20/18

Brandywine Conservancy reaches 500-acre preservation goal
The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees has approved the purchase of a 13-acre tract of land in Birmingham Township for preservation. The land, which is located on Birmingham Hill, is the final piece of the conservancy’s 25-year endeavor to preserve more than 500 contiguous acres around Meetinghouse Road in Birmingham Township, where the fiercest fighting occurred during the Revolutionary War Battle of Brandywine. This parcel will be merged with an adjacent 100-acre property previously acquired by Brandywine in 2007. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the conservancy identified five large, undeveloped and unprotected neighboring properties along and near Meetinghouse Road in Birmingham Township which included the sites where the most intense clashes of the Battle of Brandywine occurred. In order to protect this land from development, conservation easements were necessary to preserve the historic significance and scenic vistas of these Battlefield lands. “This is a key piece of land that the Brandywine has long sought to preserve in order to protect this historic site in honor of the battle and those who fought, and I’m pleased to see it finally coming to fruition,” said Ellen Ferretti, director of the Brandywine Conservancy.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 2/15/18

Delaware County

Plans for Don Guanella site to be unveiled at public meeting
Conceptual plans for redevelopment of the former Don Guanella Village property in Marple Township could be released in a public meeting as early as March, according to Township Solicitor Adam Matlawski. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and West Conshohocken-based Carlino Commercial Development entered into an agreement of sale in December for the 213-acre tract bordered by Sproul and Reed roads. Marple officials met recently with company representatives and their attorney, where they presented a rough sketch of the proposal. The plan, which would reportedly seek to preserve nearly 175 acres as open space, is in sharp contrast to the concept presented several years ago by Goodman Properties, who proposed nearly one million square feet of business/consumer-oriented retail space, nearly 250 residential units and recreational amenities. The accompanying traffic, environmental issues and other concerns prompted a strong backlash from local homeowners, who formed Save Marple Green Space with the aim of protecting the tract. “Carlino is well aware of the opposition to the first plan,” Matlawski said. “They realize the concerns about traffic and open space and are aware of how to deal with them.” Once filed, the plans will be posted on the township website, www.marpletwp.com, and a date will be determined for the public presentation.
Source: Daily Times; 2/16/18

Chester Water Authority to invest $11.6 million in capital improvements
The Chester Water Authority’s Board of Directors has approved a budget that will invest $11.6 million in capital improvements in 2018. The investment in the coming months is part of a three-year capital improvement plan that allocates more than $40 million for projects to improve the authority’s transmission and distribution system, enhance its treated-water storage and tank system, make upgrades to its pumping and treatment infrastructure, and support customer-focused modernization efforts. The Chester Water Authority is a regional municipal water authority that provides service to more than 200,000 residents and business owners spanning 33 municipalities, including communities in western Delaware County, southern Chester County, and the City of Chester. CWA also provides water to a large private water company that services customers in northern portion of the state of Delaware. Read the full press release at www.chesterwater.com.
Source: Daily Times; 2/14/18

Radnor committee members quit en masse over televised meetings
All nine members of the Radnor Township Citizens Audit Review and Financial Advisory Committee (CARFAC) resigned abruptly on Thursday, Feb. 15, in response to a township decision to televise their meetings, along with nearly all township meetings. CARFAC was created in 2009 to act as both a watchdog and as a financial adviser to the board of commissioners, working with financial director William White. The committee helped the township begin to claw its way out of unfunded pension and post-employment benefit costs, and often gave presentations on various financial issues at BOC meetings, such as whether it was advisable to issue bonds or enter into labor agreements. Its members sent their emails resigning their positions after township commissioners voted 6-0 on Feb. 12, with Commissioner John Nagle absent, to televise most township board and committee meetings. In a resignation letter, the board members wrote that televising meetings “compromises our ability to fulfill our mission as we understand it. Hence, we all resign now.” Commissioner Jake Abel, who had pushed for televising meetings as a measure of transparency to the public, wrote: “It is unfortunate that members of CARFAC resigned over this measure. I respect and appreciate all volunteers who serve our great community, especially those on CARFAC, who have helped to tackle important financial issues facing Radnor over the years.”
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 2/16/18

New Crozer owner loses appeal on tax status of Springfield Hospital
Springfield Hospital, which changed owners in 2016, can now be taxed, according to a ruling by Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, which upheld a decision by the Delaware County Common Pleas Court. The property at 190 W. Sproul Road has held tax-exempt status since 1960 when it was established as a nonprofit corporation and operated as a public charity solely for hospital purposes. The hospital’s tax status was challenged previously in 1992, resulting in a 1994 agreement between the hospital and Springfield School District and Springfield Township. When the hospital was sold as part of CrozerKeystone Health System to Prospect Crozer LLC in 2016, school district and township officials claimed that the property was no longer tax-exempt since Prospect is a for-profit entity. The Common Pleas court agreed with the district and township, and ruled that the property could be taxed as far back as July 2016. The district issued Prospect a real estate tax bill for about $434,000 based on an assessment of $13.8 million. Andrew Bastian, assistant vice president of marketing and corporate communications for Crozer-Keystone Health System, said in a statement: “We are proud that the taxes our hospitals now pay help support our local communities and schools. However, we disagree with the court’s 2-1 ruling that Springfield Hospital’s tax status should change effective July 1, 2016. … Under existing law, the hospital should become taxable at the start of the taxing authorities’ next fiscal year and not at the time of the acquisition. We are evaluating whether to appeal this decision.”
Source: Daily Times: 2/15/18

