Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Biden administration extends forbearance and foreclosure protections
Big developments move forward in Bucks
Phoenixville to consider repeal of per capita tax
Media’s open space, parks and recreation survey closes soon
Lower Merion ranked among best places to live and work from home
‘Once-in-a-generation’ anti-poverty plan sends $4.5M to community groups
Report: 60% of Pennsylvania school districts heading for fiscal stress
According to a report by the Temple University Center for Regional Politics, the $210 million increase in education funding in the new state budget is not enough to stave off a looming financial crisis in Pennsylvania public schools. Unfunded mandates, including retirement costs and charter school tuition, will soon exceed the amount of state aid many districts receive. The report also contends that the divide between wealthy and poor school districts, already one of the worst in the nation, may soon be irreversible if the state does not take on a greater share of school funding. Click here for the article or view the report on the Temple website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 6/30/2019
Bills would regulate drinking water near PFAS-contaminated air bases
A package of federal bills addressing a chemical linked to major health issues has been voted unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The chemicals in question — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS — are found in firefighting foam on military bases, such as the former Naval Air Station in Willow Grove, where it has seeped into the groundwater. The bills would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a national drinking water regulation within two years, and the chemicals would be added to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory list. According to a study conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, people who live near military bases retain twice the amount of PFAS than the national average, which can lead to health issues such as increased cholesterol, thyroid problems and potentially cancer.
Source: KYW; 6/24/2019
A disturbing trend is emerging around U&O inspections
A trend is emerging among some municipal code inspectors in our area — they're asking home buyers to sign away their rights. Per state law, buyers have 12 months to make repairs cited in a use-and-occupancy inspection. But Downingtown Borough, for example, has a "U&O Waiver Form" on its website in which buyers agree to make all repairs within 30 days of the closing of the sale. These 30-day affidavits are popping up in municipalities across the region. The Alliance has been addressing these situations on a case-by-case basis while working toward setting a legal precedent that would force these municipalities to obey the spirit of the law, not just the letter. If your clients are being asked to sign such an affidavit, please contact us.
Morrisville School Board approves 6.3% tax increase
The Morrisville School Board approved a nearly $21 million budget for 2019-2020 that will increase the tax rate by 6.3%. The tax increase of 13.0282 mills brings the total millage rate to 219.8249 mills, with one mill being equal to a tax of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. A property assessed at the school district average of $18,400 can expect an additional $239 in yearly taxes for a total school tax bill of $4,045. The school board previously rejected increases of 8.63%, which would have preserved all programs and raised enough money to start replenishing the district’s fund balance, and 2.3%, which would have meant $484,000 in program cuts, said Superintendent Jason Harris. School board members said that program cuts were off the table. “If we give up programs, more families will opt for charter schools, which in turn forces our charter school costs up,” said Donna Getty, school board vice president. Administrators and board members cited state mandates that are not funded at all or not to an adequate level by the state. Throughout the budget approval meeting, board members urged residents to get in touch with their state legislators and push for more state funding for public education.
Source: The Intelligencer; 7/1/2019
New public water, sanitary sewer inspection requirements by Northampton Authority
The Northampton Municipal Authority has made amendments to its rates, rules and regulations regarding fees and certifications for public water and sanitary sewer. The authority adopted Resolution No. 2019-1219, regarding access to customer property to determine compliance with Northampton Township Ordinance No. 492 about unlawful connections, such as sump sumps, roof leaders, and ground and floor drains that are connected to the public sanitary sewer system. The inspection and fee changes take effect on June 1. Click here (PDF) to read the new requirements and a FAQ. Contact the authority at 215-357-8515, not Northampton Township, for more information.
