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 9, 2018

 

General News

Pennsylvania moving toward allowing corporate capital purchase deductions
A provision of the Pennsylvania budget package puts the state in line with a federal tax change letting corporations immediately expense 100 percent of a qualifying capital purchase. Lawmakers say Pennsylvania is perhaps the only state that isn't allowing the deduction. A House Appropriations Committee analysis says allowing the deduction will create a $102 million tax break in the coming fiscal year that starts July 1. But state Rep. George Dunbar (R-56) says the effect on state tax collections will eventually be revenue neutral. Lawmakers say the legislation would let corporations immediately deduct 100 percent of the cost of new and used capital investments, such as buildings and equipment. The temporary change would last for five years through 2022 before phasing down over five years.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/21/2018 

RRT compatible with MCOCA
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors’ Standard Forms Committee decided earlier this month to approve and publish a revised Repairs/Corrections Required by Third Parties Addendum to the Agreement of Sale (Form RRT). The revisions make Form RRT more compatible with new point-of-sale procedures following the passage of amendments to the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act (MCOCA). MCOCA sets guidelines that all municipalities must follow if use and occupancy permits are required prior to a sale (for a more in-depth review of MCOCA and its application, check out this article). Before these amendments, standards differed by municipality and were often a source of frustration for buyers and sellers. MCOCA requires that a municipality issue one of three types of use and occupancy permits for a property, depending on the nature and severity of violations found, which allows the transaction to continue to settlement. The old Form RRT was meant to address the point-of-sale inspection process under the old system, where the parties either updated the property to the satisfaction of the municipality prior to settlement or the buyer would put a sum of money into an escrow account for the cost of the repairs. Now that a permit must be issued and there is no need to delay settlement to account for repairs, some wording in Form RRT was changed to accommodate the new practice. Now, Form RRT is worded in a way that presumes that municipally-required repairs or improvements will be done after settlement, and that a buyer understands that he or she will take whichever type of use and occupancy permit is issued by the municipality. It also makes a distinction between municipally-required repairs and those which are mandated by a mortgagee or insurer (which are not in the jurisdiction of MCOCA). A draft of the RRT changes is available on the Standard Forms page of parealtor.org, filtered by “2018 revisions.” Read more here.
Source: PARJustListed; 6/22/2018

New law reduces timeframe for foreclosures
Changes to shorten the foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property were recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf. House Bill 653 (Masser, R-107) provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property, while maintaining appropriate protections for property owners. Local officials say that many properties in foreclosure are abandoned. These properties often become dangerous eyesores that reduce the property values of taxpaying homeowners in the neighborhood. Studies show that these properties also become prime locations for increased criminal activity, thereby reducing public safety. The foreclosure process in Pennsylvania currently can last from 300 to 540 days. This bill is expected to reduce the time frame for foreclosure on abandoned and vacant property by 240 days. This bill is the culmination of four years of work by the bicameral, bipartisan Blight Task Force. Since 2009, eight states have enacted expedited foreclosure laws as a way to help local governments and responsible taxpayers maintain and rebuild their communities. In addition, Wolf signed Senate Bill 667 (Stefano, R-32), which will grant redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks to increase opportunities to combat neighborhood blight. The legislation will allow established redevelopment authorities to fight against blight, saving time and money. Read more here.
Source: PARJustListed; 6/28/2018

Bucks County

Warminster Township to consider comprehensive plan update
Warminster Township will hold a public hearing on a comprehensive plan update, and may consider adoption of same, at its meeting on Thursday, July 19, at 7 p.m. in the township building, 401 Gibson Ave. A copy of the comprehensive plan update is available at www.warminstertownship.org and at the township building during normal business hours. All interested parties are invited to attend the hearing and participate.
Source: The Intelligencer; 6/29/2018

Bucks County assessment roll open for public inspection
The Board of Assessment Appeals of Bucks County has prepared the 2018 Real Estate Assessment Roll. The assessment roll will be open for public inspection on or before July 15 at the office of the Board of Assessment, located at the Bucks County Administration Building, 3rd Floor, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Any person aggrieved by his or her real estate assessment may appeal by filing a completed Bucks County Property Assessment Appeal form on or before Aug. 1 at the office of the Board of Assessment Appeals at the administration building. Appeal forms are available at the office of the Board of Assessment and online at www.buckscountyboa.org.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 7/2/2018

