NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Pennsylvania offers property tax/rent rebate program for seniors

Bucks County
Falls to discuss proposed sewer lateral ordinance

Chester County
County unemployment rate is so low, industries face a ‘labor shortage’

Delaware County
Upper Chichester meeting for Realtors®

Montgomery County
Reports point to ‘vibrant real estate market’ in Montgomery County

Philadelphia County
A thousand new homes are planned next to Graffiti Pier
 

 

News Briefs Archive June 24, 2019

 

General News

Wolf, lawmakers push for municipalities to pay for state police coverage
In Governor Wolf’s third consecutive budget cycle trying to impose a fee for state police services, he has proposed a sliding-scale fee based on the number of people who live in municipalities that rely on full-time state police-patrols. Pennsylvania State Police cover 3.3 million people in more than 80% of the state, including 800,000 people who have part-time coverage. The municipalities who rely on such coverage do not pay more for state police coverage than municipalities who have local police departments funded by property taxes. Most Harrisburg insiders believe Wolf’s plan has little chance of passage. Legislation introduced in the PA House and Senate would place an $8 per-person fee for municipalities up to 2,000 residents. The value increases $8 or $9 per person in 1,000-person increments up to $166 for populations of 20,000 people or more. Population figures, per the legislative bills, would be based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Some local officials in towns that would be affected are claiming the move would be double-taxation.
Source: Daily Times; 6/17/2019

Lack of affordable housing isn’t just a city problem
In announcing $3.4 million dollars in new grants to preserve affordable housing, state officials pointed out that rising housing costs are creating a shortage of affordable options in Pennsylvania suburbs and rural areas — not just in the cities. The new grants will fund projects in 10 jurisdictions across Pennsylvania, from suburban Montgomery County to rural Indiana County. According to the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), housing costs have doubled in Abington Township, Montgomery County, over the past 20 years. The township will receive a $500,000 DCED grant aimed at rehabbing eight houses for people earning low to moderate incomes. Kathy Possinger, director of DCED’s Center for Community and Housing Development, said the grants are one way “to assist boroughs, towns, townships and counties to address the growing need to preserve and grow affordable housing.” Affordable housing in suburban areas can be restricted by rising tax bills, upkeep costs of larger homes, rising poverty rates in some older suburbs, and a shortage of rental units that drives up the costs of the ones that are available. The grants were funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program, which covers home repair and rehabilitation work.
Source: Whyy.org; 6/3/2019

Bucks County

Warrington approves homestead exemption
Warrington Township supervisors unanimously passed a resolution establishing a homestead tax exemption. Pennsylvania’s Homestead Property Tax Exclusion Program Act of 1998 allows counties, municipalities and school districts to give tax relief to homeowners by reducing the assessed value of a property. Supervisors have not yet set an exact amount tied to the exemption, but the exemption is not to exceed one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property in the township, as assessed by the county, per state law. The median assessed value in Warrington is somewhere around $35,000, and, using the current tax rate of 16.12 mills, homeowners can expect a property tax bill of about $560. If Warrington approved a $2,000 exemption, the median home assessment would be reduced to $33,000 for township tax purposes — a reduction of about $30. The homestead exemption is not automatically given to every homeowner, and the sale of a home declared a homestead does not transfer the designation to the new owner, according to the law.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/17/2019

Elcon appeals Falls denial of waste treatment facility
Elcon Recycling Services has filed an appeal in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas after Falls Township supervisors voted on April 30 to reject a land development application for a hazardous waste treatment facility in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex. Elcon has suffered recent setbacks in its attempt to build the controversial plant, which would be capable of treating between 150,000 and 210,000 tons of chemical and pharmaceutical waste annually. On May 15, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a draft “intention to deny” Elcon’s application following a 10-month review process. The DEP decision is currently in a public comment period and Elcon could potentially submit alterations to its application and still win approval. As for the Falls’ decision, Elcon’s attorney said in a statement that the company believes township officials acted in “bad faith” and “failed to provide a legal basis” for the denial.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/18/2019

Palisades taxes to increase
In crafting its $46.7 million 2019-2020 budget, Palisades School District has limited its tax increase to 0.61%. The tax rate will increase from 114.3 mills to 115 mills for a median annual increase of about $27.50 per household. The 0.61% increase is less than the past four years of increases — 0.82%, 0.90%, 0.94%, and 0.88%. Prior to then, there were no increases for three consecutive years.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/13/2019

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero opens new district office
State Sen. Steve Santarsiero joined local and county officials in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his new district offices, located at 3 Terry Drive, Suite 201, in Newtown. The new location is one of two offices serving the 10th Senatorial District, which stretches from Falls Township to West Rockhill Township in the north. The other office is located at 2003 Lower State Road, Building 100, Suite 121, in Doylestown.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 6/18/2019