Source: Northampton, Bucks County, Municipal Authority; 4/2019
Hilltown gives preliminary approval to five-home development
Hilltown supervisors granted preliminary approval to a proposed development plan for an eight-acre property on Minsi Trail near Schwenkmill Road. The five-home development, proposed by Lynn Builders, will include a new road off Minsi Trail and will be served by public water and sewer. The developer hopes to gain final land development approval in the fall and possibly begin construction by the end of the year. The homes will likely be priced in the mid $500,000s range.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/27/2019
2-1-1 phone service launches in Bucks County
Bucks County residents who need help with anything from financial assistance to mental health and substance abuse counseling can now find it by calling one number: 2-1-1. The service is free and staffed 24/7. Callers are connected to local health and human services organizations to help with food insecurity, financial problems, housing and utility issues, childcare, mental health, drug use, employment, transportation problems, disaster relief, legal aid and more. 2-1-1 is funded nationally by the United Way and receives no federal aid.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 7/1/2019
Surveillance cameras installed in West Chester to fight crime
Twenty-four hours per day, cameras are scanning several busy uptown areas in West Chester. Cameras are located in the Bicentennial and Chestnut Street garages, at the Gay and Walnut street and High and Market street intersections, at the municipal building, and on Miner Street. Another camera location is planned for uptown. “Cameras are an effective tool in deterring, and more notably, capturing those responsible for crime after it has occurred,” Police Chief Scott Bohn said. Bohn noted that total crime and serious crime in the borough are down almost 50 percent in the past 8 years.
Source: Daily Local; 6/24/2019
Opportunities open for farmland preservation program
The Chester County Department of Open Space Preservation and the county Agricultural Land Preservation Board are accepting applications for two competitive farm preservation programs — the Chester County Farmland Preservation Program and the Chester County Challenge Grant Program. To date, over 500 farms totaling more than 40,000 acres have been preserved through these programs. The county pays farm owners for their development rights in exchange for a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property. The owner still owns the land and can sell or pass it on to the next generation, as long as it remains in agriculture. Farms with 10 acres or more are eligible for both programs if they are adjacent to other permanently preserved land. For farms not adjacent to permanently preserved land, the acreage minimum is 50 acres for the Farmland Preservation Program and 25 acres for the Challenge Grant Program. The application deadline for both programs is Thursday, Aug. 1. Learn more here.
Source: Daily Local; 6/24/2019
New Garden meetings set to decide how to best use St. Anthony in the Hills
New Garden officials are planning a series of public meetings to determine how to best utilize the 137.5-acre St. Anthony in the Hills property it purchased last year for $1.5 million. The property is located in the area just southwest of the intersection of Route 41 and Route 7, close to the Delaware border. For many years, St. Anthony’s was used as a retreat and recreational facility. It was founded as a public park by the late St. Anthony’s pastor Rev. Roberto Balducelli and used as a sanctuary for inner-city Wilmington children. “There will be public meetings and a master site plan committee, in which residents of the township can participate,” New Garden Township Manager Tony Scheivert said. “It is such an expansive property, and the public meetings will determine the recreation amenities the people want to see.” The park has a massive swimming pool, an amphitheater that seats more than 2,000 people, a barn, a miniature golf course and even bocce courts. Visit the township website for meeting information.
Source: Daily Local; 6/25/2019
Phoenixville Mayor Urscheler recognized as ‘Outstanding American'
Peter Urscheler, who in 2017 at age 34 was elected mayor of Phoenixville, was recognized recently as one of “10 outstanding Americans for 2019” by JCI USA, the United States Junior Chamber or “Jaycees.” The youngest mayor in the borough’s 170-year history, Urscheler has championed affordable housing, increased services for senior citizens, public transportation, education for economically disadvantaged families, total equality protections and environmental sustainability. “We are the quintessential story of a Pennsylvania steel town: strong and innovative,” said Urscheler. “Working together, we have risen from the ashes and reinvented ourselves. I’m simply a reflection of all the incredible people in my community and in my life.” Each year, JCI USA, a nonprofit founded in 1920, recognizes 10 people under age 40 for business or entrepreneurial accomplishment, political achievement, and humanitarian or voluntary leadership.
Source: Mercury; 6/19/2019
Lansdowne Borough considering adoption of EIT
The Lansdowne Borough Council will consider the adoption of an ordinance establishing an earned income tax at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 18. The ordinance will establish an earned income tax at the rate of one-half of one percent (0.5%). The earned income tax would diversify the tax base of the borough and allow the borough to lower property taxes for its residents. Approximately $350,000 of revenue will be derived from the earned income tax. The ordinance, if enacted, will go into effect in 2020. Read more about it on the borough website.
