Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
FBI investigating Mariner East pipeline approvals
Rockhill water contamination linked to tire shop fire
Investors, developers looking to Coatesville as revitalization progresses
No tax hike in proposed Delaware County budget
Lafayette Street Extension Project celebrated in Norristown
A new kind of affordable housing comes to South Philadelphia
Southeastern Pa. schools suffer under state funding formula
Pennsylvania spends $6.1 billion per year on Basic Education Funding for public schools. In 2016, the state implemented a Fair Funding Formula to equitably distribute that money to its 500 school districts — but many districts in the Philadelphia suburbs are receiving millions less than their fair amounts. For example, Pottstown School District receives just 47 percent of its fair allocation, meaning it was shorted $13 million in 2018-2019. Meanwhile, South Side Area School District in Beaver County receives more than 600 percent of its fair amount. Across the state, 143 districts receive less than their fair allocations, including six in Bucks County, seven in Chester County, 12 in Delaware County and 18 in Montgomery County. The disparity is the result of a "hold-harmless" policy, which guarantees that each school district continues to receive whatever its highest level of funding was between 1991 and 2014 — even if its enrollment has declined and even at the expense of growing and struggling districts. Learn more at www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com/schools.
Applications now available for state Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
Application forms for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are now available for eligible Pennsylvanians to begin claiming rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2018. The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians ages 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The deadline to apply for a rebate is June 30. The claim form (PA-1000) and related information can be found on the Department of Revenue’s website or by calling 1-888-222-9190.
Register for PAR Public Policy Regional Trainings
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® (PAR) is offering a series of Public Policy Training sessions to provide Realtors® the tools to be engaged in PAR’s advocacy efforts. Participants will learn how to tell their real estate stories to advocate for their industry and clients. A local session will be held at Crowne Plaza Valley Forge in King of Prussia on Thursday, March 21, from 2 to 5 p.m. Click here to see all available training sessions and pre-register.
Hundreds attend DEP's Elcon meeting
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently hosted a three-hour meeting on a controversial proposal by Elcon Recycling Services to construct a hazardous waste treatment plant in Falls Township on a 23-acre site in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex. Hundreds of people showed up, with most speakers expressing concern over potential toxic emissions, the potential for an accidental spill at the facility or on area roadways, and frustration with the efficacy of state environmental regulations. DEP regional spokeswoman Virginia Cain said that concerns regarding state and federal regulations should be directed to lawmakers at those levels, and concerns over spills on area roadways and zoning should be directed to township officials. The proposed Elcon plant would process between 150,000 and 210,000 tons of chemical and pharmaceutical waste each year. Elcon representatives say the facility would be state-of-the-art and create up to 120 short-term construction jobs and about 50 full-time operations jobs. The company has three applications before the DEP relating to waste, air and stormwater. The DEP is slated to make a proposed recommendation on the waste permit by May 26, which will kick off a 45-day public comment period before a DEP report and final decision. Falls Township supervisors have listened to community concerns over the project for more than three years, and final land development plans were submitted to the township in January. Township attorney Mike Clark said the township typically has 90 days to review the application, but Elcon has waived that time limit. Once township officials complete their reviews, supervisors will schedule a public meeting to formally consider the application. Visit the Falls Township website for meeting information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/6/2019 & The Advance; 3/3/2019
Solebury to host land preservation forum
The Solebury Township Board of Supervisors will host a forum on the township’s land preservation program on Tuesday, March 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the township building, 3092 Sugan Road. The forum will begin with an outline of the township’s land preservation history, the application process and the importance of enrolling smaller tracts of land into the program. The discussion will also cover the role of conservancies play, funding, the benefits of preservation and how land preservation is integral to Solebury’s Comprehensive Plan. This is the first of several forums focused on topics of special interest to Solebury residents.