Nockamixon approves plan for Harrow Manor
Nockamixon Township supervisors formally approved long-delayed plans for a 77-acre combined residential-commercial development on Route 611 adjacent to Tabor Road. Harrow Manor was approved by Nockamixon supervisors over 10 years ago, but it has been on hold since the economic downturn of 2008-2009. The plan calls for 14 residential lots from two to 11 acres each, and an 11-acre commercial area. The project will be completed by developer-builder Sal Lapio Homes of Sellersville.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 7/2/2018

Taxes going up in Pennsbury
Pennsbury School Board members passed a final $207.6 million 2018-2019 school year budget that includes a 1.5 percent property tax increase. The total millage increases 2.48 mills to 167.54 mills, meaning a property assessed at the district average of $32,000 generates a tax bill of about $5,400. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. The budget includes $390,000 for school resource officers. Final details are yet to be worked out with Falls and Lower Makefield townships, which will assign municipal police full-time to four or five Pennsbury schools, according to Business Administrator Daniel Rodgers. Council Rock, Neshaminy, Morrisville and Quakertown Community are among the Bucks County school districts that have municipal officers assigned full-time to one or more of their schools.
Source: The Intelligencer; 6/24/2018

Sellersville seeks volunteers
Sellersville Borough is seeking a representative to serve on either or both of two panels — the Planning Commission and the Industrial Development Authority. The Planning Commission meets the third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the borough office, 140 E. Church St., Sellersville. This unpaid position is a four-year term and will commence immediately. The Industrial Development Authority meets annually on the third Monday of April at 7 p.m., also at the borough office. Additional meetings may be called as required by the chairperson. This unpaid position is a five-year term and will commence immediately. Interested parties should contact the Sellersville borough manager or email sellersville@sellersvilleboro.org no later than Friday, July 27. Click here for the borough website.
Source: Montgomery Publishing Group; 7/1/2018 

Chester County 

Coatesville Area School Board passes budget with 5.27% tax hike
At the end of a months-long budget approval process, which included several town hall meetings and public feedback from community members, the Coatesville Area School Board voted to approve the district’s 2018-2019 budget at a special school board meeting. The school board adopted the final version of the new budget, set at about $176 million, with a property tax increase of 5.27 percent, or 1.84 mills. Board members Robert Marshall, Tom Siedenbuehl and Brandon Rhone voted against adopting the budget. Board member Bashera Grove was absent from the meeting. The school board in April approved a preliminary budget that included an 8.4 percent tax increase, but subsequently looked for ways to cut costs in the district’s budget and met with state lawmakers to seek emergency funding. The district will be receiving approximately $1 million in state funding under Pennsylvania’s 2018-2019 budget, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on June 22.
Source: Daily Local; 6/29/2018

West Nantmeal set to adopt use and occupancy ordinance
West Nantmeal Township will consider adoption of an ordinance relating to property maintenance and use and occupancy certificates. The ordinance includes definitions, authorizes the township code official to administer and enforce the ordinance and conduct necessary inspections to determine compliance, establishes standards for exterior property and premises, establishes a procedure for issuance of a use and occupancy certificate upon transfer or sale of property or a change in tenants for commercial properties, establishes what items will be inspected prior to issuance of use and occupancy certificate, identifies a procedure for issuance of temporary use and occupancy certificate and issuance of temporary access certificate consistent with the state Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act. The Alliance staff has filed a Right to Know request for a copy of this ordinance. The Board of Supervisors will consider adoption of the ordinance after a public hearing on Monday, July 9, which will begin at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 455 N. Manor Road, Elverson.
Source: Daily Local; 6/29/2018

UCF passes budget with tax increase
Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors passed the 2018-2019 academic year budget, which calls for $87 million in spending and revenue and carries tax increases for district property owners. Property owners in Chadds Ford Township can expect a tax hike of 6.43 percent, paying 25.15 mills to the school district, while their Chester County counterparts will pay 28.51 mills, an increase of 0.35 percent. (A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.) Director Carolyn Daniels, who represents Region C, including Chadds Ford and Pennsbury Townships, voted against the budget in protest of the procedures required. According to District Business Manager Bob Cochran, those procedures are set by the state and by the different ways the counties assess properties. A copy of the budget proposal can be found here.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 6/19/2018

