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 June 4, 2018

 

General News

PUC sets public hearings for PECO rate hike request
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has scheduled five hearings in June, including one in Media and one in Norristown, to gather public input on a rate increase request filed by PECO Energy Company. Under the request submitted by PECO, annual revenues would increase by $82 million (2.2 percent) and the average total monthly bill for a residential customer using 700 kilowatt hours would increase from $102.65 to $105.93 per month (3.2 percent). The commission voted in April to suspend the increase for up to seven months. PECO provides electric services to approximately 1.6 million customers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties. Public hearings will be held Wednesday, June 6, at 6 p.m. at the large auditorium at Delaware County Community College in Media, and Thursday, June 7, at the Worchester Township Community Hall in Norristown. Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearings and provide comments. Participants are asked, but not required, to bring written copies of remarks. More information on the PUC ratemaking process is available on the commission’s website.
Source: Daily Local; 5/23/2018

Pennsylvania American Water updates online infrastructure map
Pennsylvania American Water recently unveiled an updated 2018 version of its web-based infrastructure map to show customers how their monthly payments are being utilized. The interactive map displays planned water and wastewater pipe improvements. The map appears on Pennsylvania American Water’s website under the Water Quality tab and System Updates page at https://amwater.com/paaw/water-quality/system-updates. Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey L. McIntyre said, “We are rolling out the 2018 version of the map during National Infrastructure Week to reinforce the importance of replacing aging water and wastewater systems to ensure that our communities continue to receive quality, reliable service.”
Source: Times Herald; 5/15/2018

Bucks County

Residents and lawmakers question proposed housing on former landfill
A proposal to build hundreds of residences atop a 30-acre landfill in Tullytown has attracted the attention of residents and a state legislator who grew up nearby. State Rep. John Galloway (D-140) was shocked to read about plans to build townhomes and senior residences on the site of the former Levittown Landfill, where large quantities of unknown substances were illegally dumped. Galloway wants to arrange a public meeting where residents can question stakeholders on the project, including the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), property owner St. Michael the Archangel Church, developer McGrath Homes, the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority and Tullytown officials. The developer feels the project would fall under the Special Industrial Area section of the DEP’s Act 2 program, which requires the developer to cut off pathways between humans and “any immediate, direct or imminent” public health threats. The sources of any such threats need to be removed or capped with soil, but do not have to be eliminated entirely. Galloway said: “If someone wants to take the time and effort and put millions of dollars into cleaning up that site, I’m all in; I’m all for it. If they just want to encase it in concrete and pretend like all that stuff isn’t there, they just want to grow grass on top of it and tell kids to go play … as long as I’m state representative, that is never, ever going to happen.” A representative for U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-8th) said his office will actively monitor the situation. Tullytown Borough Tax Collector Rich Hart said approving the development is Tullytown council’s only real option for bringing in new revenue, aside from raising taxes.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/23/2018

Dublin residents must pay for curb repairs
In April, about a dozen Dublin homeowners appeared before the borough council to voice their concerns about having to pay for the cost to repair curbs outside their homes. The roadway in front of their homes is due to be repaved next year and, in order to do so, about 143 feet of curbs will need to be replaced at the cost of about $65 per linear foot, according to estimates from Borough Engineer Thomas Zarko. The residents blamed the damage to the curbs on subcontractors hired by the borough for snow removal. At the May council meeting, however, Zarko said the cracks in the curbs are not consistent with snowplow damage. Zarko did see some scrapes on the curbs caused by snowplows, but they did not damage the structural integrity of the curbs. “These curbs have survived their estimated useful life in an area with snowplows and salt,” said Borough Council Vice President Brent Smith. “It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s not the responsibility of the borough.”
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 5/29/2018

Palisades budget calls for slight tax increase
The Palisades School Board is scheduled to approve the final 2018-2019 school year budget on Wednesday, June 6. District administrators and the school board were able to reduce the budget deficit enough to allow for no more than a 0.88 percent tax increase. Cost reductions that allowed for the lower tax rate included $300,000 in savings from “salary reduction due to mid-year adjustments,” a $50,000 contribution from Krapf School Bus for paving the parking lot beside the district warehouse, and another $87,500 expected from reductions to budgeted prices for diesel fuel and heating oil. The tax increase will amount to about an extra $37 annually for the average home in the district.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/24/2018

Middletown at the Mall returns
Middletown at the Mall returns on Wednesday, June 6, for a Summer Expo at the Oxford Valley Mall. Residents are invited to join staff from Middletown Township Parks and Recreation and other township employees in the Sears Court from 5 to 7 p.m. The Summer Expo is an opportunity for summer recreation campers and parents to meet camp counselors, take care of forms and ask questions. Families will also get to meet members of the police department and win prizes by playing safety games.
Source: Middletown Township – May 2018 eNews; 5/22/2018

