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
Wolf administration considers lead exposure initiative
Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Department of Human Services (DHS) is exploring the possibility of using Medicaid funds to pay for primary prevention measures that focus on identifying and reducing the sources of environmental childhood lead exposure. “It’s wise for Pennsylvania to consider opportunities to leverage Medicaid funds to combat the detrimental impacts of lead,” Gov. Wolf said. “If it’s approved by the federal government, this proposal could benefit thousands of Pennsylvania’s children who have been exposed to lead or are suffering from lead poisoning, as well as potentially lower health care spending for treating lead-related health problems.” Pennsylvania submitted a concept paper to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), asking them to consider a demonstration to test the effectiveness of using Medicaid funds for primary prevention measures on lead sources such as lead-based paint, dust and water sources and increase remediation efforts in lead-contaminated housing and child-care facilities across Pennsylvania. Click here for the statement.
Source: Pennsylvania Borough News; 6/2019
Flood buyout costs have risen over the past decade
According to an Associated Press analysis of data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, federal and local governments have spent more than $5 billion to purchase tens of thousands of flood-vulnerable properties across the county over the past 30 years. The analysis shows that the buyouts have gotten more expensive, with many of the costliest coming in the past decade after strong storms pounded heavily populated coastlines in Texas, New York and New Jersey. The record flooding currently happening in the Midwest could add even more buyouts. The buyouts are voluntary — homeowners can renew taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance policies indefinitely. The buyout process is “inefficient and irrational,” according to U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA. DeFazio is backing a proposed pilot project that would give homeowners a break on their flood insurance premiums if they agree in advance to a buyout that would turn their property into green space if their homes are substantially damaged by a flood. A recent study for the National Institute of Building Sciences found that society as a whole saves $7 in avoided costs for every $1 spent through federally funded grants to acquire or demolish flood-prone buildings.
Source: The Reporter; 5/28/2019
Flood Insurance Extension Update: May 30
Without Congressional action, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will expire at midnight on Friday, May 31. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is working to avoid a lapse while Congress continues to negotiate over a long-term reauthorization and reform measure. Find updates on the NAR website.
Source: Nar.realtor; 5/30/2019
Proposed Pennsbury budget includes 2.3% tax increase
The Pennsbury School Board will vote to finalize a proposed $217.68 million 2019-2020 budget at its Thursday, June 20, meeting. The proposed final budget includes a 2.3% tax increase, the maximum allowed under the state’s Act 1 index without exceptions. The 3.85 mill increase would add an additional $123 in taxes for a homeowner with a property assessed at the school district average of about $32,000. If finalized without change, the total millage rate will be 171.19 mills, or nearly $5,500 in annual taxes for the owner of the median assessed property. The administration has proposed using $2.5 million from the district’s $19.22 million fund balance to cover a deficit but anticipates reducing the total amount of the deficit prior to the adoption of the final budget.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/29/2019
Solebury to host recycling forum
The Solebury Township Board of Supervisors will hold a special forum on recycling on Tuesday, June 11, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the township building. Topics include the importance of recycling, how single-stream recycling works, and how residents can best recycle their trash. Click here for a flyer. The forum is the second in a series of events focused on topics of special interest to Solebury residents, designed to bring the community together to discuss a single issue in depth.