Officials receive spotted lanternfly update from USDA
Federal and state officials came together last week for an update on a grant program to help combat the spread of the spotted lanternfly, a pest that is native to Southeastern Asia and first appeared in the United States in Berks County. Congressman Ryan Costello helped secure $17.5 million in funding to combat the spotted lanternfly in residential areas, wooded areas and commercial agriculture areas. All three communities need specific approaches to combat the fly. The United States Department of Agriculture’s initial steps are to suppress the fly and stop its spread until it can be eliminated entirely. If Pennsylvanians notice the spotted lanternfly in their neighborhood, they should contact the Automated Invasive Species Report Line at 1-888-4BADFLY (422-3359).
Source: The Mercury; 6/28/2018

Delaware County

Upper Darby zoners approve new Drexeline plan
The proposed Drexeline Town Center, estimated to cost $120 million, was given a thumbs-up by Upper Darby’s zoning committee at their regular June meeting. The Town Center features demolition and redesign of existing tenants, including the ShopRite supermarket, Crozer-Keystone Medical Center, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo Bank and Anthony’s Restaurant. ShopRite and Anthony’s will remain open during construction, which will add a “super” Wawa, a 140-unit apartment building, an office building and a 120-unit storage facility. The small businesses currently on the property will remain open prior to demolition and welcome customers until their properties are affected. Additional reviews and permit applications could take months for the Town Center. Besides providing a walking trail along Darby Creek, adding an office facade on the storage facility, implementing stormwater management and reduction of impervious surface, the developer must provide deceleration lanes on State Road, unless prohibited or modified by PennDOT.
Source: Daily Times; 6/30/2018

Marple Newtown board approves tax increase
The Marple Newtown School Board approved the 2018-2019 school year budget with a 2.4 tax increase, the first tax increase in three years, bringing the millage rate to 18.4885 mills. The increase will provide approximately $1.5 million in additional revenue that will pay down $1.2 million in debt service. No money from the fund balance was committed to balance the budget. The $84.8 million budget is slightly smaller than the $85.4 million that was originally adopted in the proposed final budget.
Source: Delaware County News Network; 6/28/2018

Garnet Valley budget raises taxes
The Garnet Valley School Board passed a $107.03 million general fund budget for the 2018-2019 school year, after shaving about $172,000 from the proposed final budget passed in May. The budget increases expenditures by $3.2 million, or 3.1 percent, and raises real estate taxes by 2.32 percent, which is within the district’s Act 1 index of 2.4 percent. The millage rate for Chester Heights and Concord is 32.4876 mills. Bethel’s rate is 32.8590 mills, including 0.3714 mills for participation in Delaware County Community College. In Chester Heights and Concord, each $100,000 of assessed value would incur tax of about $3,250, a $75 increase over the current year. In Bethel, each $100,000 of assessed value would incur tax of about $3,286, also a roughly $75 increase. As part of the Act 1 legislation, which provides property tax relief offset by state gaming revenues and local income taxes, eligible homesteads in Garnet Valley will receive a tax credit of $219 on their school tax bills going out on July 1.
Source: Daily Times; 6/30/2018 

Radnor to ask court for permission to raze unsafe house on Sproul Road
The Radnor Board of Commissioners voted to ask a judge to allow the township to demolish a derelict house at 220 Sproul Road. The owner of the house is currently incarcerated. Solicitor John Rice said that the township zoning officer, Kevin Kochanski, had filed a notice of condemnation in May. The Sproul Road property has a tree through the roof and a partially collapsed roof. Kochanski estimated that it will cost $75,000 to $100,000 to demolish the house. He added that it was “causing blight on the surrounding properties.” Township officials will now get a court order to clear the house and put a lien on the property to cover the township’s costs when it is sold. According to Rice, there are a few other properties in the township that may also need to be condemned and go through the same process. The properties are “nuisances, they’re dangerous structures, and this is really only the effective solution,” Rice said.
Source: Daily Times; 7/1/2018

