NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
$11B budget package passes state legislature

Bucks County
Bucks County releases preliminary budget

Chester County
Valley Township to consider vacant property registration ordinance

Delaware County
Delco 2021 budget calls for no tax hike, significant job cuts

Montgomery County
Schwenksville eyes 22% tax increase

Philadelphia County
City council passes bill to curb real estate scammers

 

News Briefs Archive June 22, 2020

 

General News

MCAR, SWRA members approve merger to form Tri-County Suburban Realtors®
The Montgomery County Association of Realtors® and the Suburban West Realtors® Association are on track to merge into a new association after each organization’s members voted to approve the plan. The merger must still be approved by the National Association of Realtors®, after which it will become effective Jan. 1, 2021. The name of the new combined association will be Tri-County Suburban Realtors®. The services of the Suburban Realtors® Alliance will continue to be a benefit for members of the new association, as the Alliance continues to strengthen the industry at the grassroots level by advocating for pro-real estate policies across four Southeast PA counties. A website with details on the merger plan can be found at cometogether.us

Suburban Philadelphia Realtors® took the lead in reopening push
In May, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® issued a call to action, asking members to urge their state legislators to support House Bill 2412 to reopen real estate services. Realtors® in suburban Philadelphia responded forcefully. More than 2,700 Realtors from the Suburban Realtors® Alliance’s three shareholder associations took action, accounting for about 44% of the total statewide actions despite comprising roughly 35% of statewide membership. The strong grassroots support helped the bill pass both houses of the legislature, and nine members of the House changed from “no” to “yes” between the first and final vote. The bill was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Wolf, but the governor signed an executive order that took many of the same steps to reopen real estate. View a chart showing how various associations responded to the call for action here. 

Tenants and landlords seek rental assistance to fend off evictions
Two groups not typically on the same side of housing issues are agreeing that rental assistance is one way to help people struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. The Pennsylvania Apartment Association, which represents property owners and managers, and the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, which aids renters, fear tenants will be in trouble when extra federal unemployment benefits expire in July. The groups see rental assistance as a win-win because it will help landlords continue to operate and keep tenants in their homes. Pennsylvania has joined at least 12 other states and 52 cities or counties nationwide in creating a pandemic-related rental assistance program. Pennsylvania’s program was proposed by state Sen. Tom Killion (R-9) who said the program “is one of those things where the governor and the Democratic caucuses and the Republican caucuses all agreed on a good use for the federal funds we were receiving.” Pennsylvania is using money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and plans to distribute funds in the coming months. Click here for the full article from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/15/2020 

SCOTUS ruling on sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination has implications in Pa.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday that a federal civil rights law protects American workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity will have an immediate impact in Pennsylvania, where such protection is not firmly enshrined in state law. But it could also have a broader impact, potentially affecting how both state and federal courts will interpret existing anti-discrimination statutes and spurring new legislative efforts to bring Pennsylvania laws in line with the reasoning in the federal ruling. The Supreme Court held that because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination on the basis of sex, it necessarily prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, because the traits or actions that characterize someone who is gay or transgender would not be questioned if exhibited by someone of a different sex. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to almost all Pennsylvania employers with at least 15 employees. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) covers employers with at least four employees and also provides protections in housing and public accommodations. While the PHRA does not list sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission released guidance in 2018 that interpreted sex to include the broader protections. Commission Chairman Joel Bolstein said the Supreme Court’s decision vindicates the commission’s interpretation and will have implications beyond the employment context. “I simply don’t see how one could define the word ‘sex’ as it appears in the PHRA to mean one thing in the employment context, but something completely different in complaints involving housing, education and public accommodations,” Bolstein said. Click here for the full article, including details on stymied attempts in the state legislature to forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Source: PA Post; 6/16/2020 