Chester County 

Residents seek full remediation of Bishop Tube site
Concerned East Whiteland-area residents recently met at Great Valley Middle School to learn about the contaminated Bishop Tube site and its impact on their lives. The former metals processing plant, bordered by Little Valley Creek, is considered a priority for remediation under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act. Groundwater, soil and surface water at the site are contaminated with trichloroethylene, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA and is linked to other significant health problems. TCE and other contaminants of significant concern known to be present at the site continue to migrate into the aquifer, stream and nearby residential area, according to the Riverkeeper Network environmental group. The site remains heavily contaminated decades after DEP discovered the releases, with no final or interim remediation plan from DEP or responsible parties. For information on the Riverkeeper Network, visit www.delawareriverkeeper.org. An additional meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m. at Great Valley Middle School, 255 N. Phoenixville Pike, Malvern.
Source: Daily Local; 5/23/2018

County acquires land for Struble Trail expansion
Chester County will pay about $160,000 for 35 acres of land along the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek in Wallace to add to the Struble Trail as it runs from Downingtown to Honey Brook. The purchase was approved unanimously by county commissioners. The parcel will be a key component in the connection of the south and north stretches of the full, proposed Struble Trail map. The full connection can’t be made yet, though — the stretch of former railroad bed that the county plans to buy between Marshall and Fairview roads in Glenmoore is landlocked between other parcels that are still in private hands, county officials said. Since the county does not own the adjoining parcels and has no current plans to acquire them, the Greenfield property will likely stay unused as trail bed for the foreseeable future.
Source: Daily Local; 5/26/2018

Owen J. Roberts will raise taxes 2.4%
The Owen J. Roberts School Board unanimously approved a $107 million budget­­­ for the 2018-2019 school year that will raise property taxes by 2.4 percent. Chief Financial Officer Jaclin Krumrine said the tax hike is “at the index,” referring to the cap imposed by Act 1. The tax hike is down slightly from the 2.55 percent proposed in the draft budget in February. The new millage rate will be 31.2366 mills. Krumrine said the median property assessment in the Owen J. Roberts School District is about $184,000, so the tax increase will add $134 to the tax bill for a property with that assessment. Those who pay their full tax bill by Aug. 31 are entitled to a 2 percent discount. Those who don’t pay by Oct. 31 face a 10 percent penalty.
Source: Daily Local; 5/24/2018

Sunoco pipeline operation and construction halted again
Following an emergency petition by state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19), a judge shut down construction of Sunoco’s two Mariner East 2 pipelines, as well as operation of the existing Mariner East 1 pipeline in West Whiteland Township. Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes, of the state Public Utility Commission, wrote: “I find there to be an imminent risk to the public and a need for immediate relief and further study to be done on ME1, ME2 and ME2X.” The judge cited the possibility of a potential catastrophic event occurring with Mariner East 1 and said local and state governments should create evacuation plans before operations resume. Energy Transfer Partners, parent company of Sunoco, decried the ruling, saying an investigation following a previous shutdown order determined the pipeline was safe. The company has appealed the court order. Dinniman has vowed to fight the appeal, saying Sunoco’s pipeline work in the region is “a case study of how and where not to install a hazardous material pipeline.”
Source: State Impact PA; 5/24/2018 & Pottstown Mercury; 5/31/2018

Phoenixville Area School District budget will raise taxes 3.18%
The Phoenixville Area School Board has adopted a final 2018-2019 budget of $91.7 million that will raise property taxes by 3.18 percent. For the average taxpayer, the budget will cost an additional $127 per year, said Chris Gehris, the district’s manager of financial reporting. A total of eight amendments to adjust the budget were proposed, all but one of which would have added additional spending to the budget, but they all failed. The final budget was a reduction from the preliminary budget, adopted in February that called for spending $94 million and would have raised taxes by 4 percent.
Source: Daily Local; 5/29/2018

