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 Feburary 1, 2021

 

General News

Pa. lawmakers look for solutions to evictions and foreclosures
With a new and improved $25 billion round of federal rental assistance on its way from Washington, DC to states, President Biden has extended the federal moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to March 31. It had been set to expire at the end of January. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development extended an eviction moratorium to March 31 for single-family mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by the Office of Native American Programs. Some Pennsylvania lawmakers look at the moratorium as a “reprieve” and not a solution. Members of the Housing Working Group, which was created last summer by Democratic state representatives, have introduced a package of legislation to help renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. The legislation aims to keep Pennsylvanians in their homes by:

  • Providing legal and financial help
  • Extending the state ban on evictions 60 days after the emergency declaration
  • Providing payment plans and limiting late fees
  • Expunging eviction records
  • Giving financial aid to mom-and-pop landlords
  • Helping homeless veterans and students
  • Reforming renting practices at mobile home lots

Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/25/2021

DACA recipients now eligible for federally insured mortgages
A new federal policy has opened the door for certain immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to access federally insured loans to become homeowners. A rule that barred the roughly 700,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from being able to get mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was ended on Jan. 19 “to avoid confusion and provide needed clarity” to lending partners of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since 2003, FHA guidelines stated that people without legal residency in the United States were ineligible for mortgages insured by the agency. But, as HUD explained, the guidelines “did not anticipate a situation in which a borrower might not have entered the country legally, but nevertheless be considered lawfully present” — as are DACA recipients. DACA was created through an executive order by former President Obama in 2012. The Trump administration stopped allowing new DACA applicants in 2017, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2020 that the administration could not end DACA.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/26/2021

Bucks County

Yardley Borough to amend floodplain ordinance
Yardley Borough Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom to discuss a proposed ordinance amending the floodplain chapter of the municipal code. The amendment includes relevant definitions and, if passed, would: allow the permitted construction of certain fences and uninhabitable buildings as well as the expansion of existing buildings above the base flood elevation; prohibit new habitable buildings and accessory dwellings in the Floodplain Conservation District; allow the alteration, repair, improvement or relocation of existing structures and/or nonconforming principal structures pursuant to certain regulations; increase the allowable floor area for accessory structures from 200 to 400 square feet; prohibit and restrict certain activities, including senior care facilities, special care facilities, correctional facilities, marijuana and cannabis production facilities, and the parking of recreational vehicles; and allow minor repairs without a permit. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available by request from the borough manager. Instructions for participating in the remote meeting are available on the Yardley Borough website.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/25/2021

Purchase of U.S. Steel site in Falls finalized
NorthPoint Development has closed on its reported $160 million purchase of over 1,800 acres of the U.S Steel site in Falls Township. Northpoint plans to build 10 million square feet, and possibly more, of state-of-the-art warehousing on the property in phases over the next several years, with the potential of as many as 10,000 new jobs. Falls, Bucks County and the Pennsbury School District have also approved an agreement making the property a Keystone Opportunity Investment Zone, exempting it from property taxes through Dec. 31, 2035. However, NorthPoint has signed on to a payment in lieu of taxes arrangement that requires it to pay the equivalent of 110% of the property taxes on the land as it's assessed now, before any improvements.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/19/2021

Solebury reviews U.S. 202 traffic study
Solebury Township supervisors recently reviewed a traffic study (PDF) of U.S. Route 202, the main thoroughfare through the township. Mark Roth of McMahon and Associates presented the study, which prioritized short- and long-term improvements. A video of the Zoom meeting is available on the township website.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/21/2021

Northampton Township launches new website
Northampton has revamped its township website. The new platform features a dynamic design that changes to best suit the viewing device, such as a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Other changes include easier navigation, a billboard section for hot topics, access to most-requested pages and a newsfeed. Residents and interested parties can also sign up to receive email alerts to news posted on the newsfeed.
Source: Northampton Township; 1/15/2021

Chester County 

East Vincent Township to require sewer inspection at point-of-sale
East Vincent Township has passed an ordinance requiring the inspection of sewer laterals at point-of-sale. The ordinance requires both internal and external inspection of the property to identify and remove illegal connections, such as sump pumps and down spouts, and a video inspection of the sewer lateral line to ensure no breaks or separations in the pipe are present that would allow rainwater into the line. A 30-day notice will be required to the township prior to settlement. The township’s wastewater services committee had been discussing the need to better address infiltration and inflow (I&I) into the public sewer system. I&I leads to unnecessary treatment of clean water, which increases treatment costs back to residents unnecessarily. This issue is particularly prevalent in the older Barton’s Meadows wastewater treatment plant, which sees significant wet weather flows. The township will consider a separate ordinance to prescribe maintenance for on-lot septic systems.
Source: East Vincent Township; 1/4/2021

