NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Biden administration extends forbearance and foreclosure protections

Bucks County
Big developments move forward in Bucks

Chester County
Phoenixville to consider repeal of per capita tax

Delaware County
Media’s open space, parks and recreation survey closes soon

Montgomery County
Lower Merion ranked among best places to live and work from home

Philadelphia County
‘Once-in-a-generation’ anti-poverty plan sends $4.5M to community groups

 

News Briefs Archive January 18, 2021

 

General News

CDC eviction moratorium is not automatic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s temporary moratorium on evictions was extended by Congress until Jan. 31. Renters and landlords should know that the suspension does not apply to every situation, and it is not automatic. Renters have to file a declaration (PDF) under penalty of perjury with their landlord that certifies that various statements are true. Matt Rich, a staff attorney at MidPenn Legal Services in Harrisburg, noted the declaration can be difficult to understand and there are consequences for making false statements.
Source: York Daily Record; 1/7/2021

Gov. Wolf pushes for plan to help Pa. communities struggling with climate change impacts
In December, Gov. Wolf ordered the state planning board to come up with recommendations on land use, planning, zoning and stormwater management that would reduce flooding in communities affected by climate change. Wolf said the executive order was issued partly out of frustration with the legislature that refused to take action on his “Restore Pennsylvania” plan to fund billions in infrastructure improvements through a natural gas severance tax. Under the order, the planning board will come up with best practices on reducing impacts of flash flooding, establish goals and “investment principles” regarding infrastructure, and “institutionalize” those goals. Officials cited 2018, the wettest year on record for the commonwealth, when more than 5,000 homes were damaged but none qualified for federal reimbursement. Flooding that year cost the state $63 million in damage to infrastructure. The planning board is only advisory, and no timeline was established for the plan.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 12/2/2020

NAR responds to attack on U.S. Capitol
National Association of Realtors® (NAR) president Charlie Oppler released a statement in response to the deadly insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6. "The scenes we are watching unfold as a nation are shocking and leave us in disbelief," Oppler said. "America's largest trade association stands with our democracy and our nation's centuries-old observance of peaceful protests and the peaceful transfer of power. What happened today at the U.S. Capitol was an assault on both. We urge for calm and fully support the U.S. Capitol Police and the National Guard to restore safety to the city of Washington, D.C. Members of Congress, their staff, Capitol Police Officers and workers at the U.S. Capitol today came under attack. These are scenes that should not stand in the United States of America and are no part of our fabric as a free, compassionate and tolerant people." Inman reported that NAR “is not ruling out penalties for any of its 1.4 million members that participated in the riot.” NAR has also paused all federal political contributions and will “closely monitor events in Washington in the days and weeks ahead in order to ensure our political participation most closely represents the will of our REALTOR members,” according to an Associated Press report.
Source: NAR; 1/6/2021, Inman; 1/11/2021 & AP; 1/13/2021

Bucks County

Penndel reduces property tax, enacts earned income tax
Penndel Borough Council enacted an ordinance that establishes a 1% earned income tax in 2021. The tax will be assessed for both residents and nonresidents on earned income and net profits. Anyone earning less than $12,000 a year will be exempt from the tax. At the same time, as part of the $2.6 million 2021 borough budget, the council cut property taxes 3 mills, from 30.8 to 27.8 mills. That will be $63 less in annual property taxes for a resident with a property assessed at the borough average of about $20,900. Penndel has budgeted $200,000 in EIT revenue this year, and the property tax millage reduction will mean about $53,400 less in revenue, for a net gain in revenue of about $150,000, which will be directed to infrastructure improvements and other expenses.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/9/2021

Bucks awards $1.9M for COVID-related housing relief
Bucks County Commissioners approved using $1.9 million in funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for COVID-related housing relief. The county awarded a roughly $605,000 contract to the Bucks County Opportunity Council for administering the Eviction Prevention Financial Assistance program for a year and about $495,000 to the Bucks County Housing Group in Warminster for the same purpose for two years. The YWCA of Bucks County in Trevose will receive just over $331,000 to support its efforts to provide eviction prevention services, and the county is also using the funds to provide support for sheltering in hotels and motels through the Family Service Association of Bucks County. According to Jeffrey Fields, the county’s director of housing and community development, 500 to 600 households “have been able to avoid eviction” since the relief effort began because of the county’s programs. Anyone who is facing any housing issue, including eviction or homelessness, can call Bucks County Housing Link at 800-810-4434, the intake number, from which they will be directed to assistance for their specific problem.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/5/2021