Source: Solebury Township; 5/24/2019
No tax increase proposed for Bristol Borough School District
The proposed final 2019-2020 $24.98 million budget for Bristol Borough School District does not include a tax increase. If finalized as is, it would be the eighth straight year without a tax increase in the school district. If finalized without change, the property tax rate will remain at 154 mills, about $2,500 in annual taxes for a homeowner with a property assessed at the school district average of $16,400. School district Business Manager Christopher McHugh said the budget proposes using $580,000 from the district’s $1.62 million unreserved fund balance to balance the budget.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/28/2019
Tullytown proposed ordinance will regulate dumpsters
Tullytown Borough Council will consider the enactment of a proposed ordinance entitled “Waste Dumpsters and Street Storage” on Tuesday, June 4, at 7 p.m. in the borough building, 500 Main St. The proposed ordinance makes it unlawful to place a waste dumpster or street storage within a street in Tullytown Borough without first securing a permit from the borough. The ordinance also limits the length of time that a waste dumpster or street storage may be in place, establishes placement and use regulations, requires the permit holder to provide an insurance certificate, and sets forth fee guidelines. A complete copy of the ordinance is available for review at the borough municipal building during regular business hours.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/28/2019
Doylestown Township considers sustainable building ordinance
Doylestown Township supervisors will conduct a public hearing on Tuesday, June 4, at 5 p.m. at the township building, 425 Wells Road, to consider a proposed ordinance that would establish an “Initiative Program.” The Initiative Program would encourage property owners to utilize cost-effective and sustainable building materials in construction projects. The full text of the ordinance may be examined at the township building during normal business hours.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/21/2019
Upper Southampton Authority begins point-of-sale sump pump inspections
The Upper Southampton Municipal Authority (USMA) has instituted a sump pump inspection requirement. Excessive stormwater has overloaded the sewer system and added unnecessary treatment costs, according to the USMA. Inspectors will go “property by property” and to look for illegal connections discharging storm water, surface water, spring water, ground water, roof runoff, sub-surface drainage, building foundation drainage, roof leaders, leaking sewer laterals and other sources of water into the sanitary sewer system, either by gravity or mechanical means (sump pumps). Violators could face a maximum fine of $1,000 per day and 90 days imprisonment, per Upper Southampton Township Ordinance #234. All sales of property in Upper Southampton Township are required to comply before settlement can occur. People selling property should contact the USMA at 215-364-1390 to schedule an inspection as soon as a property is placed on the market.
Source: Upper Southampton Municipal Authority; 5/21/2019
New Wawa possible in West Whiteland after town officials change zoning rules
The West Whiteland Township Board of Supervisors voted to allow Wawa to move into a yet-to-be-built 5,600-square-foot building — complete with eight gas pumps — at 690 E. Lincoln Highway, once home to an Entenmann’s pastry factory and outlet store. East Lincoln Highway, also known as Route 30, traverses a busy district now zoned for densely packed apartments, townhouses and offices, save for the historic St. Mary’s Chapel and Ship Inn, which predate zoning. As a result of the supervisors’ decision, developer Eli Kahn, the owner of eight acres at 690 E. Lincoln Highway, said he would likely not go forward with his original plans to build 130 apartments and a three-story office building there in favor of about 80 townhouses, the building he plans to lease to Wawa, and two other retail buildings that he could also rent out. “Either way, there will be something built there,” said Theresa Santalucia, chair of the West Whiteland Township Board of Supervisors who voted with Beth Jones in favor of the ordinance changes while Michele Moll voted against them Wednesday. “You’ll get less density with the Wawa,” Santalucia said. As part of the deal, Kahn said he and Virginia-based NVR Homes would be willing to pay for a new $1.75 million road a little north of the bustling Ship Road intersection that town officials say will better manage increased traffic. The developers will also foot the bill for a second path on the nearby Chester Valley Trail, Weller said, noting that he considered the builders’ offers to be the most financially responsible solution for West Whiteland.
Source: Daily Local; 5/23/2019
Cybersecurity experts to give small businesses briefing
Executives of small and medium-sized business face the same cybersecurity threats as larger organizations, but without the luxury of their large budgets or technology teams. As a result, RKL, one of the largest professional services firms in Pennsylvania, is joining forces with First Resource Bank to host a briefing – entitled “Protecting Your Small Business from Cybersecurity Threats: 10 Cost-Effective Actions You Can Take to Protect Your Company.” Attendees will discover how criminals are adapting by hearing about the new tricks and tools they’re using to penetrate business’ IT infrastructure and learn how to manage risk and protect critical company systems from cyber extortions, threats and intrusions. The briefing will take place on Tuesday, June 18, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. at the Chester County Economic Development Council in Exton. The event is free to attend, and people who wish to attend may register here.