Source: Daily Times; 6/25/2019
Upper Chichester meeting planned for Realtors®
Realtors® are invited to an informational meeting in Upper Chichester Township. The meeting will provide an overview of Maplink, an interactive zoning map tool, plus new welcome packets for homeowners, Route 322 expansion, economic development in the township and other topics. The meeting will take place on Monday, July 22, at 3 p.m. in the municipal building, 8500 Furey Road Extension, Boothwyn. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP online.
Taxes going up in Interboro School District
The Interboro School Board unanimously passed an approximately $70 million 2019-2020 school year budget. The budget includes a 2.9% tax increase that will bring in $1.2 million more in real estate taxes to serve the district of 3,400 students and more than 600 staff members. The new millage rate for the year will be set at 38.1767, positioning the district’s rate in the middle among the county’s 14 other districts. For the average assessed district home of $88,000, the tax bill will increase $95. Local tax resources account for 64% of revenue streams in the district, with the state accounting for 34%.
Source: Daily Times; 6/21/2019
Upper Darby OKs grant process for open space purchase
Upper Darby Township Council approved a resolution to pursue a grant to purchase a piece of open space in the township. Council gave its consent for Mayor Tom Micozzie to sign off on all appropriate agreement documentation for a $250,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to purchase over six acres of the St. Eugene’s Parish property in the Primos section of the township. The total cost of the land is $628,000. The township has an agreement of sale with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with the sale expected to close in the fall after notification of grant awards has been made, according to Micozzie. Residents in that area of the township organized in the mid ’90s to rezone the St. Eugene’s property from R-2 residential to RC-1 to protect the open space there from future development. The township’s plan to buy the land has been in the works for two years.
Source: Daily Times; 6/21/2019
County holds public forum on new voting system options
Delaware County residents are invited to discuss the five new proposed voting systems during a public forum on Tuesday, July 9, at 4 p.m. in the Delaware County Council Public Meeting Room, 201 W. Front St., Media. The public forum, hosted by the County’s Board of Elections and Delaware County Council, is being held to allow public input on five new proposed voting systems. In April 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of State notified all counties of a Dec. 30, 2019, deadline to select a new voting system that provides a voter-verified paper record that can be audited. The new systems are to be in use no later than the 2020 primary election.
Source: Daily Times; 6/29/2019
Lansdale unveils permit parking zone plan
Lansdale borough officials have unveiled their plan to prevent SEPTA commuters from parking in neighborhoods surrounding the train station. SEPTA recently announced it will begin charging $2 per day for parking in the Lansdale Station parking garage after Labor Day, and officials expect commuters to scatter through the neighborhood in search of free on-street parking. Police Chief Michael Trail and Borough Manager John Ernst have proposed that two new zones be created that would fall under Lansdale’s current permit parking regulations in effect near the Pennbrook SEPTA station. The proposed area encompasses portions of Walnut, Second, Third, Courtland and Green streets, and Susquehanna, Derstine and Richardson avenues. Residents within the designated zones would be able to apply for a parking permit at no charge and will be able to register more than one vehicle. Enforcement will most likely only be done during the hours specified under the current ordinance, weekdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the Public Safety Committee are looking for feedback from residents and commuters on the proposed plan, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. “This is the beginning of a conversation, not the end," Trail said. Borough officials hope to have a parking plan on the books by Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Source: The Reporter; 6/28/2019
SEPTA dedicates $34 million for new Ardmore Station
SEPTA authorities recently announced that a new $34.2 million train station in Ardmore could be open by 2022. Work is expected to begin in the fall and will replace the existing station. Although not included in the current plan, SEPTA intends to eventually build a 500-spot parking garage next to the station. Construction will displace parking spaces near the station, but SEPTA is in negotiations with an adjacent property owner for temporary spaces. SEPTA has a 12-year plan to spend $613 million to upgrade infrastructure, including modernizing stations to make them compliant with federal disability access requirements.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/28/2019
Red Hill officials discuss proposed housing development
The borough council and planning commission of Red Hill Borough recently held a joint meeting — and has scheduled another one — to discuss amendments to the village overlay in the zoning ordinance for a proposed housing development on Hendricks Road. The sketch plan presented by the developer, Kershner Village LLC, includes 38 single-family homes and 51 townhomes. The borough council agreed to allow a cul-de-sac in the development, which was not previously permitted. The council supported the reduction of the minimum lot size of townhomes from 2,400 to 1,900 square feet with an increase of the impervious surface from 65% to 70%. Regarding single-family lots, however, the council was not able to come to a consensus on allowing increasing building coverage area from 20% to 40% and reducing lot size from 7,000 to 6,500 square feet, changes that would increase the impervious coverage on the lots from 35% to 50%. The developer said that the change was due to a trend of “people wanting big houses on small lots.” The townhomes may have a total of 20 units in a row without a break, or four buildings with five units each. The next joint meeting to discuss Kershner’s requested zoning amendments has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 9, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 56 W. Fourth St. Visit www.redhillborough.org for up-to-date meeting information.
