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 July 2, 2018

 

General News

URGENT! Tell Congress not to let the National Flood Insurance Program lapse
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has launched a Call-for-Action so you can tell Congress not to let the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) lapse. Every time NFIP expires, the real estate industry sees a loss of 40,000 property sales per month. Without the reauthorization of the NFIP, which is set to expire on July 31, the program cannot issue or renew flood insurance policies in the 22,000 communities where flood insurance is required for a mortgage. The program is incredibly important to Pennsylvania. Our state is 12th in the U.S. in the number of NFIP policies issued and fifth in the nation in the number of flood claims filed. Flood claims have been filed in 66 of the commonwealth’s 67 counties. NAR has been advocating for Congress to reauthorize the program for the next five years. The association would like to see the bill’s private market reforms retained and expanded, enabling consumers to meet federal requirements with private flood insurance offers as an alternative to NFIP policies. NAR believes building on the risk mitigation provisions would help keep rates affordable. The association also recommends that the NFIP should use modern mapping technology to produce building-specific risk assessments. Respond to the Call-for-Action and tell Congress how important the National Flood Insurance Program is to Pennsylvania homeowners and buyers.
Source: PARJustListed; 6/20/2018

State passes amendments to real estate licensing act
Legislation that amends the state’s Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA) was unanimously approved by the state General Assembly and is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature. House Bill 863, introduced by state Rep. Greg Rothman (R-87), will update RELRA to require additional training for salesperson pre-licensure education, increasing pre-licensure education for new licensees by an additional 15 hours and grandfathering those already enrolled in classes. The bill will allow licensees to conduct Broker Price Opinions, or BPOs. In addition, salesperson licensees will be required to complete all licensure courses within five years prior to the date of taking and passing the exam, allowing for a grandfathering process for those already enrolled in classes. Those applying to be a licensed real estate agent will be required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. “It’s taken hard work by dedicated PAR members, staff and legislators to get this bill passed,” said PAR President Todd Umbenhauer. “These changes will provide a greater level of service and competency to our clients.” Read more here.
Source: PARJustListed; 6/25/2018

 

Wolf signs ‘Stoneleigh’ bill into law, will protect against eminent domain seizures
A bill co-written by a Chester County legislator, state Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157), that provides new protections for land governed by a conservation easement from being taken for development by eminent domain has been signed into law, cheering those who saw threats to open space. The new law will require that entities like school districts and local governments seek court approval before taking property by eminent domain if that property is under conservation easement, said a representative of Natural Lands, a major player in regional efforts to preserve open space. The legislation was prompted by two instances in which local school districts in the state had sought to seize lands protected by Natural Lands, including the recently opened Stoneleigh Preserve in Lower Merion, Montgomery County. “Protecting open space and our natural areas is something that helps everyone and ensures a future connected to our past,” Kampf said Monday in an email to Digital First Media. “Chester County has a long and successful tradition of this. The new law proves the General Assembly’s commitment to land preservation and to standing with landowners willing to help us do that.” The bill was co-sponsored by state Reps. Marcy Toepel (R-147) and Kate Harper (R-61), both of Montgomery County.
Source: Daily Times; 6/25/2018

Bucks County

Have your clients been affected by Lower Bucks municipal authority enforcement?
The Suburban Realtors Alliance wants to hear from Realtors® whose clients have been affected by the point-of-sale enforcement of easements by the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority (LBCJMA). The LBCJMA has in recent years taken a hard-line approach to enforcing easements, leading to reports of homeowners incurring losses in the tens of thousands of dollars because pools and outbuildings, which were properly permitted and inspected by their municipalities, encroached on easements, even by small amounts. If you have had an experience you’d like to share, contact us via the Alliance website, email sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com or call 610-981-9000. 

Solebury approves regulations for temporary lodging facilities
Solebury Township supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that will put in place new regulations for temporary lodging through online rental companies, such as Airbnb. The new ordinance distinguishes between small and large short-term lodging facilities in determining where to allow the rentals. The regulation kicks in for buildings that offer or market guest rooms more than 120 days, four months or 26 weekends each calendar year, for total stays of less than 30 consecutive days. Small facilities or bed-and-breakfasts, with between two and six guest rooms, are permitted as conditional uses in four types of residential and three types of village commercial districts, plus outdoor recreation districts, and by right in the traditional neighborhood commercial district. The ordinance does not cover homes that rent out just one guest room. Large facilities or hotels, motels and inns, with seven or more guest rooms are allowed via conditional use only in the rural commercial and traditional commercial districts. Owners of rentals need valid permits from the Bucks County Department of Health before they can receive conditional use approval and a permit from the township. An annual inspection will be required in order to renew the permit and any property owner who violates the ordinance could face district court citations and fines.
Source: The Intelligencer; 6/24/2018 