Chester County 

New zoning mulled for Devon Center District
Easttown Township’s Devon Center Task Force is discussing ways to change the zoning for Devon town center to make it more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and to capitalize on the proximity of the train station. The goals stem from the 2001 and 2018 Easttown comprehensive plans. Some residents are concerned that the proposal would change the zoning of the Devon Horse Show and another nearby parcel, the Lehman tract, from residential to commercial, putting pressure on the horse show to sell the land. The task force spent most of a recent two-hour meeting trying to come to a consensus on the various types of uses that would be permitted in the Devon Center District, either as by-right or conditional use. At an earlier “visioning” meeting, residents asked for: more public green space; a single cohesive plan; safer pedestrian access; limited development; adherence to the area’s character; no rezoning of residential land to commercial; a 35-foot height limit; and revitalization of the horse show. Additional meetings are set for Tuesday, July 9, and Wednesday, Aug. 7, both at 7 p.m. at the Easttown Township building. The task force will make its recommendations to the township planning commission, and from there the zoning will be taken up by the board of supervisors.
Source: Daily Local; 6/15/2019

Landscapes3 garners national, regional awards
Chester County’s newly adopted long-range comprehensive plan, Landscapes3, has received two national awards — an Award of Excellence from the American Planning Association’s County Planning Division, and an Achievement Award in Planning from the National Association of Counties. Additionally, the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association presented Chester County with its Public Leadership Award. Michelle Kichline, chair of the county commissioners, said, “The plan recommits to core principles that will position the county and its municipalities for success, including resource preservation, revitalized urban and suburban centers, housing diversity, transportation choices, collaboration and resiliency.” The county planning commission board and staff began implementing the plan after county commissioners adopted it in November 2018. “Some of the projects that are already underway include the ‘Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space’ study and a National Register Historic Resources Map,” said Kevin Kerr, the planning commission chairman. “The plan’s recommendations and implementation guidance are specific and provide a clear roadmap for implementation over the next 10 years.”
Source: Daily Local; 6/17/2019

Beware the spotted lanternfly, county says
Chester County is warning residents to be on the alert for the spotted lanternfly, a destructive, invasive pest that is threatening the agricultural, timber and ornamental industries in southeastern Pennsylvania. The spotted lanternfly is not harmful to humans. They do not sting or bite, but they can be very destructive to many crops, trees and plants. They also excrete a sticky substance that causes the growth of black sooty mold that is harmless to people but can kill trees and ornamental plants. Other types of insects can also cause this type of mold, so it is important to properly identify the cause of the mold, as prevention varies depending on the pest. For more information, visit the county website.
Source: Downingtown Borough; 6/6/2019

Chester seeks potential buyers for water authority
Chester City Council passed a resolution to explore the termination of Chester Water Authority (CWA) and to issue a request for proposal (RFP) seeking an interested buyer for the water system. The resolution states that the city’s negotiations with CWA leadership since March 2018 have failed to yield an acceptable agreement and the city’s best interests now lie in monetizing the CWA. The RFP states “the City intends to sell to the Offeror substantially all of the Water System Assets, including real and personal property, which it acquires from the Authority upon termination of the Authority as a matter of law,” excluding “cash, cash equivalents, insurance policies, certain books and records, and any assets which may not be sold as a matter of law.” The resolution and RFP hinge on the question at the core of the negotiations between the two parties since March 2018 — whether the city, as CWA’s original incorporator, has the ability to terminate and sell the authority. About 22% of the CWA’s 42,000 customers are in the city of Chester. The remaining 78% are elsewhere in Delaware and Chester counties. The CWA board, which has three members each from Chester City, Delaware County and Chester County, approved a resolution in January to enter a 40-year settlement with the city to avoid litigating the issue, approving a 10% rate hike to fund a one-time payment to the city of $60.28 million through a bond issuance. CWA assets would then be placed into a trust for the 40-year term. The city has not passed a resolution to enter the agreement.
Source: Daily Times; 6/14/2019

Willistown welcomes new township manager
Sally A. Slook will begin as township manager of Willistown on July 1. Slook has nearly 25 years of experience working in the public and private sectors, with the past 12 years in local government. Her previous roles include assistant township manager and township manager positions in the Philadelphia area. She holds a Masters of Public Administration degree from Villanova University.
Source: Daily Local; 6/16/2019