Source: Vista Today; 5/24/2019
Kennett hires interim manager
Kennett Township supervisors have turned to a veteran of municipal management to handle the township’s day-to-day operations. Alison Rudolf has been named the township’s interim manager. Rudolf served as township manager in Lower Moreland, Montgomery County, from 1982 until 2008. During the past 10 years, she served as an interim manager in other municipalities. Kennett’s previous township manager was removed amid investigations into suspicious bank transactions.
Source: Daily Local; 5/29/2019
Learn about Chester County’s villages
The 25th summer of Chester County’s Town Tours and Village Walks program will begin on Thursday, June 13, at the historic Church of the Holy Trinity in West Chester. The theme of this year’s series is exploring the county’s villages “Then and Now.” There will be 10 more tours this summer. The free summer strolls will take place in historic neighborhoods, hamlets, villages and sites throughout Chester County on Thursday nights. These events are sponsored by the Chester County Commissioners through the Chester County Planning Commission and its partners. View more information about the tours or contact the county’s heritage preservation coordinator, Karen Marshall, at firstname.lastname@example.org for a brochure.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; 5/24/2019
Liberty exits Great Valley
Philadelphia Suburban Development Corp. (PSDC) has acquired seven properties for $10.2 million from Liberty Property Trust in East Whiteland Township. With the sale, Liberty has exited from the Great Valley Corporate Center — an office park it created in the 1970s in Malvern. The properties that PSDC purchased are a mix of vacant office buildings and land. The undeveloped land has a zoning designation that permits a variety of uses, including office, warehouse, open space and day-care centers. Since 2012, Liberty has sold about 50 properties in Great Valley for more than $500 million. The properties were sold individually and in portfolios. Great Valley has now been infused with multiple owners rather than a single dominant one. Aside from PSDC, newcomers include Exeter Property Group, Equus Capital Partners, Workspace Property Trust, DP Partners Group and individual entities.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 5/16/2019
SE Delco OKs budget and tax hike, curriculum cuts expected
The Southeast Delco Board of School Directors adopted a $85.6 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year that looks to have a deficit of more than $2 million after a 3.4 percent tax increase that will bring in $1.1 million in additional revenues. A slate of programs and staff positions is expected to be slashed to meet the $83.4 million shortfall in expected revenues for the next school year. School director Ed McBride said, “The board and the administration [are] trying very hard to find ways of balancing this budget, hence why we had the board meeting at the school [Academy Park]. We wanted them to come out and be aware of this situation. I personally do not know where thnewtown square
e answer is. I’m hoping the state steps up.” A state report from late 2017 shows that if the all of the state’s basic education funding was distributed through its fair funding formula, Southeast Delco would have received $4.9 million over its basic education allotment for 2017-18. A similar report by Equity First for 2018-2019 shows the district underfunded by $5 million from the state. Special meetings are expected throughout June to continue budget talks before final adoption on Thursday, June 27.