Glenolden bridge to close through August for PennDOT work
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will begin construction on Monday, February 26, to replace the bridge carrying MacDade Boulevard over the Muckinipattis Creek in Glenolden. The work is expected to close the busy bridge through August. MacDade Boulevard will be closed and detoured between Dalmas Avenue and Werner Avenue, and motorists will be directed to use West South Avenue, Providence Road and Oak Lane. PennDOT’s contractor will replace the steel channel beam bridge with a pre-cast concrete box culvert, which will feature new guide rail, sidewalks and safety enhancements. The bridge approaches will also be resurfaced. Built in 1947, the existing one-span structure is 9 feet long, 52 feet wide and carries an average of 22,394 vehicles a day. The new culvert will be 11 feet long and 62 feet wide. See more details of the work on PennDOT’s website.
Source: PennDOT; 2/14/18

Montgomery County

Towamencin continues curb replacement talks
Last summer, Towamencin Township staff and supervisors began discussions on whether to accompany the township’s annual road paving program with a requirement or warning that residents replace the curbs in those areas where they have degraded. Current township policy is that curbs are only inspected when a house is sold, but certain areas of the township have curbs that have crumbled and those roads are scheduled to be paved over the next few years. “The township code has requirements in it that says it’s the property owner’s responsibility. What we started to look into was, how do you get that done, and maybe even accelerate it, rather than waiting for the house to be resold,” said Township Manager Rob Ford. Ford researched curb replacement in neighboring municipalities and found that some inspect entire areas periodically on a regular basis, others do so only when complaints are filed, and several only inspect before sales, like Towamencin. The Towamencin paving plan for this year includes paving near about 180 houses, 100 of which have issues with their curbs that could require repairs. The board directed staff to develop a program of notifications that would be sent to residents one year ahead of the planned road paving, and give them the option of either paving the curb themselves or being billed by the township afterward.
Source: North Penn Life; 2/20/2018

Boyertown preliminary budget has 5.44 percent tax hike
The Boyertown Area School Board voted 8-1 to adopt a $115 million preliminary budget that would raise taxes by 5.44 percent for the 2018-19 school year. Board members initially opposed to the plan, but eventually voted in favor after Interim Superintendent David Krem argued that not adopting the plan would limit flexibility later on in the process. Boyertown is limited by Act 1 to a 2.9 percent tax increase unless the district seeks “exceptions” from the state for a set of prescribed reasons that include pension payments, special education and construction. Boyertown will seek an exception for special education that would allow the spending of up to $1.5 million above the amount raised by a tax hike within the index. Board member Brandon Foose suggested the board set up a workshop meeting dedicated solely to brainstorming ways to cut costs and trim the tax increase without cutting programs. The next school board meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at Colebrookdale Elementary School. Click here for the school district website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 2/20/2018

Ambler discusses bamboo
Ambler Borough council recently led an open discussion on the complexities of bamboo maintenance. Council is trying to determine a workable protocol concerning bamboo growth in residential areas, including the possibility of disallowing the future planting of all bamboo species. Existing growth is another matter, and residents asked council to consider making a distinction between running and clumping bamboo presently on residential property. Borough resident Brian Quinn said he planted clumping bamboo four years ago and would not be happy if he was told to remove it. “It’s a noninvasive species native to this area. It’s not on the Department of Environmental Affairs’ watch list,” Quinn said. After public input and deliberation, council adjusted the setback distance in the draft ordinance from 25 to 10 feet and increased the amount of time residents will have after being notified of encroachment to one full year. Officials said discussions will continue during the March meeting.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 2/20/2018

Boyertown Area School District posts board vacancy
The Board of School Directors of the Boyertown Area School District is seeking applicants to fill the position on the board that became vacant due to the Feb. 13 resignation of Robert Caso. The new director will be chosen by the board, and the term runs through December 2019. Individuals who wish to be considered must be qualified residents of district Region I, which includes the boroughs of Bally and Bechtelsville, and the townships of Colebrookdale, Earl and Washington. Click here for qualifications and application information. Applications must be submitted by Friday, March 2.

Philadelphia

$50 million mixed-use development breaks ground in West Philadelphia
Affordable housing nonprofit Mission First Housing Group and community-oriented services organization Horizon House broke ground on a four-story community services and retail complex at 59th and Market streets on Feb. 16. The $50 million New Market West development promises to transform a trash-strewn lot into a 137,700-square-foot, retail-fronted complex that provides space for early childhood education, workforce development, and educational, emergency and behavioral health services. A $15 million second phase of construction will bring 40 units of affordable housing to the site. City and state officials present at the groundbreaking said that the tax-credit-subsidized development would revitalize an area that saw businesses close and street life lost during a decade-long renovation of the Market-Frankford line chugging overhead. Click here for more information.
Source: PlanPhilly; 2/20/2018 & The Philadelphia Tribune; 2/17/2018

 


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