Delaware County

Chester seeks potential buyers for water authority
Chester City Council passed a resolution to explore the termination of Chester Water Authority (CWA) and to issue a request for proposal (RFP) seeking an interested buyer for the water system. The resolution states that the city’s negotiations with CWA leadership since March 2018 have failed to yield an acceptable agreement and the city’s best interests now lie in monetizing the CWA. The RFP states “the City intends to sell to the Offeror substantially all of the Water System Assets, including real and personal property, which it acquires from the Authority upon termination of the Authority as a matter of law,” excluding “cash, cash equivalents, insurance policies, certain books and records, and any assets which may not be sold as a matter of law.” The resolution and RFP hinge on the question at the core of the negotiations between the two parties since March 2018 — whether the city, as CWA’s original incorporator, has the ability to terminate and sell the authority. About 22% of the CWA’s 42,000 customers are in the city of Chester. The remaining 78% are elsewhere in Delaware and Chester counties. The CWA board, which has three members each from Chester City, Delaware County and Chester County, approved a resolution in January to enter a 40-year settlement with the city to avoid litigating the issue, approving a 10% rate hike to fund a one-time payment to the city of $60.28 million through a bond issuance. CWA assets would then be placed into a trust for the 40-year term. The city has not passed a resolution to enter the agreement.
Source: Daily Times; 6/14/2019

Delaware County passes resolution about pipeline safety concerns
Delaware County Council on June 12 passed a resolution reflecting growing concerns about the safety of current and proposed highly volatile liquids (HVL) pipelines in Delaware County. The “Resolution in Support of Public Safety” notes that the safety and welfare of the residents of Delaware County are of the utmost concern to Delaware County Council and calls on Governor Wolf to institute an immediate moratorium on the operation and transmission of all Sunoco current and proposed HVL pipelines in the county, continuing until there is a credible and practicable public response program and emergency response plan that accounts for the unique hazards of the HVL pipelines and the density and immobility of vulnerable populations within the impact radius. The resolution comes after measures had been taken by council to assess the safety of the pipelines running through the county. Read the full resolution online here.
Source: Marple Newtown Patch; 6/12/2019

Radnor commissioners approve stadium lights for Villanova
The Radnor Township Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with Villanova University regarding its stadium lights. As part of the agreement, the university will install new LED lights at the stadium that will nearly eliminate any light pollution from the stadium by Oct. 15. The new lights, which will be installed on the same six 100-foot-tall poles, will be pointed downward to only illuminate the field and “reduce light trespass” into the surrounding neighborhood. Residents questioned why the settlement hammered out between the township solicitor and Villanova’s lawyer had not been more transparent. The lights will be turned on no earlier than 6 a.m., and at 10 p.m. there must be no more than 50 foot-candles (a light measurement) at midfield.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 6/11/2019

Wallingford-Swarthmore taxes will rise 3.2%
Taxes are set to increase by 3.2% for property owners in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District beginning July 1. The school board approved the $84.6 million 2019-2020 budget on June 10. For a home assessed at the district average of $179,000 with a current annual school tax bill of about $8,100, the new budget would result in an additional $260 in taxes. Board member Damon Orsetti offered a defense of the boost in taxes before the vote. He stressed that he didn’t like the idea of raising taxes, especially since he represents one of the less-affluent sections of the district. “When I talk to my constituents, I know that our responsibility is to fully fund the schools,” he said. “We do not have many options.” Under the state’s Act 1 index for the district, Wallingford-Swarthmore’s tax hike would be limited to 2.3%, but the district is taking advantage of a permitted exception for special education costs that will tack on an additional 0.9%.
Source: Daily Times; 6/17/2019

Montgomery County

Pottstown brings busloads to school funding rally in Harrisburg
Three busloads of Pottstown activists were among more than 1,000 people who rallied at the state capitol in Harrisburg on June 12 to fight for fair education funding. They were there to bring attention to Pennsylvania’s education funding gap between poor and wealthy school districts. The funding gap is widely known as one of the worst in the nation and is due in part to overreliance on local property taxes to fund public schools and the state’s failure to fully implement a fair funding formula adopted in 2016. Currently, only 10% of Pennsylvania education funding is distributed according to the fair funding formula, which was devised and unanimously approved by a bipartisan commission. If all basic education funding were distributed via the fair formula, Pottstown would receive about $13 million more per year and would not be looking at cutting programs to balance its budget, but could instead add programs, increase teacher pay and cut local property taxes.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 6/14/2019

West Conshohocken conducting public opinion survey
In May 2019, West Conshohocken Borough Council engaged an outside firm to prepare a “vision plan” for the borough to serve as a planning tool for the next 10 to 20 years. The firm has opened a public opinion survey, which community members can take on the borough website.
Source: West Conshohocken Borough; 6/13/2019