Quakertown Community School District tax increase set at 4.2 percent
Quakertown Community School District board members voted 5-4 to approve a $110 million budget that includes a 4.2 percent property tax increase and relies on a transfer from the fund balance to cover a $700,000 deficit. The tax increase amounts to approximately $158 per property. Board member Ron Jackson favored a modest 2.8 percent increase which would have been within the Act 1 index but required the district to use over $1.6 million of its fund balance. Board member Kaylyn Mitchell pointed out that the difference between 2.8 percent and 4.2 percent was only $50 on average and attempting to stay within the Act 1 index could have negative effects for the district, including to the district’s bond rating. The latest district data points to salaries and benefits rising from $66 million in 2017 to a projected $78 million by 2023. Board member Jonathan Kern said administrative and staff costs consumed 58 percent of the 2018-19 school year budget.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/22/2018

Neshaminy final budget has 2.4 percent tax hike
The Neshaminy school board voted 8-0 to approve a $183.9 million final 2018-2019 school year budget that includes a 2.4 percent tax increase. The millage rate will increase to 159.5 mills, meaning an annual tax bill of $4,400 for the owner of a property assessed at the school district average of about $28,000. This marks the second straight year that Neshaminy has raised school property taxes after seven straight years of no tax increases. According to school board member Bob Feather, the years of no tax increases were not necessarily a good thing, “If previous boards had increased taxes in small increments during those years, we might not be in this position.” Many board members commented that increasing pension costs were a burden to Neshaminy and other Pennsylvania public school districts.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/20/2018

EPA plans community event in Horsham to discuss water contamination
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will hold a community engagement session in Horsham to discuss water contamination in Montgomery and Bucks counties. The event will be held on Wednesday, July 25, at Hatboro-Horsham High School, 899 Horsham Road, with a work session from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a listening session from 4 to 9 p.m. For more information and to register, visit the EPA website. Over the past two years, 16 public wells and about 140 private wells have been shut down by contamination from perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in Bucks and Montgomery counties. The former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham, along with the active Horsham Air Guard Station, are thought to be the source of the contamination. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have been reporting on the issue and, as a public resource, have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available to subscribers and nonsubscribers on their websites — 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. 

Chester County 

Phoenixville downtown recognized for revitalization
In the first-ever Classic Towns People’s Choice Contest, Phoenixville “swept the votes with winners across the board,” for its downtown businesses, according to a press release. The two-part contest concluded in May, and highlighted the best businesses and activities in each of 20 Classic Towns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In round one of the contest, community members voted for their favorite local businesses in 14 categories. In round two, the category winners from each town vied for the top award. “It was wonderful to see Phoenixville really rise to the top of the list,” said Jessica Capistrant of the Phoenixville Chamber of Commerce.
Source: Daily Local; 6/25/2018

Chester County Planning Commission seeks comments on Landscapes3
The Chester County Planning Commission is seeking comments for the draft county comprehensive plan, Landscapes3. For more information on Landscapes3 and to comment online, visit http://chescoplanning.org/CompPlan.cfm. Comments can be submitted to the county Planning Commission by July 31. Once the Planning Commission receives feedback, it will prepare a full draft plan, which will be available for further comment and review in the late summer/early fall. If you’d prefer to mail your comments back to the Planning Commission, please send them to 601 Westtown Road, Suite 270, West Chester, PA, 19380.
Source: Chester County Association of Township Officials; 6/25/2018 

Avon Grove board votes to show PlanCon funds as tax credit
The Avon Grove School Board approved a motion to consider giving a rebate to taxpayers if they eventually receive state reimbursement for the upcoming building project, but the board stopped short of adding teeth to the motion. In April, the board approved the expenditure of $127 million to build a new high school and renovate existing schools. It is possible, but not certain, that the state will provide some reimbursement to the district for the building project.
Source: Southern Chester County News; 6/7/2018 

Oxford Borough seeks federal funds for transportation center
Oxford Borough officials hosted a town tour with an eye toward securing federal funds for the borough’s planned Multimodal Transportation Center. The group discussed the $7.7 million project and the benefits it will bring to the town and surrounding region. In the works for several years, plans evolved out of the need for additional parking to serve the borough’s downtown renaissance, including both establishing and retaining significant business growth. When completed, it will rise from the site of the current bank parking lot alongside Octoraro Alley and Second Street. It will house parking facilities, the new borough hall, and a bus routing center. The borough has secured $1 million in funding from the county, $2 million in funding from PennDOT, $1 million from DCED, and $1 million from a private donation. The goal is to obtain $2 million more in additional funding for the building so the eventual fees for the parking will support the operation of the building. Borough Manager Brian Hoover said the new multimodal transportation center will spur development in the town and be a financial benefit by bringing jobs to the area. “We don’t want to put the tax burdens on our residents,” he said, adding, “we need that million to get started.”
Source: Southern Chester County News; 6/7/2018