PAR: Still wise to use COVID-19 forms
Despite loosening public health restrictions, the COVID-19 Property Access Notice (Form COVID-PAN) and the COVID-19 Health and Safety Acknowledgment (Form COVID-HSA) still have a place in Realtors’ routines. The Property Access Notice is an optional form that provides valuable information to consumers about health and safety recommendations. It includes questions that may be asked prior to entering a property, and an agreement that the signer of the form is going to assume the risk of COVID-related losses. The Health and Safety Acknowledgement contains similar notice and risk paragraphs, but also asks for the signer of the form to provide information about their current health as it relates to COVID exposure. Such written documentation will make contact tracing and proof of compliance much easier weeks or months from now when the information is needed. Read more on the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® JustListed blog.
Source: Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®; 6/11/2020

Bucks County

Bucks health director issues back-to-school guidelines
The Bucks County Health Department has issued guidelines to allow the county’s 13 school districts to reopen in the fall. Dr. David Damsker, health department director, said in a letter to district administrators that the safety advice will allow schools to implement “a safe and reasonably normal” reopening for in-person instruction. Each school district must enact its own health and safety plan for reopening. The health department is recommending that masks be worn on school buses and possibly in halls, but not in classrooms, except by adults who work closely with students and cannot do social distancing.

The health department also recommends:

  • Three-feet separation of seats in classrooms
  • Cafeteria seating be staggered and possibly assigned to enforce social distancing
  • Hallway traffic be minimalized and possibly staggered
  • Handwashing be strictly enforced

Parents and guardians must screen children for symptoms, as must district staff before leaving for work. The recommendations are not binding, but Damsker stressed that all plans developed should “center on the health and safety of students and staff.” School districts are working on their plans and will share them before the start of the school year.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/16/2020 

Lower Southampton hires consultant for zoning operations
Lower Southampton supervisors voted unanimously to hire a part-time consultant to replace its full-time zoning officer position. The move is estimated to save the township anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 a year. Township Manager Joe Galdo suggested the board use an outside firm rather than a full-time zoning officer after the resignation of Jeffrey Bartlett, the second zoning officer in less than two years. Supervisors voted to hire the Doylestown firm of Barry Isett and Associates to handle zoning matters including permits and land development plans. The firm will be paid $80 an hour for its work.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/16/2020 

Middletown works toward safe business reopenings
Middletown Township’s Economic Reopening Task Force is providing free “back to business” signs and social distancing floor decals as part of its “Middletown Safe” program. The township has also added resources for businesses on its website. They include links to several business loan and grant programs, links to reopening guidelines by industry for the yellow and green phases, and digital links to the sign packages.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/16/2020 

Safewise names Bedminster, Buckingham among safest cities in Pennsylvania
Two Bucks County towns made the top 20 in the Safewise annual Safest Cities report for Pennsylvania. Bedminster Township, with a population of about 7,200 and a median income of about $76,300, came in number 16. Buckingham Township, with a population of about 20,300 and a median income of about $119,600, came in number 19. Every city that made the Pennsylvania’s Safest Cities of 2020 list had violent crime rates of 0.5 or fewer incidents per 1,000, well below state (3.1) and national (3.7) rates. Click here for the full list and methodology.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/11/2020 

Rep. Ullman reopens district office
State Rep. Wendy Ullman (D-143) has reopened her district office, located at 1032 N. Easton Road, Suite C, in Doylestown. The office will be open by appointment from Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Constituents who need assistance must contact the district office by phone at 267-768-3670 or by email at RepUllman@pahouse.net to set up an appointment. Anyone entering the office must wear a mask.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/11/2020

Chester County 

West Brandywine to update peddling and soliciting ordinance
West Brandywine Township is considering draft ordinance 2020-03, which would replace Chapter 129 of the municipal code, regarding peddling and soliciting. The full text of the draft ordinance can be found on the township website. The ordinance notes that a license will be required to peddle and solicit in the township, and that a no-solicitation list of residents will be maintained. Under the “License Exemptions” section, the draft ordinance states, “The provisions of this Chapter shall not apply to … real estate agents and brokers licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” The township supervisors will consider the ordinance for adoption at their regular meeting on Thursday, July 2, at 7:30 p.m.
Appeared in: Daily Local News on Friday, 06/12/2020 