Coatesville earns KIZ designation
The state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has designated 190 W. Lincoln Highway as a Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ), the first KIZ in Coatesville. The property is home to the Nth Innovation Center, whose lead tenant is Nth Solutions LLC, a product development, manufacturing and business incubation company. “The KIZ program is living up to its original intention of sparking entrepreneurial activity in cities and rural regions like ours,” said Coatesville City Manager James Logan. The KIZ designation offers technology businesses in operation fewer than eight years the opportunity to qualify for tax credits based on increased year-over-year revenue. Logan said he hopes the arrangement will attract new partners from educational institutions, light manufacturing and financial technology companies. Nth Innovation Center is also the first federal Qualified Opportunity Zone real estate project in Chester County.
Source: Daily Local; 1/25/2021

Plans call for 290 luxury apartments in West Goshen
At a recent West Goshen supervisors meeting, a representative from Branchport Capital presented plans to build 290 apartments at the site of the Quality Inn at Staunton Road and Route 202. The proposal calls for “luxury lifestyle apartments” to replace the existing 144 motel rooms on the roughly nine-acre property. The four-story, 108,000-square-foot building would be known as the “West Chester Gateway.” Construction would primarily cover the existing footprint, with 34% landscaped green areas and 41% paved areas. There would be one parking space for each of 210 studio or one-bedroom apartments, and 1.5 spaces for each two-bedroom unit. Some parking would be located below apartments. Supervisor Ashley Gagné voiced opposition to the 290-unit apartment complex. The Quality Inn site has been known as the source of a large volume of police calls in the past two years. The property is zoned C-3, or Limited Commercial, which would need to be changed to accommodate apartments. Currently zoned uses include retail, office buildings, storage or distribution, lab facilities, medical clinics and others. Branchport noted that the motel currently pays just under $71,300 per year in taxes, with the suggested development paying $442,400 annually, for a net increase of about $371,100.
Source: Daily Local; 1/27/2021

New Garden contracts with pool club for St. Anthony’s
New Garden municipal workers continue to edge closer to renovations at St. Anthony’s in the Hills, a formerly private parish property that is now owned by the township. The site features an existing amphitheater and pool, and a historic castle. Township Manager Ramsey Reiner hopes to open the property up to the public soon. New Garden supervisors in December 2018 approved funding for the purchase of the 137-acre property at a price of $1.5 million. The township hired a team of consultants to review the landscape, provide recommendations on the feasibility of rehabilitating key features, and develop a master plan for the property as a public park. Reiner said that the master plan is expected by March. New Garden supervisors approved a leasing agreement with Delaware County-based Splash Swim Club to restore and then operate the outdoor pool facility, including an adjacent restaurant.
Source: Daily Local; 1/21/2021

Delaware County

State lawmakers: Delco needs $10M for county health department
Ten Delaware County legislators wrote a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to allocate $10 million in Act 315 funding for the county to create its own health department. Act 315 is also known as Pennsylvania’s Local Health Administration Law, which provides funding to local governments if they meet certain requirements in providing services to improve a community’s health needs. Delaware County has been pursuing the creation of its own health department since before the COVID-19 pandemic and entered into an agreement with Chester County for coronavirus-related services. “Delaware County is the largest county in the entire country without a health department,” said state Sen. John Kane, one of the signers of the letter. “During the worst pandemic our nation has ever seen, Delco residents are lacking the critical resources and infrastructure a health department would provide. Creating a health department is essential to supporting the community and increasing health equity for all of Delco’s residents, and I’m glad it’s a top priority for so many of us in the Legislature.” Earlier this month, county council hired IHS Markit to conduct an economic impact study of the costs of creating and operating a health department, which is a required step by the state. County officials hope to open the department by January 2022.
Source: Daily Times; 1/25/2021

Can Radnor fix its flooding problems?
In the Radnor Township community of Wayne, extensive impervious coverage and aging infrastructure have made flooding a major issue. At a recent meeting, township commissioners reviewed several short-term flood-mitigation projects with an estimated cost of slightly over $16 million. More money will be needed for later projects. “These projects … are costly because we’re working in areas that are already developed. We’re not way out in the ’burbs where we have acres and acres of ground,” said township engineer Steve Norcini. None of the board members denied the need for the projects, but Commissioner Sean Farhy said he couldn’t vote for them until the township had a comprehensive plan that addresses institutional growth and the amount of stormwater waivers developers receive. One of the largest projects that Norcini described is the North Wayne/Gulph Creek floodplain. The project, currently a concept plan with an estimated cost of $4.6 million, would require cooperation from property owners along Gulph Creek to mitigate the flooding in the area.
Source: Daily Times; 1/22/2021

Rep. Kirkland debuts mobile office
State Rep. Brian Kirkland (D-159), of Chester, will hold regular mobile office hours at the Upper Chichester Community Room, 1950 Market St. in Boothwyn, beginning Wednesday, Feb. 3. The new mobile office will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Residents are encouraged to stop by for help with state services, including the property tax/rent rebate program, PennDOT paperwork, SEPTA Key senior cards and more. Kirkland also holds mobile office hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at Lighthouse Hall, 1401 9th St. in Eddystone.
Source: Daily Times; 1/23/2021