Source: Daily Time; 5/27/2019
Traffic plans, costs of new schools unveiled in Upper Darby
Representatives from KCBA Architects shared the results of traffic and environmental studies for proposed projects in Upper Darby School District. The projects include putting an addition on Aronimink Elementary School in Drexel Hill and building a new middle school in Clifton Heights. No environmental concerns were discovered at the Clifton Fields as part of the study, but the traffic study recommends creating left-turn lanes in each direction at the intersection of North Springfield Road and North Oak Lane. At the Aronimink property, the necessary removal of an underground heating oil storage tank was the only discussion point of the environmental impact study, and no off-site traffic improvements would be needed as the school looks to increase enrollment from approximately 270 to 650 students. District offices in the building would be turned into classrooms and new classrooms would be built. A one-way bus loop is proposed along Burmont Road. The Kindergarten Center is expected to move into Aronimink as Walter M. Senkow students move into the current kindergarten space during the district’s phase 1 plan for capital improvements. The traffic and environmental studies are part of a list of schematic work approved by the school board in March at a cost of $3.7 million. Kelly said site testing is still need for structural analysis. Estimated construction costs are $65 million for the middle school and $24.4 million for Aronimink. If all goes according to plan, the middle school will break ground in June 2020 and open in August 2022, and the Aronimink renovation will start in April 2020, with addition construction beginning in May 2020 and total completion in August 2021.
Source: Daily Times; 5/29/2019
Chester gets $182K state grant for waterfront development
Revitalization of Chester’s West End waterfront took another step forward as state Sen. Tom Killion (R-9), of Middletown, announced the city has been awarded a $182,000 state grant, part of which will go to the development of a Chester Waterfront Master Plan. The Riverfront Alliance of Delaware County, made up of private businesses and government agencies, received 10 responses in April from architectural firms interested in creating a development plan for the area surrounding Talen Energy Stadium and the Wharf at Rivertown office complex. The alliance is currently narrowing the list to about five firms to submit a formal plan. “These funds will go for paying for the plan itself, and hopefully some initial execution of the plan as well,” Tom Shoemaker, the alliance board chairman, said. The grant comes from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Chester is currently in Act 47 (economically distressed) status with the state and following a three-year plan to emerge from Act 47 by 2021, at which point it could face state receivership. The exit plan recommended the city outline a vision for the waterfront and “market that vision to interested developers and public and private funders.”
Source: Daily Times; 5/24/2019
Newtown Square public meetings to examine ‘roadmap to future’
Newtown Township will hold two public meetings to discuss “A Roadmap to the Future Newtown Experience,” and the community input will help the township to form a five-year strategic plan. The meetings will be held Wednesday, June 5, at 9:30 a.m. and Thursday, June 6, at 7 p.m. An online survey will be developed based on information gathered at the public meetings and in focus groups. The survey will be available online starting Monday, June 17.
Source: Newtown Township; 5/2019
Report details Pottstown’s financial future
A 153-page report, part of an Early Intervention Program (EIP) offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said the best approach to preserve Pottstown’s financial foundation would be to control personnel and retiree costs, encourage robust economic development, and keep future tax increases to one percent. The report noted that the 2019 millage rate is 22 percent higher than it was in 2017, making it the second-highest in the county. It recommends keeping future tax increases within the rise of inflation or risk smothering economic development, lowering tax collection rates and stressing property owners. Personnel costs represent 86 percent of general fund expenses, with retiree expenses and police personnel costs among the largest expenses in the budget. The report does not recommend a reduction in the police force and said any benefits of regionalization would primarily be to the smaller forces getting the benefits of the expertise that already exists in Pottstown. The factors behind Pottstown’s financial situation include the loss of an industrial tax base and stagnant revenues from a loss of assessed value. “The loss of population between 1960 and 1990 had a ripple effect of disinvestment in the community leading to lower homeownership rates, loss of local consumers, and an increase in vacancy along the downtown business corridor,” the report says. “These trends have detracted from the quality of life for residents and visitors alike — and are still affecting the borough today.” The report says that bolstering economic development is key to the borough’s future and offers suggestions: reduce red tape for developers and businesses, create a “prospectus” for those considering investing in the borough’s opportunity zones, include more downtown festivals, seek more funding for the Pottstown Land Bank to help eliminate blighted properties, and work more actively with the Pottstown Area Industrial Development. Click here for the full report.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/28/2019
Main Line Health purchases Lower Merion seminary property
Main Line Health has reached an agreement to purchase the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary property in Wynewood from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for an undisclosed sum. The 72-acre site will continue to be used by the seminary over the next three to five years, with the seminary eventually relocating to the campus of Neumann University in Aston. Main Line Health will also use the property for some of its internal educational uses. The property comes with some restrictions — last July Lower Merion Township designated the property as a Class 1 historic resource over the objections of seminary officials. A Class 1 historic resource is more difficult to demolish and a proposed demolition could be denied by the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners. The designation caused an abrupt halt to negotiations between the Archdiocese and Main Line Health. The seminary has filed an appeal of the Class 1 designation in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and it is still listed as being open in the court dockets.
