Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Teams legislation introduced
Central Bucks $342 million budget holds the line on taxes
Smart growth topic of June 20 forum
Delco puts spotlight on opportunity zones
Lansdale council discusses alleys
Philly to increase homestead exemption to $45,000
PAR offers regional Public Policy Training
Legislative advocacy is at the heart of what Realtor® organizations do. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® will offer regional public policy training sessions throughout the state to make it easier for members to attend. The sessions, offered in seven locations, are free and open to all PAR members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. This is a change from PAR’s previous Public Policy Seminar held in Harrisburg. A member task force saw the need to expand the training so more members have the opportunity to learn about the legislative advocacy efforts that PAR undertakes in coordination with local associations, and how members can contribute. The training sessions run from 2 to 5 p.m. (registration opens at 1:30 p.m.), and the agenda includes public policy issues, political advocacy and local government affairs efforts. The training in Southeast Pennsylvania will take place on Thursday, March 8, at the Crowne Plaza Valley Forge, King of Prussia. Register online here.
Source: PAR JustListed; 1/24/2018
Bill to trim House districts advances
A move to let voters decide whether to cut about a quarter of the 203 districts in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a key hurdle, raising the prospect that it could go before the electorate for final approval later this year. The 14-10 vote by the House State Government Committee, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed, clears the way for a vote by the full House in the coming months. If the Senate also approves the proposed constitutional amendment by early summer, a referendum will go on the ballot in November. A parallel bill, to reduce the Senate from 50 to 37 members, also passed the committee but can’t be put to a statewide referendum before 2019. The idea of reducing the House was championed by former Republican Speaker Sam Smith, who touted it as a way to make doing business more efficient. Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country, with a massive staff and budget to match.
Source: Daily Times; 1/24/2018
Todd Umbenhauer inducted as PAR's 2018 president
Montgomeryville Realtor® Todd Umbenhauer was installed as the 95th Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® president. A Realtor® for more than 40 years, Umbenhauer served as 2014-2015 chairman of the Suburban Realtors® Alliance Board of Directors. He has been an active participant on his local, state and national Realtor® associations. “Whether it is helping someone buy their very first home or working with an entrepreneur in moving her growing business out of her basement and into a commercial lease, or coordinating the staged distribution of a farm that has been in a family for more than 100 years, we are the business of dreams management,” Umbenhauer said at the swearing-in ceremony. With the Fair Housing Act turning 50 this year, Umbenhauer spoke of how diversity makes the community stronger and how Realtors® are there to help everyone achieve the dream of homeownership.
Source: PAR JustListed; 1/31/2018
Hilltown reviews residential development plan
The Hilltown Township Planning Commission recently reviewed a plan for 15 single-family homes on 23 acres on Orchard Road. Warrington-based developer Hallmark Homes presented a plan that would have three homes fronting Orchard Road, 12 homes on a cul-de-sac and 15 acres of open space. An existing farmhouse and accessory structure would be demolished, and the development, called the Arbors at Hilltown, would be served by public water and sewer. The planning commission will continue working out details with the developer, including open space maintenance and tree planting, before the board of supervisors has final say on the project. The developer would like to break ground on the project this year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/25/2017
Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County seeks homebuyers
Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County sells newly constructed or renovated homes to qualified families and individuals who live or work in Bucks County and meet the program qualifications. The homebuyers purchase their homes with affordable mortgages and pay taxes on the full values of their property. Approved homebuyers qualify for monthly housing payments equal to or less than 30% of their gross monthly incomes. Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County is looking for homebuyers for several properties in Lower Bucks County that will be renovated to “like new” condition once buyers are selected. Applications are being accepted now through March 30. Click here for the available homes flyer.
Source: Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County; 1/30/2018
Much of I-95 in Bucks County to be redesignated as I-295
A new interchange is being constructed to connect I-95 to the I-276/Pennsylvania Turnpike. Once completed, some of the affected highways will be redesignated with new names. A section of what is now I-95 in Bucks County and New Jersey will be redesignated as I-295. And the section of I-276 east of the new interchange will be redesignated as I-95, creating a continuous I-95 from Pennsylvania through New Jersey. Seven interchanges in New Jersey and four in Pennsylvania will be renumbered. Click here for more information and a complete schedule.