Source: Town and Country News; 6/28/2019
Cheltenham issues soliciting ordinance reminder
Cheltenham has issued a reminder to residents and potential solicitors regarding the township’s soliciting ordinance. Ordinance 2263-13 requires companies to register each individual for a permit if they intend to solicit door-to-door. Nonprofits and political organizations do not have to secure a permit or register, though some register anyway. The township also has a “Do Not Solicit” registry that allows residents to enroll in the program. Properly permitted solicitors will be provided with a list of residences on the registry with strict instructions not to visit those properties.
Source: Cheltenham Township; 6/27/2019
Council president wants to increase transparency of city land sales
A new bill introduced at Philadelphia City Council’s final session before summer recess aims to increase the transparency and efficiency of Philadelphia’s politicized process for selling vacant city land. The bill would also reduce council’s own power over municipal land sales by eliminating the opaque Vacant Property Review Committee. “We want to fold all the publicly owned land into one inventory and have one policy as it relates to it,” the bill’s sponsor, City Council President Darrell Clarke, said. “We want to make it a much more palatable process for both developers and the community.” The bulk of the city’s publicly held land is split between the Department of Public Property, the Redevelopment Authority and the Philadelphia Land Bank. Clarke’s legislation is meant to codify a uniform land disposition policy between them. Clarke’s new legislation, which will be debated in the fall, spells out a precise time frame and guidelines for the city’s competitive land sales. It includes a provision that requires the agency to decide which purchaser to sell land to within 180 days of the close of the bidding process.
Source: Plan Philly; 6/20/2019
Philadelphia to launch citywide composting network
Philadelphia plans to create a citywide network of up to 25 composting sites designed to reduce food waste and create organic soil for residents to use for gardens and crops. The Community Compost Network — a partnership of the city’s sustainability office, parks department and other agencies — requested volunteers to host the sites, noting that good locations would be city-owned land used by urban farms, civic organizations, community gardens, recreation facilities or schools. Ideally, composting sites would be spread evenly across the city. Residents would bring their food and yard waste to a location near their neighborhoods, and soil that’s created after the waste breaks down would be used within those communities. Residential composting is part of the city’s Greenworks Sustainability and Zero Waste and Litter Action plans. Diverting organic food scraps from landfills to reduce the city’s overall waste stream is a primary goal. Philadelphia’s effort is modeled after a Washington, D.C., program and funded by a Comcast grant.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/19/2019
Councilman Squilla introduces bills to make it easier to reuse Philadelphia’s historic buildings
Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced legislation aimed at incentivizing preservation of historic buildings — something developers often claim can be too difficult and too expensive. Three bills, which came at Mayor Jim Kenney’s request, were introduced roughly two months after Kenney announced a slate of historic preservation priorities. Those ambitions, spurred by recommendations from the task force he formed to study the issue in 2017, range from ideas like creating an inventory of all Philadelphia’s historic buildings, to procedural steps like streamlining the historic nomination and designation process. Squilla’s bills are designed to reduce the extra planning and money that developers usually must spend when converting historic properties — two obstacles that have in the past made it far easier to demolish a structure and rebuild anew. The bills, which will likely not be heard in committee until city council resumes in September, focus on three areas: parking, zoning and “accessory dwelling units,” such as “mother-in-law” suites and basement rental units in single-family homes. All the bills would apply only to buildings that are designated as historic by the Philadelphia Historical Commission, or buildings that are within a historic district and that contribute, in the commission’s opinion, to the historic district’s character.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/21/2019