Source: Solebury Township; 2/21/2019
Upper Makefield enlists Heritage Conservancy to monitor conservation easements
Upper Makefield Township supervisors recently enlisted Heritage Conservancy to monitor properties in the township upon which conservation easements have been placed. The Heritage Conservancy is a Doylestown-based nonprofit that specializes in open space preservation. Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a preservation organization or government in which the owner allows development restrictions to be placed on their land, usually for monetary compensation. Property owners can also donate acreage into easements. Heritage Conservancy will conduct easement monitoring through site visits of approximately 40 properties in Upper Makefield to ensure landowners are abiding by the terms of the easements. Written monitoring reports that include photographs, maps and field notes will also be provided to the township. Heritage Conservancy will conduct the monitoring between October 2019 and the end of December 2021 with a total cost of the service not to exceed $24,000.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/28/2019
Warrington plans meetings on possible sale of water/sewer systems
Warrington Township will hold public meetings to discuss the offers received for the sale of the township water and sewer systems. The meetings will be held on Tuesday, March 12, at 2 and 7 p.m. in the Warrington Township Building, 852 Easton Road. Click here for more information.
Source: Warrington Township; 3/2019
Chester County cancels pipeline easements, seeks to join legal challenge
The Chester County Board of Commissioners announced two actions regarding the Mariner East pipeline project, as Chairwoman Michelle Kichline said the three-member board had “no confidence” in Sunoco Pipeline LP’s efforts to engage with residents concerning the safety of its two pipelines. The county has hired the Philadelphia law firm of Reger Rizzo & Darnall to represent it in an effort to intervene in the legal challenge by some residents to Sunoco’s pipeline plans before the state Public Utility Commission. In addition, easements across county property that had been granted in 2017 will be cancelled, the commissioners said. “Time and again, Sunoco has been severely lacking in effective communication and transparency, and we have no choice but to take these formal measures,” said Kichline. “Even with the groundswell of activity and appeals from elected officials, grassroots organizations and residents affected by the pipeline, the company is not playing ball. We have no confidence that they ever will, and we are done with trying to get answers on our own.”
Source: Daily Local; 3/2/2019
Paoli residents discuss plans for assisted-living center
Dozens of Paoli residents have expressed opposition to a developer’s plan to build a three-story, 127-unit assisted-living facility in their community. They worry about how Solera Senior Living would fit into the sleepy neighborhood off Lancaster Avenue, citing concerns about stormwater runoff, encroachment on privacy, parking, bright lights, traffic congestion, the risk of wandering dementia patients, and the burden that another senior facility will place on volunteer firefighters and EMS. The land, located on Russell Road, is currently occupied by vacant office buildings. The concerned residents have met with the developers at Alterra Property Group, who are working to incorporate comments and feedback into the project proposal. The market for senior-living communities is growing to fill the needs an aging population that needs not only physical assistance but also care for Alzheimer’s and dementia. In all, there are nearly 29,000 assisted-living communities — with almost a million licensed beds — in the U.S., and 1,000 such facilities in Pennsylvania, according to the National Center for Assisted Living. In Paoli, existing senior communities include Highgate at Paoli Pointe, Sunrise of Paoli and Daylesford Crossing. Both Wayne and Malvern have senior living communities in development.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/27/2019
Avon Grove directors consider tax options
Avon Grove School District has floated three options for its 2019-2020 budget: one with no tax increase, one using a 2.5 percent increase, and another with a 3 percent tax increase. With no tax increase, the preliminary budget uses over $8 million from the district fund balance to reach a balanced $98.9 million, an increase of 2.01 percent over the present year. Under the second option — a 2.5 percent tax millage increase — the district takes a $7.2 million appropriation from the fund balance to cover the same total expenses. The third option — raising taxes to 3 percent, the maximum increase allowed without exceptions under the state’s Act 1 regulations — would take $6.9 million from the fund balance to meet the same total expenses. The current tax rate of 30.69 mills would go to 31.46 mills if the 2.5 percent increase option is chosen, or 31.61 mills if the full 3 percent increase is imposed. Major expenses impacting the budget include salaries and benefits going up by more than $1 million, and expected increases of $954,200 in other services, such as transportation and charter school tuition. Charter school tuition payments are expected to climb from $10.4 million in the current budget to $10.99 million in 2019-2020. The Feb. 12 budget work session focused on revenues, and the next meeting on Tuesday, March 19, will focus on expenses. Meetings are open to the public and can be viewed live online at www.avongrove.org.
Source: Daily Local; 3/4/2019
Some want LeBold out of West Chester BID
Thirty-eight West Chester Borough businesses signed a petition demanding Borough Councilwoman Diane LeBold leave the Business Improvement District (BID) board. The petition claims that LeBold is not acting in the best interests of BID businesses and the BID itself. The BID levies a fee on borough businesses, and in turn promotes restaurants, shops and businesses in the district. LeBold isn’t backing down and said that she was a member of the 2000 council that helped create the BID. State statutes, BID bylaws and the borough charter would all need to be consulted to make a change. A vote by council might eventually be required to remove LeBold.