Morrisville Municipal Authority to construct new wastewater treatment plant
The sale of the 1,800-acre U.S. Steel site in Falls Township included designating the Morrisville Municipal Authority (MMA) as the provider for water and sewer-related utilities on the property. MMA struck a deal with buyer NorthPoint Development, to take over the existing water and sewer infrastructure at the newly dubbed Keystone Trade Center site. The deal includes the purchase of 54 acres of land at the property in order to build a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility to replace an aging plant in Morrisville. The Morrisville Municipal Authority serves about 40,000 customers in Morrisville and Yardley boroughs along with portions of Falls and Lower Makefield townships.
Source: LevittownNow.com; 1/8/2021

Newtown supervisors reject settlement for proposed housing development
Newtown Township supervisors recently took no action on a settlement proposed by developer Arcadia to reduce the size of a project at Bucks Road and the Newtown Bypass from a mix of 53 townhomes and 23 single-family dwellings to 60 single-family homes. By taking no action, the supervisors are allowing litigation on the 76-home proposal to continue in Commonwealth Court after Bucks County Court sided with the developer. The settlement rejection was welcome news to nearby residents, some of whom are a party to the litigation and complain that development is swallowing up the township and worsening traffic. But Arcadia representatives said such general objections are not valid legal reasons to deny the development. They contend the 76-home plan is “by right,” meaning it complies in all ways with the township's zoning ordinance and requires no variances or waivers, and added they have little doubt Arcadia will prevail in court.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/8/2021

Chester County 

TE adopts resolution on tax hike
The Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board adopted a resolution certifying that the tax increase for the 2021-2022 budget will be 3% or less. As a result, the administration will not apply for referendum exceptions to the state Act 1 index and will not follow an accelerated timeline for the 2021-2022 budget approval. The 2021-2022 budget presented on Jan. 4 shows an operational deficit of almost $9.3 million. The school board and administration will work to close this budgeted gap through a combination of property tax increases, expenditure reductions and the use of existing reserves before the final budget is approved in June. The board will continue to deliberate the budget and property tax rate increase until final adoption in June. All school board committee meetings are open to the public and have public comment periods. Meeting dates and agendas are available on the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District website. Public comments may be submitted to Arthur J. McDonnell, business manager, or to the T/E School Board.
Source: Daily Local; 1/8/2021

Assistance available for those facing eviction
Rental assistance is available by calling 211 in Chester County. While there are protections in place for renters and mortgage holders, the number of evictions is expected to increase during the ongoing pandemic. At a recent presentation, Christina Drzal, an attorney with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said an estimated 240,000 Pennsylvania families, or roughly 15% of renters, are potentially at risk for eviction if a moratorium ends on Feb. 1. “I understand the frustration of both tenants and landlords,” Drzal said. “The best way to stop eviction is to pay your landlord.” Many renters pay a huge chunk of their take-home pay on housing. Three-quarters of low-income residents spend at least 50% of their income for housing, with one quarter spending over 70%.
Source: Daily Local; 1/13/2021

Spring-Ford posts proposed preliminary budget with tax hike
Spring-Ford Area School District has posted its proposed preliminary budget for the 2021-2022 school year, as well as notice of application for Act 1 referendum exceptions. The $182.3 million budget, which includes a 6.32% tax increase, is available for public inspection on the district website. Formal adoption of the proposed preliminary budget is scheduled for the school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the high school, 350 S. Lewis Road, Royersford. The tax rate increase required to balance the district budget will exceed the state-imposed Act 1 index of 3%. As a result, the district intends to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for exceptions allowing an increase of the real estate tax as reflected in the proposed preliminary budget.
Source: Mercury; 1/11/2021

Assistant manager hired in West Chester Borough
Former Narberth Borough Manager Sean Metrick was selected by West Chester Borough Council to be assistant borough manager at an annual salary of $106,000. West Chester Borough Council President Michael Galey said Metrick is “well-qualified and a super bright guy.” Metrick graduated with a philosophy degree from University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in community and regional planning from Temple University. He honed his financial skills in Narberth, where he helped develop a capital plan and budget.
Source: Daily Local; 1/12/2021