East Whiteland to consider digital billboards in series of meetings
East Whiteland Township supervisors will hold three public hearings and may vote on East Whiteland Outdoor LLC's application to "construct freestanding, electronic double-sided off premises signs." The hearings will take place on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m., and each will be for a conditional use application at a different location: 32 Lancaster Ave. on June 23; 323 E. Lancaster Ave. on June 29; and 104-106 Lancaster Ave. on June 30. The hearings will be held at the East Whiteland Township Municipal Building located at 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, and will be livestreamed via the township website.
Source: Daily Local; 6/9/2020 

Conestoga High School expansion begins
Tredyffrin Township School District officials broke ground for a multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation project at Conestoga High School. The 65,000-square-foot expansion and renovation will include 11 additional regular classrooms, three additional special education classrooms, four additional science labs, an additional art room, a fabrication lab, a large atrium area and a large flexible learning space. The work will also expand the library, the nurse suite, student services suite and the cafeteria to better accommodate increasing enrollment. Additionally, outside infrastructure improvements, 94 additional parking spaces, and a sports bus queue in front of the gyms will be built. The work is scheduled to wrap up by 2022 and cost $39.6 million. The expansion is needed due to increasing student enrollment.
Source: Daily Local; 6/12/2020 

PennDOT completes $6.1M replacement of Route 322 bridge connecting East, West Bradford
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced the completion of the U.S. 322 (Downingtown Pike) bridge replacement over the east branch of the Brandywine Creek in East Bradford and West Bradford townships. Construction operations began in November 2018 to build the new two-span, concrete bridge structure downstream of the existing crossing on a new alignment extending from the intersection of U.S. 322 and Sugars Bridge Road to the intersection of U.S. 322 and Skelp Level Road. The project was driven by the need to replace the existing steel beam bridge that was built in 1929 and was listed in poor condition. While major construction on the bridges is completed, the contractor will be performing various minor construction activities, including sign and pedestrian signal installation over the next few weeks with no impact to traffic.
Source: Daily Local; 6/16/2020  

State Rep. Lawrence to introduce bill requiring referendum before CWA sale
Legislation recently introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would require ratepayers to approve the sale of a public utility. Introduced by Rep. John Lawrence (R-13), the bill would directly impact any proposed sale of Chester Water Authority (CWA) by providing ratepayers the ability to approve or veto proposals to sell the authority. “This bill is about consumer protection and giving a voice to people most impacted by any proposed utility sale,” Lawrence said in a press release. The proposal will be introduced shortly as House Bill 2597 and referred to committee. It has also been filed as amendment A06122 to House Bill 1718, which could be considered as soon as the House returns to session.
Source: Daily Local; 6/15/2020 

U-CF board passes $90.6M budget, approves sports plan
Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board members unanimously approved a $90.6 million budget for 2020-2021. The budget would set real estate taxes at 29.07 mills in Chester County — a decrease of 0.31% from the previous year — and 25.99 mills for property owners in Delaware County — an increase of 1.09%. The school board also passed, by a 6-3 vote, a plan for conducting sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summer Athletics Health and Safety Plan (PDF) includes procedures for coaches — such as designing risk mitigation strategies like social distancing and handwashing — and athletes, such as discussing health concerns with coaches and avoiding congregating with teammates. Screening procedures will be established, and all athletes and coaches must participate in an educational session on COVID-19.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 6/16/2020

Delaware County

Ridley schools finalize budget with no tax increase
Ridley School District passed a 2020-2021 budget with no tax increase, despite a $3.2 million increase in expenses over the current budget. The budget calls for general fund expenditures of $114.3 million with the real estate millage rate remaining at 41.3 mills. A proposed budget in May had called for a tax increase of 1.4 mills, which would have translated into a roughly $140 hike for a house assessed at the average of $100,000. "It was a financial risk being taken out of concern for individual community members," Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel said of the final budget. "It will require the board to begin determining the deeper program eliminations that will be required as part of the 2021-2022 budget." Wentzel outlined factors that will increase expenses for the upcoming school year, including COVID-19 safety equipment, rising special education expenditures, medical benefits and prescription drug cost increases, pension costs, and charter school tuitions for 87 students accounts. To answer increasing expenses, the district has approved restrictions for temporary positions and overtime. No work-study student workers will be permitted to be hired, and retiring staff will be replaced only as needed. There will be a reduction in discretionary spending and all non-contractual travel is eliminated. Read more here.
Source: Daily Times; 6/15/2020 