Source: Daily Local; 3/5/2019
Radnor BOC approves ‘Ready for 100’
The Radnor Board of Commissioners approved a “Ready for 100” resolution to move the township toward using all renewable energy by 2035. “[W]e need to keep this in the forefront as we need to replace things and as we need to look at new opportunities,” Lisa Borowski, board president, said. The resolution, which is spurred by a Sierra Club campaign, calls for the development of an energy transition plan to be prepared for review by April 22, 2020, which will include interim milestones, financial impacts, equity metrics, potential financing mechanisms and the percentage of clean energy to be locally produced. The commissioners are tapping Radnor’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) to play an oversight role in the planning process. "We really want to engage the perspectives and talents of the community in shaping the plan,” EAC Chairperson Matthew Holtman said. “And we know there are opportunities to draw from solutions being explored by municipalities in the region and beyond, and even to potentially collaborate with nearby townships in some way." Find out more about the “Ready for 100” initiative here.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 3/4/2019 and Sierra Club; 2/25/2019
Ridley 7 EMS going out of business; township inks new deal with Crozer-Keystone
Ridley Township’s longtime EMS and ambulance service, Ridley 7, is being replaced. Commissioners entered into a formal partnership with Crozer-Keystone Health System to provide a transport-capable Advanced Life Support Unit for township residents, effective on or before April 24. The announcement was made at the commissioners’ Feb. 27 meeting. Ridley 7 personnel were laid off on Feb. 6, according to paramedic Rob Day. "Crozer has been in operation since last month under a temporary agreement," Township Manager Ed Pisani said, adding that the agreement between the township and Crozer-Keystone is for two years. The commissioners made the decision to change ambulance service because Ridley 7 EMS was experiencing a financial crisis. The Crozer unit will be staffed inside the township 24 hours a day, seven days a week, stationed at the Folsom Fire Co. facility, as was the Ridley 7 unit. There will be no charge by Crozer-Keystone to the township for making ambulance service available. Pisani said patients' insurance is billed for transport.
Source: Delaware County News Network; 3/4/2019
New apartments for homeless veterans in Sharon Hill
Antonio Hayward, a 45-year-old property manager from Harrisburg, is working to renovate a building on the 400 block of Sharon Avenue in Sharon Hill to create three two-bedroom apartment units to house homeless veterans. Work on the rehabilitation effort of what Hayward called an “eyesore” of a building has been going on for almost two years. Hayward is hoping to have it completed sometime in the next couple of months. “I wanted to give [veterans] the best of the best, because they deserve it,” he said. He has received assistance from labor unions and organizations, and he hopes when the project is complete that it will be approved for use by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development - Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH).
Source: Daily Times; 3/3/2019
Chester trash incinerator working overtime
The Covanta trash incinerator in Chester receives about 200 tons of recycling material each day for destruction. The staggering amount of recyclables being sent for incineration is due to China banning imports of several categories of recyclable materials, according to an article in Wired magazine. Zulene Mayfield, of Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, said, “People want to do the right thing by recycling, but they have no idea where it goes and who it impacts.” Much of the trash coming to Covanta’s Chester incinerator comes from other areas, including New York. According to Covanta, the toxins emitted by the burned recyclables are negated by pollution controls, but some experts are worried that the uptick will accentuate the already alarming health situation in Chester, which state health statistics show has elevated childhood asthma, ovarian cancer and lung cancer rates.