Green space task force members needed
Delaware County Council and the Delaware County Planning Department are looking for volunteers to join a new Green Space Task Force to develop a green space, trails, recreation and grants program. Members will help develop a meaningful vision, mission and implementation steps to influence a culture of appreciation for the conservation and use of natural lands throughout the county. The task force webpage says the county is looking for “a diverse group of leaders including residents with background and knowledge of green space preservation, natural lands conservation, parks and recreation management, fundraising, economics, business, health, communications, and community organizing.” Registration ends on Monday, Feb. 1.
Source: Daily Times; 1/23/2021

Springfield Police form camera-ready partnership with residents
Springfield Police Department has launched its Community Camera program, giving Springfield residents the opportunity to register their home or business surveillance cameras with the department. If a crime should occur, police can view video from homeowners’ or business owners’ surveillance cameras as an extra investigative tool to nab perpetrators. Police will not be able to access or view any video remotely. Residents’ participation in this program will not obligate them to release any surveillance video. Residents remain in control of their cameras, and their registration remains private. Residents can read more and register their surveillance camera systems at the Springfield Police website. The department has been using municipally owned surveillance cameras mounted in public areas along Baltimore Pike to catch offenders and serve as a crime deterrent since at least 2014.
Source: Daily Times; 1/22/2021

Montgomery County

SRA survey: Share your experience with Norristown's U&O process
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) wants to hear from Realtors® who have conducted business recently in the Municipality of Norristown. "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. The online survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Participants’ names will not be shared with the municipality. Complete the survey on the SRA website.    

Norristown to amend abandoned real property ordinance
Norristown Municipal Council will consider a proposed ordinance to amend Chapter 239, Abandoned Real Property, of the municipal code. The proposed amendments include updating definitions, changing the annual $200 registration fee to a $400 bi-annual registration fee, and increasing the noncompliance fine from $500 to $600. The draft ordinance proposes to assist the Department of Buildings & Code Compliance with holding banks and mortgage companies responsible for their assets/properties located in Norristown. The proposed ordinance will be considered at a council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2. The draft ordinance is available on the Norristown website.
Source: Times Herald; 1/25/2021

Springfield Township to amend fire insurance claims ordinance
Springfield Township commissioners voted to advertise a proposed ordinance that will amend Chapter 49 (Insurances), Article 1 (Fire Insurance Claims), of the municipal code. The ordinance will be considered for adoption at the Wednesday, Feb. 10, commissioners meeting. The proposed ordinance would update the procedures for the issuance of a certificate prior to payment of fire loss insurance claims. The proposed ordinance would also increase the escrow provisions required for each claim, and address the use of funds to guarantee the removal or repair of fire-damaged structures. Click here to view the proposed ordinance.
Source: Springfield Township; 1/14/2021

Montgomery County preserves 10,000 acres of farmland
Montgomery County officials announced that the county has preserved 10,000 acres of farmland through the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program. The program has worked to preserve open space and support productive farms for 30 years. There are 177 farms representing a combined total of 10,196 acres preserved. Commissioners Chair Valerie Arkoosh said, “The farmland preservation program shows not only the importance of open space, but also the vital ways that farms contribute to the county’s economic and sustainability efforts.”
Source: Times Herald; 1/26/2021

Philadelphia

The rise of the ‘overlay’: How an obscure zoning tool is shaping Philly’s future (again)
Zoning overlays are a tool that can be used to shape development in a specific area. Overlays are a hot topic in Philadelphia because Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation and a coalition of other neighborhood groups recently won city council approval for a special overlay district that aims to slow gentrification by restricting the height and density of new construction. The coalition proposed the “Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District” late last year after watching blocks of brick rowhouses begin to change with construction that they felt clashed with the historic fabric of the community. Roof decks are banned in the new district, along with certain popular facade wrappers, such as vinyl, stucco and horizontal aluminum. Now, other community groups from across the city want to know how they too can use the overlay tool. Read more here.
Source: Plan Philly; 1/27/2021

North Philly intersection reimagined as shady, green gathering space in new plan
Philadelphia officials released proposed designs for the intersection of Broad Street, Germantown Avenue and Erie Avenue after years of working with neighborhood leaders to reshape the busy North Philly triangle. The city and a task force are now seeking final comments on the design. “Overhauling the intersection at Broad, Germantown and Erie is a top priority for our administration,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “It is key to revitalizing this section of North Broad Street and the surrounding neighborhoods.” The proposed design has several different kinds of seating and string lights, as well as a kiosk designed for sharing books. Trees and shade structures will provide protection from the sun in a neighborhood notoriously short on both. Squat, black bollards intend to protect the park-like public space from traffic. Read more here.
Source: Plan Philly; 1/22/2021

Embassy Suites on the Parkway to become apartments
Real estate investment and development firm Pearl Properties purchased the Embassy Suites hotel on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2018. Original plans for the property included a few upgrades and continued intentions to operate as a hotel. Then the pandemic disrupted business travel — a disruption that Pearl Properties anticipates will take a while to abate. The company has decided to invest in a pivot and convert the hotel into apartments. Dubbed The Terrace on 18th, it will feature 288 one-bedroom, one-bath apartments with balconies and new kitchens. Planned amenities include a fitness center, a movie room, recreation rooms and a space with a commercial kitchen that residents will be able to rent out for gatherings. The Terrace will also host Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Co.’s first Center City location.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/21/2021

 
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