Source: The Advance; 12/31/2017
Bristol Borough Authority files lawsuit against Bristol Township
Bristol Township had an agreement to pump 500,000 gallons of sewage into the Bristol Borough Water and Sewer Authority’s system, but it expired in June 2017. Prior to the expiration of the agreement, the borough authority informed the township it would not renew the agreement, and would terminate it due to months of alleged delinquency in payment. In December, the borough authority filed a lawsuit against the township for breach of contract and unjust enrichment charges. The lawsuit claims Bristol Township owes the borough authority $191,608 in quarterly sewer service bills, which have been allegedly unpaid since May 2016. The borough authority has also insisted in its lawsuit that the township removed references to the authority as a sewage recipient in its Act 537 Plan, a sewer planning document the state Department of Environmental Protection requires of each municipality. Bristol Township has not formally responded to the borough authority’s lawsuit; however, township officials published a draft Act 537 Plan revision on Jan. 12 that states they will cap and cut the township’s pipeline to the borough authority. Of note is a Dec. 21 report that Bristol Township commissioned from Remington & Vernick Engineers, which states the township did not divert any sewage to the borough authority since March 2016 and says there are “concerns about the accuracy” of flows to the borough authority.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/29/2018
Rail service for West Chester discussed at meeting
More than 100 residents attended a meeting at Cheyney University about the possibility of reestablishing the railroad connection between Philadelphia and West Chester. A sufficient number of riders are expected to fill the seats, but until construction funding is secured there will be no train running from West Chester Borough to 30th Street Station. Just 109 daily riders commuted past Elwyn and into Philadelphia when the SEPTA railway from West Chester to Media portion was shut down in 1986. The cost to build a one-track railway is estimated to be $334.6 million, and for two tracks it would be $570.6 million. The West Chester Railroad currently runs a tourist line along SEPTA-owned track and right of way. SEPTA considers the project viable and even projected a completion date of 2040, but Liz Smith, director of strategic planning and partnerships for SEPTA, said the public transit agency will need to find a way to pick up the tab before the railroad becomes a reality. After funding is secured, the line could be established within three years. “Throughout our system, there is a resurgence in old boroughs and towns that grew up around railroad stations," Smith said. The borough’s seven-member ad hoc advisory committee plans to hold public railroad meetings regularly, on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m., at the relocated Borough Hall on Paoli Pike, in Room 2B of the Spellman Building.
Source: Daily Local; 1/30/2018
Help name East Whiteland Township's next park
East Whiteland Township would like the public’s help in naming its next park, which will be created on a 16-acre property off Bacton Hill Road, currently known as the Swanenburg Property. The township is looking for a name that reflects the history and character of East Whiteland. Suggestions from community members can be emailed by Wednesday, Feb. 7, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Three finalists will be announced at the supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 14. The community will then choose from the finalists until Wednesday, Feb. 28, and the new name will be announced at the supervisors meeting on Wednesday, March 14.
Source: East Whiteland Township; 1/20/2018
Medical marijuana dispensary to open soon in East Whiteland
TerraVida Holistic Center, a medical marijuana dispensary, is opening on Planebrook Road in East Whiteland in February. In a recent meeting, TerraVida President and COO Chris Visco shared that the regional, women-owned and -managed dispensary chain has received all appropriate local and state permits to open a branch location at 249 Planebrook Road. The Pennsylvania Legislature approved the use of medical marijuana with the passage of Act 16 of 2016, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been working to implement the program since. Recently, the state health department provided permits to a limited number of dispensaries throughout the state for the sale of products to eligible patients with serious medical conditions. In addition to TerraVida, Chamounix Venture’s Keystone Dispensaries has received approval for a location on West Lancaster Avenue in Devon.