Delaware County

Consultants advise selling Chester Water Authority
In a May 4 report titled “Financial Condition Assessment of the City of Chester,” Econsult Solutions concluded selling the Chester Water Authority (CWA) was the only way the city’s finances would stabilize. The state declared the city in distress in 1995. The state Department of Community and Economic Development hired Econsult, one of the city’s recovery coordinators, to do the financial analysis. Econsult concluded that the city’s budget challenges, particularly its pension plans, will worsen in the years to come. In May 2017, Aqua America offered to buy the CWA for $250 million. After the authority board rejected the offer, city officials claimed they had the right to reclaim and transfer the authority’s assets, and to dissolve the authority altogether. “The city must explore the monetization of municipal assets, including a potential transaction involving the Chester Water Authority, reconsider recommended reductions in the resident earned income tax rate and consider further workforce reductions,” the Econsult report states. The sale of the water authority was a key suggestion. Water authority officials decried that conclusion. Cynthia Leitzell, its chairwoman, said selling the authority would result in increased rates for customers and could be tied up for years in court. The authority has more than 42,000 customers, about 22 percent of whom are in the city and 78 percent of whom are elsewhere in Delaware and Chester counties.
Source: Daily Times; 5/24/2018

Partisan deadlock kills Delco’s pipeline risk study
Delaware County Council failed to move forward on a pipeline risk assessment after being unable to agree on whether the firm that applied to do the job did so appropriately. On Jan. 23, council initiated the idea of a pipeline study after members of the public asked them to conduct one. In March, a request for proposal was sent out, and responses from vendors were received in April. What was initially approved was an analysis for “awareness, emergency preparedness and response to address the concerns and educate the general public along the pipeline routes in Delaware County with particular emphasis on the Mariner East 2 pipeline currently under construction.” Councilmen Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek, both Democrats, voted to approve Quest Consultants to conduct such a study. The move was opposed by two of their colleagues, Republicans Colleen Morrone and Michael Culp, who voiced concerns about the change in the project scope — from looking at all pipeline routes in Delaware County to just Mariner East — as well as potential conflict of interest, as Quest Consultants performed a hazards study for the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety on the Mariner East pipeline in March. Council Chairman John McBlain, a Republican, abstained from the vote to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest due to his law firm’s work with Sunoco. Madden said he hoped to continue working toward a consensus on the study in the weeks to come.
Source: Daily Times; 5/24/2018

Radnor commissioners approve Penn Medicine plan
The Radnor Board of Commissioners approved the final plan for Penn Medicine at 145 King of Prussia Road. The 19-acre property that was formerly Wyeth Laboratories has been vacant for several years, and the community had fought plans from a previous owner, BioMed Realty Trust, over concerns about increased traffic. Penn Medicine bought the property for $35 million in 2015. The plans call for two parking garages at the rear near I-476, an ambulatory care center to the south, and an office building and hotel on the northern side of the property, which is across from Radnor High School. Another developer will build the hotel, office and the second garage. Ward 2 Commissioner Richard Booker argued against approval. Dave Falcone, the lawyer for Penn Medicine, said that they have letters from the township’s engineering consultants that the development plan is in line with township ordinances. Demolition of the existing buildings on the site is underway, and Penn Medicine expects construction to begin in late summer, with occupancy of the new building to begin in spring of 2020.
Source: Daily Times; 5/26/2018

County controller’s office sets up new fraud hotline
Delaware County Controller Joanne Phillips has launched an anonymous fraud hotline with hopes of insuring that tax dollars are spent as intended while also highlighting the integrity of government. “When government becomes the victim, the true victims are the taxpayers,” Phillips said. “And, it cuts into not only taking away from services and funds that are available, but it also cuts right at the heart of people’s trust in their government and their willingness to support the government and pay their taxes.” Her office cited an industry statistic that fraud, waste and abuse represent about 10 percent of overall government spending. The hotline allows people to report issues of fraud anonymously in three ways:

  • Call the hotline at 610-891-8614.
  • Submit it electronically on the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Form accessible on the county website, co.delaware.pa.us, by clicking on Departments, then Controller.
  • Send a letter to the Controller’s Office, Delaware County Government, 201 W. Front St, Media, PA 19063.

The tips can include: theft of money or property; procurement fraud; corruption; submission of fake invoices or receipts; phony expense sheets; false time sheets; and payment to ghost employees. Anyone giving a tip is asked to gather as much information as they can about where the fraud is happening, including: the person or persons involved; the day of the incident or the duration; the nature of the situation, such as stealing, cheating, lying, etc.; and the approximate amount involved.
Source: Delaware County News Network; 5/26/2018

Montgomery County

Abington to amend vacant property registration ordinance
The Abington Township Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing to consider Ordinance No. 2156 to amend Chapter 126, “Real Estate Registry Vacant Properties.” The proposed ordinance will amend the requirements and procedures related to waiver of a registration fee for a vacant property. Interested parties may review the ordinance at the Abington Township Building, 1176 Old York Road, weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at the township website, www.abington.org. The public hearing will be held on Thursday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at the township building.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/27/2018