Coatesville leaders are ready for 2021
Coatesville held its annual reorganization meeting, with council reelecting Linda Lavender-Norris as city council president and Carmen Green as vice president. “I believe continuity in leadership is beneficial, and we must work together with our residents to maintain the momentum we have achieved so far,” said Lavender-Norris. Charles “Chip” Huston was welcomed as the community’s new assistant city manager, filling a longstanding vacancy. “The city has so much potential, we just need to find the right combination of opportunities — new businesses, job availability and to step up the skills-education of our residents,” Huston said.
Source: Daily Local; 1/9/2021

Delaware County

Delco details cyber-attack, admits paying ransom
Delaware County Chief Information Officer Frank Bilotta updated county council during its regular meeting on a cybersecurity breach earlier this year. Officials admitted the county paid a ransom to have service restored. Bilotta, who began his employment with the county a few days early to deal with the threat, said the hacker activated a ransomware application sometime between Sept. 10 and Nov. 21, 2020, when it was detected by a member of the county’s information technology staff. That staff member notified senior leadership and disconnected all servers and computers, Bilotta said. The county’s elected officials were made aware of the intrusion, as was the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the county’s insurance agent, which provided contacts for a cyber forensics team and outside legal counsel with expertise in cybersecurity. Bilotta said the hacker made it known fairly early on that their intent was to hold the county’s system for ransom, with a threat to release data like personal identifying information should their demands not be met. County Executive Director Howard Lazarus recommended that council pay the ransom because working with the hacker would allow for faster system restoration and prevent information from being published, the county was insured for such acts, and the deductible would only be $25,000. Bilotta said all county systems have been restored and the IT staff is pursuing various initiatives to build a more secure network in the future. The initiatives include rebuilding server infrastructure, updating operating systems and applying security patches, and removing vulnerabilities identified by outside support agencies.
Source: Daily Times; 1/8/2021

1,000 volunteers sought for coronavirus vaccination effort
The Citizen Corps of Delaware County is seeking an additional 1,000 volunteers to help support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts as eligibility to receive vaccines expands and more doses become available in the coming months. “This is an opportunity to serve your community and do the greatest good for the greatest number,” said Ed Kline, volunteer management coordinator for the Delaware County Department of Emergency Services. The county has begun vaccinating “Phase 1A” residents, which include health care workers, emergency medical services workers, medical examiners, funeral staff, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. County residents of all backgrounds — regardless of skills or medical training — are encouraged to volunteer by registering at the Delco Citizen Corps website. The online orientation and additional training will be provided for free. Deployments are assigned based on each volunteer’s availability. Volunteers are assigned to roles with tasks they are comfortable performing.
Source: Daily Times; 1/9/2021

Council hires firm to conduct economic impact study for health department
Delaware County Council unanimously approved hiring IHS Markit to conduct an economic impact study on the costs of creating and operating a county health department. The analysis is one of the state-mandated steps in creating a county health department, something officials are hoping to have in place by January 2022. In their action, council approved paying IHS Markit $75,000 to complete the study, while also allowing county executive director Howard Lazarus the discretion to pay them an extra $15,000. Rosemarie Halt, Delaware County’s health policy consultant for COVID-19 and its liaison with the Chester County Health Department, said Delaware County’s health department would be the first new county health department in Pennsylvania since 1989.
Source: Daily Times; 1/9/2021

Upper Darby debuts new parking app
Motorists in Upper Darby Township can now pay parking fees directly from their mobile devices with a new mobile parking application. “We are very excited to bring Passport Parking to Upper Darby to provide a safer and more user-friendly environment for residents, business owners and visitors alike,” said Mayor Barbarann Keffer. The system is managed by Passport Labs, a transportation software company that handles mobile pay parking, enforcement and other services for cities, universities and agencies. The Passport application follows an update to parking ticket payment systems in the township that came online last year and will allow residents to pay for parking from anywhere on their mobile devices, receive a notification when their parking time is close to expiring, and track past receipts. The app also allows Upper Darby to more accurately enforce parking and to collect revenues from parking fees in a more timely and efficient manner.
Source: Daily Times; 1/9/2021