Delaware County

Delco moves forward on pipeline risk assessment study
Delaware County Council moved a step forward in hiring a firm to do a risk analysis of two pipelines planned for Delaware County. After weeks of delays, council reached a consensus to move forward with a request for proposal for an expert to conduct a pipeline hazard analysis on the Mariner East 2 and Adelphia lines. The Mariner East projects intend to move 700,000 barrels of propane, butane and ethane from the Marcellus and Utica shales to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex for storage and distribution domestically and throughout the world. The Adelphia Gateway project is converting an existing 50 miles of pipeline from oil to natural gas. The 84-mile line originally moved oil from Marcus Hook to Martins Creek. In 1996, the Interstate Energy Company converted the northern 34 miles of the line for natural gas delivery. As part of the project, an above-ground gas valve facility will be built in Concord. Council members Michael Culp, Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek voted to revise the scope of the analysis proposal to focus on Mariner East 2 and Adelphia only, as opposed to the initial bid that would have looked at all the pipelines in the county. Council Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone was absent and council Chairman John McBlain abstained as his law firm, Swartz Campbell, has done work for Sunoco, although he himself has not. McBlain said an inquiry has been placed into the state Ethics Commission for their official position. Since the beginning of the year, council has been working out the details of hiring a consultant to perform a risk assessment.
Source: Daily Local; 6/22/2018

Upper Darby approves $210M school budget with tax increase
An eleventh-hour proposal of additional state funding to the Upper Darby School District had administrators reworking the final 2018-2019 final budget Thursday. A one-time lump payment of $3.5 million to the district announced by state Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-26), of Springfield, and state Rep. Jamie Santora (R-163), of Upper Darby, had district officials adjusting the budget math four hours before the board was to vote on it. With that money came a different budget than was originally posted on the district’s Board Docs website earlier in the week. The final budget that was adopted was bumped up to $210.7 million, from the original $207.2 million, to include the “gift” of money that is allegedly coming to the district. Also changed in the final budget is a tax rate that has gone down to 2.5 percent, bringing the total millage to 37.1395. The tax increase is split between 1.96 for operating costs and 0.54 (equal to $500,000) to be transferred over to the capital reserve fund for projects for the year. The tax increase will raise an additional $2.3 million for the district.
Source: Daily Times; 6/24/2018

Interboro School Board approves budget, new member
The Interboro School Board appointed a new member and adopted a final budget at its recent meeting. The board passed a $67.8 million 2018-2019 budget with a tax increase of 2.95 percent, increasing the millage rate to 37.1008. Salaries, benefits and special education costs are the largest cost drivers in the budget. In other business, the board approved Christine Alonso to fill a vacancy left by Kevin McGarvey to represent Glenolden, Region 3, through December 2019. Alonso is a U.S. Army veteran who received her bachelor’s degree in history from Widener University. She’s a mother of four whose children all attend or have graduated from Interboro schools. Alonso’s seat is the third vacancy the school board has had to fill this year.
Source: Daily Times; 6/22/2018

Aston makes change to electrical requirement
Aston Township has recently made a change to the requirements for Use and Occupancy inspections. In addition to the items on the sample inspection sheet, the township now requires that electrical panels have an Underwriters Panel Certification sticker. This sticker must be dated within six months of the Certificate of Occupancy Inspection. If work is performed after the six-month panel certification is issued, a new panel certification inspection must be obtained.
Source: Aston Township; 6/2018

Montgomery County

Norristown to consider anti-discrimination ordinance
At the regular meeting of Council of the Municipality of Norristown to be held on Tuesday, July 3, at Municipal Hall, 235 E. Airy St., at 7:30 p.m., the council will consider and possibly adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance. The proposed ordinance will prohibit discrimination in housing, commercial property, employment and public accommodations on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, age, disability, education, familial status, height, marital status or weight. The proposed ordinance will establish a Human Rights Commission that will work to ensure all residents, visitors and businesses in Norristown are treated fairly and protected from discrimination. A copy of the proposed ordinance can be viewed at the Montgomery County Law Library, at the offices of the Times Herald newspaper or at Municipal Hall during normal business hours.
Source: Times Herald; 6/22/2018