UCF passes budget with tax increase
Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors passed the 2018-2019 academic year budget, which calls for $87 million in spending and revenue and carries tax increases for district property owners. Property owners in Chadds Ford Township can expect a tax hike of 6.43 percent, paying 25.15 mills to the school district, while their Chester County counterparts will pay 28.51 mills, an increase of 0.35 percent. (A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.) Director Carolyn Daniels, who represents Region C, including Chadds Ford and Pennsbury Townships, voted against the budget in protest of the procedures required. According to District Business Manager Bob Cochran, those procedures are set by the state and by the different ways the counties assess properties. A copy of the budget proposal can be found here.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 6/19/2018

Montgomery County

Bureaucracy threatens Limerick Township home repair program
For over 20 years, Limerick Township has provided low-income residents with a federally funded program to help the township make repairs to homes whose residents could not afford them. The program is funded through the Community Development Block Grant Program and was put in place when Limerick’s median income was low enough to make it an “entitlement community.” The township’s median income has risen steadily, but it still has low-income residents who qualify for help repairing their homes. However, according to Township Manager Dan Kerr, the increasing number of rules attached to the CDBG funding is raising the costs of repair projects to the point that local tax money may be needed to boost the program. The administrative burdens are so high that Limerick and Conshohocken are the only Montgomery County municipalities that still maintain the program. Kerr said that the added administrative costs mean that they serve fewer people — last years’ allocation amounted to $198,000, with $24,000 of that being spent on administration. Added to the administrative costs are rules that require any dwelling on which repairs are conducted to be fully brought up to code, again restricting the number of people that can be helped. If Limerick were to decline the CDBG funding, Kerr said, the program would end because Limerick’s median household income is much higher and it is doubtful it could ever qualify again. Click here for more about the program in Limerick Township.
Source: The Phoenix; 6/26/2018 

Elkins Estate in Cheltenham eyed for redevelopment
New Jersey-based Landmark Developers hopes to buy the shuttered 42-acre Elkins Estate in Cheltenham for $6 million and spend up to $20 million for renovations. Development plans have yet to be finalized, but some ideas under consideration for the property include a distillery, adding a heliport, a spa, a 110-room boutique hotel, a luxury restaurant, a recording studio, a pool, and a bocce ball court. Newly revised zoning laws in Cheltenham will also allow the property to be taxed for the first time in recent history. The estate is currently owned by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci. In 2009, the Dominican Sisters sold the estate to the nonprofit Land Conservancy of Elkins Park, who intended to use it as a spiritual wellness center and events venue. The conservancy defaulted on mortgage payments, and the Dominican Sisters took back the estate. Residents are cautiously optimistic that the redevelopment plans will be successful. Landmark has a successful history of renovating historic properties, including the Logan Inn in New Hope. The company hopes to close on the property in November and estimates that renovations would take between 16 months and two years to complete.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 7/2/2018

New supermarket opens in Pottstown
An Aldi grocery store has opened at the Pottstown Center Shopping Center, 223 Shoemaker Road — a former grocery space that has been vacant for close to five years. The Pottstown Aldi features open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials. The store will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. “We’re committed to providing Pottstown residents with a simply smarter shopping experience,” said Bob Grammer, Center Valley division vice president for Aldi. For more information, visit www.aldi.us.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 6/26/2018

Philadelphia

Philadelphia transfer tax increase effective 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 are 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 

Philadelphia has no clear rules on bedbugs
All cities have bedbugs, but Philadelphia is the only one of the 10 most populated municipalities without clear rules for who is responsible for addressing them or how to report complaints. Attempts to create a policy have gone nowhere, because the city has balked at adding bedbug inspections to an already hefty caseload of complaints, and advocates for property owners made it clear they don’t want to be on the hook for expensive exterminations. Five years ago, city council created a task force to study Philadelphia’s bedbug issue, but none of the task force’s recommendations has been adopted into legislation. “There are obviously bedbugs in the city, but no one wants to be in charge of bedbugs,” said Michelle Niedermeier, who chaired the task force and now runs Philadelphians Against Bed Bugs. “Buildings fall down and L&I has to deal with that. The Health Department is wrapped up in the opioid crisis, funds get shifted, but meanwhile, no one is taking seriously the impact it has on humans.” City spokeswoman Deana Gamble said a bedbug policy is in the works but would not provide details. Philadelphia’s Property Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide a “safe and inhabitable” home,” free of pests and insects.” But the Department of Licenses and Inspections does not consider bedbugs to be its responsibility; rather, it concerns itself with pests that damage buildings, such as termites and carpenter ants.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 7/2/2018


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