Lansdale looking at parking options around train station
SEPTA will begin charging for parking in the Lansdale Station parking garage after Labor Day. Lansdale officials met with SEPTA to gather information about the effect that the $2 per day parking garage charge may have on free on-street parking. Officials expect commuters to scatter through the neighborhood, seeking free on-street parking, and SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel recommended the borough address the issue quickly to avoid a problem. The borough will host a public information session on a permit parking program within the next few weeks. The borough’s public safety committee agreed to try to move a proposal to the full council for advertisement in July and approval in August, with a target implementation date of Sept. 3. The proposed area encompasses portions of Walnut, Second, Third, Courtland and Green streets, and Susquehanna, Derstine and Richardson avenues.
Source: NorthPennNow.com; 6/6/2019

New river landing opens in Bridgeport
Kayakers and canoers can now paddle around the Norristown Dam safely after the opening of a new launch point in Bridgeport Borough. Schuylkill River Greenways Executive Director Elaine Paul Schaefer said, “At the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area, our mission is to connect people to the river. Building public launches allows us to accomplish that mission by making it easier for residents and visitors to get on the river so they’re able to enjoy this beautiful, natural resource.” For more information about landings along the river, visit the Schuylkill River Greenways website at www.schuylkillriver.org.
Source: Times Herald; 6/9/2019

Philadelphia

City Council punts on mandating lead inspections for pre-1978 rental homes
A bill that would require all rental units built before 1978 to be free of lead hazards is still stuck in Philadelphia’s City Council after its sponsor suddenly decided to pull it off the agenda. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown said she found an issue that has not been fully explored and wants to discuss with stakeholders before moving forward. A law enacted in 2012 to stop babies from being poisoned has proven not to be effective. Ten percent of children living in 16 zip codes in Philadelphia have elevated blood lead levels, according to 2014-2017 data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and 60% of them live in rental units. The current law only requires landlords renting properties built prior to 1978 to families with children 6 years old or younger to certify that a unit is free of lead. The city says that makes it unenforceable because there’s no way of knowing where kids under 7 years old live. According to city data, out of an estimated 22,000 rental units housing children of those ages, only 5,776 have complied with the regulation. Affordable housing advocates say it also creates unintended discrimination, because landlords prefer not to rent to families with children to skip the financial burden. Expanding the law to all rental units built before 1978 would solve these issues, advocates of the bill say. But industry lobbyists, such as the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia (HAPCO), argue the cost of remediating rental units would put low-income landlords out of business and that the city lacks the inspectors needed to enforce the law. Reynolds Brown said the bill was not going to be effective until July 1, 2020, so pushing the vote won’t necessarily affect children.
Source: Plan Philly; 6/14/2019

Potential for new school boundaries could upset housing market
In Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood — part of which is within the attendance (or “catchment”) zone for the acclaimed public K-8 Meredith School — development is booming. People pay a premium to buy homes in Meredith’s catchment zone (map), where, by one estimate, housing prices have climbed 261% since 2001. Meredith’s popularity has created a problem: The school now has more students than it’s supposed to hold. The Bella Vista neighborhood also sits in “Study Area 1,” meaning it’s in one of the first neighborhoods that will go through an unprecedented planning process announced recently by School District of Philadelphia officials. The just-unveiled “Comprehensive School Planning Review” will wind through every Philadelphia neighborhood over the next four years. Local committees will review enrollment predictions made by an outside firm and make planning recommendations, potentially including changes in grade configurations, school openings and closings, and even the rare shift in school boundary lines. District officials emphasize that new catchment lines are just one option on the table, and that community leaders will have a say in how these decisions play out in each neighborhood. Read more here.
Source: Plan Philly; 6/4/2019

A Philly neighborhood negotiated with a developer and won
The project at 2401 Washington Ave. will be one of a few new Philadelphia developments built with a community benefits agreement (CBA) at its foundation. The agreement, signed by the developer, Noah Ostroff of Philly Living, and the South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA), played a key role in fostering neighborhood support for the project, which will bring 80 new homes and 8,000 feet of retail to an industrial lot. SOSNA negotiated with Ostroff and his partner Michael Murray for months prior to the CBA’s signing and the subsequent introduction of a rezoning bill by City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. The legislation was needed for the project to advance without a visit to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. “It's the culmination of years of feedback and input that we’ve received around what residents want to see on Washington Avenue,” said David Zega, chairman of SOSNA. “It provides a lot of great things. Local hiring, neighborhood amenities, and most importantly workforce housing that will allow more people to have access to the resources and the community.” Ostroff’s development includes a mix of townhomes, duplexes and multi-family apartments, along with shops fronting on Washington Avenue. Fifty-four of the homes will be rentals and 26 will be for sale, divided roughly equally between one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units. The CBA stipulates that the developer reserve eight units — 10% of the total— to rent out for 60% of the area median income. According to this formula, a one-bedroom apartment would rent for $1,048, the developer said.
Source: Plan Philly; 5/30/2019



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