Upper Dublin taxes increase 1.99%
The Upper Dublin school board approved a $103.7 million 2018-2019 school year budget with a last-minute reduction to the tax increase. The board initially approved a 2.14 percent tax increase in the preliminary budget last month but then amended the number to 1.99 percent on June 14. The new millage rate will be 33.6826 mills. A homeowner with a property assessed at the township average of about $196,000 will pay an additional $129 in school property taxes, for a total bill of about $6,600. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 6/25/2018

No historical upgrade for Clothier Estate in Lower Merion
A tie vote of 7-7 by the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners ended a plan to upgrade the classification of the Clothier Estate in Villanova from a Class 2 to Class 1 historic resource. Those arguing against the upgrade said the building cannot be seen from the street and is in disrepair. Continuing the Class 2 designation will help pave the way for the Lower Merion School District to demolish the building as part of its plan to use the Islamic Foundation property as the location of a new middle school. The school district has made an offer on the Islamic Foundation property but maintained that three conditions must be met: the building remains a Class 2; the district gets the necessary zoning and building approvals for a school from the township; and it is able to find an additional seven to 10 acres of space for athletic fields. Although not an agenda item, the issue of the school district’s threat to take the Stoneleigh Garden property by eminent domain became a part of the discussion. Superintendent Robert Copeland said: “We do recognize the value of Stoneleigh as a natural garden. We have heard the concerns of community members and commissioners, and we agree; we have always agreed. There is not one board member who feels that building our school on Stoneleigh is our first choice. In fact, it is our last choice.” Township Board of Commissioners President Dan Bernheim said that 28,000 people have signed a petition to protect Stoneleigh.
Source: Main Line Times; 6/24/2018

EPA plans community event in Horsham to discuss water contamination
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will hold a community engagement session in Horsham to discuss water contamination in Montgomery and Bucks counties. The event will be held on Wednesday, July 25, at Hatboro-Horsham High School, 899 Horsham Road, with a work session from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a listening session from 4 to 9 p.m. For more information and to register, visit the EPA website. Over the past two years, 16 public wells and about 140 private wells have been shut down by contamination from perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in Bucks and Montgomery counties. The former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham, along with the active Horsham Air Guard Station, are thought to be the source of the contamination. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have been reporting on the issue and, as a public resource, have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available to subscribers and nonsubscribers on their websites — 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.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia transfer tax to increase July 1
City of Philadelphia has increased its share of the real estate transfer tax to be paid at closing from 3.10 percent to 3.278 percent effective July 1. Taking into account the additional 1 percent that is payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, all deeds submitted for recording on or after July 1 will be subject to transfer tax at the rate of 4.278 percent. View the city ordinance adjusting the rate by clicking here (PDF).
Source: Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors; 6/28/2018 

City council narrowly passes controversial tax on construction projects
By a razor-thin margin, Philadelphia City Council voted to implement a new tax on construction projects, a controversial measure designed to raise money for affordable housing but one that has divided some of the area’s most influential forces. Lawmakers said the tax will generate about $22 million annually. On one side of the legislation was Philadelphia’s politically powerful building trades unions, who argued that it would slow the city’s construction boom. On the other, Council President Darrell L. Clarke and activists said the city has to be a more affordable place to live. Even after the proposal’s passage, it’s unclear whether it will become law; Council sources said Mayor Kenney is likely to veto the bill. Kenney said he will decide what to do over the summer and consider alternative proposals. It takes 12 votes to override a mayoral veto. “I’m committed to increasing Philadelphia’s affordable housing stock and to promoting equitable growth, but I have concerns about this particular piece of legislation,” Kenney said. “Philadelphia is already considered by many to have a pretty onerous tax system, and it is certainly not clear that adding another tax is the best way to address our housing crisis.” The 1 percent tax on construction would help finance the city’s Housing Trust Fund, revenues from which could be used by developers to build housing for those households earning up to $105,000 a year.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/21/2018 

New Philly school board convenes next month
The much-heralded nine-member Philadelphia Board of Education will take the reins of the Philadelphia School District on Sunday, July 1, after the School Reform Commission officially dissolves. Members will elect officers, offer remarks, and appoint committees and committee chairs at the board’s first meeting, scheduled for Monday, July 9, at 5 p.m. at the school district’s headquarters, 440 N. Broad St. Immediately after the meeting, board members Julia Danzy, Leticia Egea-Hinton, Mallory Fix Lopez, Lee Huang, Maria McColgan, Christopher McGinley, Angela McIver, Wayne Walker and Joyce Wilkerson will hold a meet-and-greet with the public. Anyone wishing to speak at the meeting should register by calling 215-400-4180 by 10 a.m. that day.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/26/2018

 


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