Source: Main Line Times; 5/28/2019
Upper Pottsgrove approves sewer system assessment agreement
Upper Pottsgrove commissioners have taken another step toward selling the sewer system by approving a contract for an assessment of the sewer system along with identification of potential buyers. PFM, formerly known as Public Finance Management, will be paid $50,000, plus 1.5 percent of the sale price, if the system is sold. “This is just looking at and evaluating,” said Commissioners Chairman Trace Slinkerd. “If we go through this process and pull out, we don’t pay anything.” The commissioners are divided on the idea of a sale, with some feeling that the sale will not save the taxpayers money and others hopeful that proceeds of the sale could be used to pay off current sewer debt as well as provide the township budget with a cushion.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/28/2019
Montgomery County commits to wind power
The Montgomery County Commissioners announced a wind energy purchase that will power all of the county’s electrical accounts with emission-free renewable power. Commissioners Chair Dr. Valerie Arkoosh and Vice Chair Ken Lawrence Jr. voted in favor of the measure. Commissioner Joe Gale voted against it. “By switching to wind-generated electricity now and adopting this commitment to sustainable operations, Montgomery County is raising the bar in terms of responding to climate change,” Arkoosh said. Click here for the full statement.
Source: Montgomery County; 5/20/2019
More community gardens to bloom on city lots, Philly Land Bank czar says
Thirty vacant lots have been converted into community garden over the past two years by the Philadelphia Land Bank, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and Neighborhood Gardens Trust, an organization affiliated with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Angel Rodriguez, the executive director of the Philadelphia Lank Bank, described the public green spaces as a priority for his administration. Rodriguez said he plans “to really focus on community gardens, stabilizing them and acquiring more land” for them. About half of the city’s estimated 470 community gardens operate on abandoned land that farmers don’t own or control. That means that their land could be sold out from under them, sometimes without anyone in the community even knowing. Dozens of groups have lost their gardens over the past few years. Many more are vulnerable as developers scour for land in areas where gardeners, until recently, were the only people putting down roots. The land bank the process of acquiring land and transferring it to garden groups is slow. “It takes nine to 14 months to acquire a property, once we’ve identified that it’s tax delinquent. And, on average, it takes seven months to convey a property,” Rodriguez said. The city parks department is working on an urban agriculture master plan to streamline the process of preserving gardens. The land bank is still working on a strategic plan — it was supposed to come out last year.
Source: Plan Philly; 5/22/2019
Philadelphia has highest rate of residents lacking banking services
Philadelphia has the highest rate of residents lacking banking services of any major city in the nation. More than 35 percent of Philadelphians are either unbanked or underbanked, and a large portion of those individuals are among the city’s poorest residents. According to data compiled by Prosperity Now, a nonprofit designed to help low-income people reach financial stability, there is also a massive gap by race, as only 3.9% of white residents are unbanked compared to 19% of people of color. This disparity is viewed by some as exacerbating Philadelphia’s status as the most impoverished major US city, stifling potential economic development that could help set communities on a more prosperous path. In 2002, Philadelphia passed an ordinance requiring banks to provide an annual statement of reinvestment goals and a long-term strategic plan to address disparities in lending and investment. The cities jurisdiction is limited, as the only leverage the city holds over banks is that it will not deposit municipal funds in a bank that has not complied.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 5/24/2019