Tax increase planned in Upper Dublin School District
The Upper Dublin School Board is projecting a 2.14 percent tax increase in the proposed budget for 2018-2019. The budget called for an increase in the tax rate to 33.73 mills from the current 33.02 mills. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. A home assessed at the township average of about $196,000 would pay $6,622 in taxes, an increase of $139. District Business Administrator Brenda Bray attributes the need for a tax increase to salaries, medical costs and retirement contributions. The budget is available for public review on the district’s website at www.udsd.org. The budget is scheduled for final vote by the board on Thursday, June 14.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 5/27/2018

Open house scheduled for ‘Upper Merion 2040’
Upper Merion Township will hold a second open house for the Upper Merion 2040 Comprehensive Plan on Tuesday, June 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the township building, 175 W. Valley Forge Road, King of Prussia. The steering committee and community planners have turned the feedback from the first round of public outreach into the preliminary recommendations of the comprehensive plan and are now looking for more input. Community members are asked to provide feedback, which will be incorporated into the final recommendations regarding land use, transportation, open space and environmental protection, both at the township-wide and neighborhood scale. Learn more here.

Owen J. Roberts will raise taxes 2.4%
The Owen J. Roberts School Board unanimously approved a $107 million budget­­­ for the 2018-2019 school year that will raise property taxes by 2.4 percent. Chief Financial Officer Jaclin Krumrine said the tax hike is “at the index,” referring to the cap imposed by Act 1. The tax hike is down slightly from the 2.55 percent proposed in the draft budget in February. The new millage rate will be 31.2366 mills. Krumrine said the median property assessment in the Owen J. Roberts School District is about $184,000, so the tax increase will add $134 to the tax bill for a property with that assessment. Those who pay their full tax bill by Aug. 31 are entitled to a 2 percent discount. Those who don’t pay by Oct. 31 face a 10 percent penalty.
Source: Daily Local; 5/24/2018

Philadelphia

Changes to Philly construction tax break under review
City council discussed reform of Philadelphia’s controversial 10-year property tax abatement, which waives property taxes on increased real-estate values generated through new construction or renovations in some areas. Critics say the break unfairly benefits the wealthy while greatly reducing the public benefit of the city's building boom. City Councilwoman Helen Gym introduced a bill that would end the break for real estate taxes owed to the School District of Philadelphia, effectively halving the abatement. She said the council isn't seeking an end to the development incentive, but to reform it. Gym also introduced a resolution calling for hearings on the abatement’s geographic impact. The majority of abated properties are located in Greater Center City, according to a report released in April by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. Gym’s bills came on the same day that the Kenney administration released a new study of the abatement and possibilities for reform. The city-commissioned study, conducted by the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, explores policy changes ranging from elimination of the abatement to limiting it to certain sections of the city, capping it on individual residential properties or gradually phasing it out. Philadelphia's Director of Finance Rob Dubow said the administration has no position on the best path forward. The study is just meant to analyze the different cases and how painful each would be to the real estate market and the jobs that depend on it. The study found that the abatement helps Philadelphia stay competitive with its peer cities in the northeastern United States. The abatement boosts the profitability of real estate in the city by an additional one to two percent, narrowing the gap between Philadelphia and the region’s hotter urban real estate markets. The study found that eliminating the tax abatement would be revenue positive for the school district in the short term but projected that it would be revenue negative over the long haul because less development would occur overall.
Source: Plan Philly; 5/25/2018

City council tweaks bill requiring developers to provide more parking in Philly neighborhoods
A measure that would require developers to build more parking along with new housing underwent some changes in city council. The mandatory parking minimum bill revised by the council’s Rules Committee bears little resemblance to the far more significant reform proposed in Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s original bill. Instead, the new, scaled-back version calls for smaller increases in parking requirements that are far more likely to be signed into law than those contained in the measure’s more radical predecessors. Councilman William Greenlee, chairman of the council’s Rules Committee, made it clear that though the measure was being put on hold until June 12, he and other supporters of the measure were committed to seeing something pass this session. In the amended version of the bill, three spaces per 10 units would be required for developers building more than 10 homes in rowhouse areas. No new parking is required under current regulations. Most experts, and many interest groups, oppose mandatory parking minimums. But neighborhood groups that serve as a reliable power base for district council members are likely to look on them favorably. Because they represent working-class rowhouse neighborhoods seeing an influx of development, Blackwell and Council President Darrell Clarke have been eager to see legislation of this nature pass. The academic research on mandatory parking minimums finds that it increases the price of housing, pushing developers towards the luxury market and imposing costs onto people who do not own cars. Thirty-one percent of Philadelphia households do not own vehicles. Affordable-housing groups have long opposed such requirements, saying they necessitate deeper subsidies that are hard to come by.
Source: Plan Philly; 5/23/2018

 


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