U-CF board passes $90.6M budget, approves sports plan
Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board members unanimously approved a $90.6 million budget for 2020-2021. The budget would set real estate taxes at 29.07 mills in Chester County — a decrease of 0.31% from the previous year — and 25.99 mills for property owners in Delaware County — an increase of 1.09%. The school board also passed, by a 6-3 vote, a plan for conducting sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summer Athletics Health and Safety Plan (PDF) includes procedures for coaches — such as designing risk mitigation strategies like social distancing and handwashing — and athletes, such as discussing health concerns with coaches and avoiding congregating with teammates. Screening procedures will be established, and all athletes and coaches must participate in an educational session on COVID-19.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 6/16/2020  

Sunoco Pipeline invokes eminent domain at Middletown apartment complex
Sunoco Pipeline L.P. is invoking public domain over a piece of property at Glen Riddle Station Apartments in Middletown Township as it constructs the Mariner East 2 pipeline. According to a public notice, the company “is exercising its power of eminent domain pursuant to Section 1511(a) of Title 15 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, which states that: A public utility corporation shall … have the right to take, occupy and condemn property for one or more of the following principal purposes and ancillary purposes reasonably necessary or appropriate for the accomplishment of the principal purposes: (2) The transportation of … petroleum or petroleum products … for the public.” The purpose of the condemnation is to “construct and install pipelines and other appurtenant facilities including, but not limited to, above-ground markers, test stations and cathodic protection equipment for the purpose of transporting petroleum and petroleum products including but not limited to ethane, propane, and liquid petroleum gas for the public.” The property owner has 30 days to appeal the condemnation. View a map of the pipeline route here.
Source: Daily Times; 6/13/2020 

Marple to update dangerous dog ordinance
Marple Township plans to update its “Vicious Dogs” ordinance. The proposed amendment, which can be found on Page 10 of the June 8 commissioners meeting agenda, changes the word “vicious” to “dangerous” throughout Chapter 95 of the township code. It also eliminates a list of specific breeds categorized as dangerous, instead describing types of behaviors that define a dangerous dog. The ordinance describes the types of enclosures that must be used to confine such dogs, such as the interior of a dwelling or “outdoors in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure, suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the dog from escaping [with] secure sides and a secure top.” The proposed ordinance will be the subject of a public hearing on Monday, July 13, during the regular meeting of the township board of commissioners.
Source: Daily Times; 6/15/2020 

State Rep. Lawrence to introduce bill requiring referendum before CWA sale
Legislation recently introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would require ratepayers to approve the sale of a public utility. Introduced by Rep. John Lawrence (R-13), the bill would directly impact any proposed sale of Chester Water Authority (CWA) by providing ratepayers the ability to approve or veto proposals to sell the authority. “This bill is about consumer protection and giving a voice to people most impacted by any proposed utility sale,” Lawrence said in a press release. The proposal will be introduced shortly as House Bill 2597 and referred to committee. It has also been filed as amendment A06122 to House Bill 1718, which could be considered as soon as the House returns to session.
Source: Daily Local; 6/15/2020

Montgomery County

‘Green energy’ plant gets necessary rezoning in Pottstown
Pottstown Borough Council voted unanimously to approve a new overlay zoning district along Keystone Boulevard. The overlay will allow for construction of a new $142 million green energy plant. The proposed plant will convert cellulose into diesel fuel and is expected to generate about $39,000 a year in wage taxes and $551,000 in property taxes for Pottstown. The site sits on 10.33 acres along the border with West Pottsgrove. The entire project was brought as the result of the special planning area along the river — called the Keystone Employment and Economic Plan (KEEP) — to which both Pottstown and West Pottsgrove Township belong. Construction is slated to begin in June 2021 and would take 18 months to complete.
Source: Digital Notebook blog & Pottstown Mercury; 6/17/2020 