Assistance available for those facing eviction
While there are protections in place for renters and mortgage holders, the number of evictions is expected to increase during the ongoing pandemic. At a recent presentation, Christina Drzal, an attorney with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said an estimated 240,000 Pennsylvania families, or roughly 15% of renters, are potentially at risk for eviction if a moratorium ends on Feb. 1. “I understand the frustration of both tenants and landlords,” Drzal said. “The best way to stop eviction is to pay your landlord.” Many renters pay a huge chunk of their take-home pay on housing. Three-quarters of low-income residents spend at least 50% of their income for housing, with one quarter spending over 70%. In Delaware County, rental assistance is available by calling Community Action at 610-874-8451. The Delco Cares mortgage relief program gives temporary relief to homeowners, with up to three months of mortgage and utility payments. Those in Chester City, Haverford Township and Upper Darby are urged to contact local officials.
Source: Daily Local; 1/13/2021

Montgomery County

Lansdale to consider nonresidential fire inspection ordinance
Lansdale Borough Council will hold a public hearing via Zoom on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. to consider a proposed ordinance that would authorize and set forth procedures for annual fire inspections of nonresidential properties. The proposed ordinance sets forth pre-inspection notifications, times for inspection, violation notices and post-inspection reports, annual registration requirements, appeals, and fees. The proposed ordinance is available for review on the Lansdale Borough website. Members of the public wishing to listen/participate in the hearing or submit written comments should email feedback@lansdale.org or call 267-638-9345 during business hours.
Source: The Reporter; 1/11/2021

Limerick Township supervisors restart Linfield Master Plan Study
Limerick Township supervisors have restarted the Linfield Master Plan Study that was put on hold in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. A developer approached the board last November and pitched a plan for up to 1,200 housing units, plus stores and offices, on the site once occupied by the Publicker distillery. According to Township Manager Dan Kerr, the board of supervisors decided to restart the master plan meetings to ensure the best project and also guarantee that the people of Linfield have some input into both the project and the plan. Supervisors added three more Linfield residents to the study committee. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 20, from 7 to 9 p.m. and will be conducted online. A public meeting to review the project is currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 3. Kerr said there is “hesitancy on the number of residential units proposed” and that the supervisors want to see if more nonresidential uses are possible. The township also desires to make the riverfront a usable public space for the entire community.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 1/10/2021

$5M authorized for MontcoStrong 2021 Restaurant Grant Program
The MontcoStrong 2021 Restaurant Grant Program received a nearly $5 million boost after county officials authorized the transfer of county economic development funds to the Redevelopment Authority. The program was created to assist area restaurants and businesses in the food service industry struggling financially due to the pandemic. Its funds can be used for the following purposes: rent or mortgage payments for a business location, payments for utilities for a business location, purchase of personal protective equipment, and payroll for non-owner employees between Jan. 1 and March 5. More information is available at the Montgomery County Commerce Department website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 1/11/2021

Spring-Ford posts proposed preliminary budget with tax hike
Spring-Ford Area School District has posted its proposed preliminary budget for the 2021-2022 school year, as well as notice of application for Act 1 referendum exceptions. The $182.3 million budget, which includes a 6.32% tax increase, is available for public inspection on the district website. Formal adoption of the proposed preliminary budget is scheduled for the school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the high school, 350 S. Lewis Road, Royersford. The tax rate increase required to balance the district budget will exceed the state-imposed Act 1 index of 3%. As a result, the district intends to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for exceptions allowing an increase of the real estate tax as reflected in the proposed preliminary budget.
Source: Mercury; 1/11/2021

Abington considering residential rental license permit ordinance
Abington Township is discussing an ordinance to create and enact a residential rental license permit. The proposed ordinance was forwarded from the township Land Use Committee after its Dec. 2, 2020, meeting, and the text of the proposal can be found starting on page 11 in the agenda here. The proposed ordinance was slated to be discussed by the Board of Commissioners Committee of the Whole on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m., although there is an indication that the discussion may be tabled. The Alliance submitted written comments and concerns regarding the current draft of the ordinance and is monitoring its progress.

Philadelphia

Officials say improved COVID-19 rental assistance coming in March
A year of hard lessons and “figuring it out as we go along” have led to the creation of a new and improved COVID-19 rental assistance program for Philadelphia that will come online in March. The program is funded by the $900 billion federal COVID relief package passed by Congress in December. The next phase will target households earning less than $70,000 and those who have been unemployed for 90 days, and include a three-month standard term for aid that came as a mandate from Washington. If aid is needed beyond that period, tenants will need to recertify their income. In addition, officials have vowed to set aside a portion of the funds to help tenants participating in the city’s eviction diversion program and have created a provision that allows tenants to access program funds even if landlords refuse to participate.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/12/2021

 

 
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