Source: Daily Local; 1/24/2018
DVRPC approves funding for trails in Kennett and East Goshen
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has awarded $7.9 million to 10 local projects in southeastern Pennsylvania, including two in Chester County, through the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program. The federal program funds community-based “non-traditional” projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s intermodal transportation system. Selected projects include trail, sidewalk, transit station and on-road bicycle improvements. “These 10 projects will enable communities to build multi-use trails, safe routes to school and pedestrian pathways, and bike lanes and bikeway projects, providing transportation options for a wide variety of users throughout our region,” said Barry Seymour, DVRPC executive director. “This is one more step in our ongoing efforts to advance the Circuit Trails, the region’s ambitious plan for an 800-mile network of connected trails.” The projects and funding in Chester County are:
Council debates taping of county meetings
In a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Delaware County Council had a heated back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats when it came to videotaping meetings. Having run on a campaign of transparency in government, Democratic councilmen Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden were unwilling to wait one week to get more information on how such a process would be administered. The three Republican council members — Chairman John McBlain, Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone and Michael Culp — voted to table the motion. The topic of televising meetings has come up intermittently for decades. County Executive Director Marianne Grace said she reached out to Radnor, where meetings are videotaped, and found it more expensive than had anticipated. Grace said one of her concerns is whether the county has the infrastructure in place to handle it, as people lose internet service throughout the government center.
Source: Daily Times; 1/25/2018
Ridley Township to consider municipal authority
The Ridley Township Board of Commissioners is holding a public meeting to create a municipal authority known as the Waterfront Municipal Authority. The authority would be formed for the purposes of financing, improving, maintaining, operating, owning and leasing, either in the capacity of lessor or lessee, flood control projects, stormwater projects, stormwater planning, management and implementation, waterworks, water supply works and water distribution systems in the township and the surrounding region. The hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the township municipal building, 100 E. MacDade Blvd.
Source: Daily Times; 1/26/2018
Ridley Park mayor touts borough’s success story
Mayor Hank Eberle gave his traditional State of The Borough address, marking the 21st year he detailed positive news in the community from the previous year. This year he began by stating that 2017 was a very good financial year for Ridley Park and fifth consecutive year without a tax increase. “A measure of financial excellence is our cash flow,” Eberle said. “We were able to pay our current operating expenses and to meet our short- and long-term obligations.” The mayor lauded the contributions to the community of the police department and the volunteer fire company, stating that the most important government responsibility is to provide for the safety, security and protection of its residents and visitors to the community. Turning his attention to 2018, Eberle said there is a “reasonable” possibility that both the Hillside Safe Schools project, which will add sidewalks on Hillside Road leading to Ridley Middle School, and the Sellers Avenue bridge replacement over Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks, shared by SEPTA’s Chester Wilmington commuter line, will move from the drawing board to the construction phase. He also voiced the hope that dredging of the lake, with funding from Delaware County Council, will be done this year as well as an update of the master plan for the lake. The current plan is dated Dec. 31, 2001. “My goal, our goal, since my first year as mayor is to maintain and enhance Ridley Park as a quality residential community,” he said.
Source: Daily Times; 1/829/2018
DVRPC approves funding for trail in Haverford
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has awarded $7.9 million to 10 local projects in southeastern Pennsylvania, including one in Haverford Township, through the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program. The federal program funds community-based “non-traditional” projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of the nation’s intermodal transportation system. Selected projects include trail, sidewalk, transit station and on-road bicycle improvements. “These 10 projects will enable communities to build multi-use trails, safe routes to school and pedestrian pathways, and bike lanes and bikeway projects, providing transportation options for a wide variety of users throughout our region,” said Barry Seymour, DVRPC executive director. “This is one more step in our ongoing efforts to advance the Circuit Trails, the region’s ambitious plan for an 800-mile network of connected trails.” The funding awarded in Delaware County will provide for Phase II improvements along the Pennsy Trail totaling $1.1 million. This will include the construction of an off-road multi-use trail to extend the existing Pennsy Trail to Vernon Road. The trail in Haverford Township proposes a bridge over Manoa Road.