Source: Pivot.today; 3/6/2019
KOP rail project funding still up in the air
The proposed King of Prussia rail project would open up transit access to one of the area’s biggest job centers at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. SEPTA’s manager of long-term planning, Elizabeth Smith, said the project will require “many sources of funding.” SEPTA may begin pursuing federal funding as soon as 2021, which could pay for half the cost or less. State officials say their ability to contribute money may be limited, and a lawsuit that challenges how public transit is funded in Pennsylvania could derail the project entirely. The lawsuit, filed by a commercial truckers organization and a drivers advocacy group, is challenging how Pennsylvania funds public transit. The suit contends that the $450 million in toll revenue collected from the Pennsylvania Turnpike should not be used beyond that roadway itself. SEPTA receives more than 75 percent of toll revenue. If the suit is successful, it would be catastrophic for the rail project and could even endanger SEPTA’s ability to fund basic maintenance. Montgomery County officials support the project but have not yet begun exploring what financial role the county might play, said Matthew Edmond, section chief of transportation for the county. As far as funding sources from the local level, Greg Waks, chairman of the Upper Merion Township supervisors, said the five-member board has concluded that the township, with an operating budget just above $40 million, doesn’t have the resources to financially support the project. SEPTA expects to release a 20-year financial plan by the end of the year that should include a strategy to pay for the rail extension.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/4/2019 & 3/6/2019
Cheltenham to consider short-term transient lodging and vacation rental regulations
Cheltenham Township commissioners will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m., at Curtis Hall, 1250 W. Church Road, Wyncote, to consider a zoning ordinance amendment regulating short-term transient lodging and vacation rentals. The ordinance would modify the use regulations for bed-and-breakfast establishments. The ordinance can be reviewed on the township website (PDF).
Source: Cheltenham Township; 2/27/2019
Lower Merion fills commissioner vacancy
The Lower Merion Board of Commissioners has picked Ray Courtney to serve out the unexpired term of Ward 5 Commissioner Cheryl Gelber, who retired from the position. Courtney has also put his name in the running for Ward 5 commissioner in the upcoming election. During his interview, Courtney said the rewriting of the zoning code is a monumental undertaking that provides “an excellent opportunity to define the future of this township.” Courtney thanked Gelber for her years of service to Lower Merion Township, saying, “For the past 15 years, she’s been a devoted public servant for all of Lower Merion, and she has set an example of leadership, thoughtful policies and dedicated constituent services that I will strive to live up to.”
Source: Main Line Times; 3/6/2019
Pottstown planners urged to focus on renewable energy
The Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee recently discussed a renewable energy initiative called “Ready for 100,” presented by Sierra Club volunteers Jim Wylie and Bill Sabey. The initiative asks municipalities and residents to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable electricity by 2035, and 100 percent renewable energy for heat and transportation by 2050. According to Sabey, Bridgeport and Springfield in Montgomery County have adopted resolutions, while Collegeville, Norristown and West Norriton, among others, are all considering similar resolutions. About 91 percent of the energy used by the eight municipalities in the Pottstown planning region comes from three sources: nuclear, coal and natural gas, with solar at 1 percent and hydro-electric 3 percent. Moving forward with small achievable steps will make the goal of relying on 100 percent renewable energy possible, said Sabey. The planners made no commitments to speak with their municipalities about moving forward with any of the suggestions. Find out more about the “Ready for 100” initiative here.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/4/2019
Domb proposes 10-year tax abatement reform
After more than a year of sharp debate over Philadelphia’s 10-year property tax abatement, City Councilman Allan Domb has introduced legislation to shrink — but not substantially change — the controversial tax break. Domb’s bill proposes reducing the size of property tax abatements by winding down the benefit in 25 percent increments over its last three years, effectively reducing the subsidy by 15 percent. “It essentially becomes an 8-and-a-half-year abatement,” said Domb. “That would be the least impactful option. I am concerned that changing the abatement dramatically will affect the market dramatically.” Domb’s bill is the latest of several attempts to reform the 22-year-old development incentive. The program allows owners of newly constructed or rehabilitated properties to pay no property taxes on the improvements for 10 years. Recipients still pay the tax on properties’ land values.
Source: WHYY; 2/28/2019
City council introducing bills to expand protections for low-income residents
Philadelphia City Council members plan to introduce several bills that would grant more rights and protections for low-income tenants and those living in affordable housing. There are three bills in total: one to create a low-income tenant legal defense fund; another to establish “fair chance” housing legislation for people returning from prison; and a third to establish affordable housing requirements for certain public land sales. The proposals come in response to a report on poverty in the city, “Narrowing the Gap,” commissioned by City Council President Darrell Clarke. Clarke’s office said more proposed bills on job creation and fair working conditions are yet to come. “The lack of legal representation has unfortunately allowed unjust evictions to rise in Philadelphia,” Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said, addressing the first of the three proposed ordinances. “We hope to work with tenants’ rights organizations and property owners to establish a fairer balance of power between landlords and tenants.”
Source: Philly.Curbed.com; 3/6/2019