Collegeville to consider human relations ordinance
Collegeville Borough Council will consider enacting a human relations ordinance and establishing a human relations commission. The proposed ordinance will be considered Wednesday, July 1, at 7 p.m. via Zoom video teleconference or in person at Borough Hall, 491 E. Main St. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available for review on the borough website. Members of the public wishing to listen in on the meeting or submit questions and comments should visit the borough website.
Source: Times Herald; 6/10/2020 

Taxes up 3.5% in Upper Perkiomen School District
School property tax bills in the Upper Perkiomen School District will go up 3.48% for the 2020-2021 school year, even though the $66.7 million budget does not increase the tax millage rate from its current rate of 25.2278 mills and draws $2.2 million from district savings. The reason, according to district business administrator Sandra Kassel, is the method the district uses to equalize millage among the seven municipalities in two counties (Montgomery and Berks) that comprise the district. Upper Perkiomen uses something called the "state tax equalization board ratio" to create "a uniformed assessed value to market value throughout the school district." The median assessment in the Montgomery County portion of the district, for purposes of tax calculation, is about $129,000 for an annual increase of $136.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 6/12/2020 

Report shows water quality surpassed standards
Pennsylvania American Water, which serves customers in the Royersford, Phoenixville and Norristown areas, recently issued results of an annual consumer confidence report that it said showed the company’s water quality during 2019 “met or surpassed all standards” set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection. The report is available online and is searchable by zip code and distance. The report compares the quality of water supplied by Pennsylvania American against drinking water standards established by both agencies. It also provides local drinking water source information and test results, including the levels of substances detected in the water. The company collects and tests 15,000 water samples across its systems every month.
Source: Sanatoga Post; 6/15/2020

Philadelphia

Philadelphia budget hole grows to $749M
Two weeks before officials must finalize a spending plan, the city now faces a $749 million budget hole — $100 million more than the revised spending plan Mayor Jim Kenney put out after the novel coronavirus pandemic cratered the economy. The new $100 million budget shortfall was due to downward revenue projections for the city’s sales tax and Realty Transfer Tax in the current fiscal year, said city budget director Marisa Waxman. The city’s sales tax for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, was expected to haul in $32 million less than originally projected ($195 million), while revenues for the Realty Transfer Tax dropped $25 million ($319.5 million). Waxman said the revenue reductions for the city’s sales tax and Realty Transfer Tax in the current fiscal year put the city in a “worse starting place for an opening fund balance to start FY21.” The updated estimates erased the city’s projected $87 million fund balance, or surplus, for the next fiscal year, creating a deficit in Kenney’s $4.9 billion proposed budget, which included no property tax increase. City officials must pass a balanced budget by July 1. Click here for the full article from the Philadelphia Tribune.
Source: Philadelphia Tribune; 6/15/2020  

Company buying refinery promises 18,000 jobs within 10 years
Hilco Redevelopment Partners, the company approved to buy Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex in South Philadelphia, projects that its multibillion development plan will create 8,000 union construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs over a 10-year period. A Hilco executive presented part of the company’s plan for the 1,300-acre site at a recent city council hearing. According to Jeremy Grey, Hilco’s executive vice president of industrial development, the former refinery will come back to life as a state-of-the-art logistics park, with 13 million to 15 million square feet of logistics centers, taking advantage of the rail and maritime infrastructure of the site and its proximity to Philadelphia International Airport. At the same meeting, the council’s finance committee advanced a bill that would extend the refinery’s Keystone Opportunity Zone status beyond its expiration at the end of the year.
Source: Whyy.org; 6/16/2020

 
Email grassroots@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com to receive our weekly News Briefs. It's as simple as submitting your contact information so we can create a user profile.

Designed and delivered by Accrisoft