Source: Daily Local; 1/28/2018
SEPTA approves King of Prussia Rail plan
The SEPTA Board of Directors officially approved a plan to extend the Norristown High Speed Line into King of Prussia. While a step forward for the plan, the project is not yet fully approved. An environmental impact statement must be presented, public hearings on the impact statement must be held, and a vote for final approval will need to be taken. The board approved the “Locally Preferred Alternative” route, also known as the PECO/1st Avenue route, that would extend the rail by 4.5 miles on an elevated platform from the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby or the Norristown Transportation Center. There will be five station stops, including one at Henderson Road, two at the mall and two in business parks. The final environmental impact statement is expected to be released in 2019, officials said. For more information, visit www.kingofprussiarail.com.
Source: Limerick Patch; 1/26/2018 & PhillyMag.com; 1/26/2018
North Penn School District offers property tax rebate program
In October 2017, the North Penn School District school board unanimously approved a property tax rebate program. To qualify for the discount, applicants must: own a home as their primary residence in the North Penn School District and have a household income of no more than $35,000 annually; be 65 years of age or older; be a widow or widower aged 50 years or older; or be permanently disabled and 18 years of age or older. The property tax rebate program is based on the existing Pennsylvania Property Tax and Rental Rebate program, which has been in effect since 1971 and is funded by state lottery and slot machine proceeds. North Penn homeowners must qualify for the state rebate program to qualify for the district rebate program. Annual rebates, for those who qualify, range from $62.50 to $162.50. Click here for more information.
Source: Towamencin Township e-news; 1/26/2018
Two Montco trails awarded DVRPC funding
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has awarded just over $1.2 million in funding for two Montgomery County trail projects through its Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program. The funding must be used for projects related to alternative types of transportation, such as walking and bicycling. The two Montgomery County trail projects awarded funding are: $715,000 for a trail linking Jenkintown to Pennypack Trail; and $534,000 for the Parkside Cynwyd Trail Extension in Lower Merion Township. The DVRPC Board also recommended a list of other projects to PennDOT for funding under their own statewide competitive alternatives program. Click here for more information about the trail projects and the PennDOT recommendation list.
Source: Montgomery County press release; 1/25/2018
Pottstown Family and Home Expo scheduled
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry and Building Industries Exchange (NARI-BIE) is sponsoring the annual Pottstown Family and Home Expo. The two-day expo with local remodeling and construction contractors has vendors specializing in kitchen and bath, roofing, painting and more. The expo will be held Saturday, March 3, and Sunday, March 4, at Coventry Mall, 351 W. Schuylkill Road in North Coventry. Click here for more information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 1/18/2018
Toll Bros. unveils new design for Jewelers' Row tower
Toll Brothers has released new renderings of the controversial condo tower it plans to build in the middle of historic Jewelers’ Row. The Horsham-based development company presented a glassier, shorter vision of the luxury high-rise it first introduced almost exactly a year ago. The original 29-story, glass and brick tower received a chilly reception, panned by neighbors, preservations and Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron as an “awkward vertical sandwich” that will “disrupt the street’s ecosystem, with its distinctive mix of artisan workshops, wholesalers and jewelry stores.” Now the developer has come back with a new plan for a 24-story tower sheathed fully in glass. Instead of the 115 units first proposed, the building will include 85 units and more room for shops, with the project’s retail space increasing from 2,600 to 4,500 square feet. The older proposal depended on a complicated scheme to purchase development rights from surrounding properties. Without buying the properties themselves, Toll Brothers tried to argue there was a “unity of use” between the lots they owned and those where they had acquired development rights. The legalities of the concept were murky, however, and the company put the project on ice for much of the rest of 2017. Then in late December, Toll Brothers obtained a permit they needed to move forward with the project. The new plan allows the developer to use the air rights above the older low-rise building next door at 712-714 Sansom St.
Source: Plan Philly; 1/23/2018
Philadelphia lags behind other cities in protecting historic resources, preservation group says
Philadelphia is “significantly behind” peer cities in “protecting historic resources and incentivizing preservation,” according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Mayor Jim Kenney created the Historic Preservation Task Force last year in response to mounting conflicts as developers snap up more and more of the city’s historic building stock, charging the 33-member body with building "a stronger environment for preservation even as the city welcomes new growth and development.” The task force is at least making progress on one goal: creating a more open, inclusive and community-engaged conversation about what gets saved and what doesn’t.
Source: Plan Philly; 1/22/2018