NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Counties roll out emergency rent and utility assistance programs

Bucks County
Bucks sheriff sales go online

Chester County
Chesco to offer webinar on Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program

Delaware County
Brandywine Battlefield property purchased

Montgomery County
Lower Merion extends business privilege/mercantile tax deadline

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia rental and utility assistance program open for tenants and landlords

 

News Briefs Archive March 15, 2021

 

General News

Emergency Rental Assistance Program rolls out across PA counties
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) launched the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) this week, using federal funds to provide assistance to renters, landlords and utility providers who have been affected by the pandemic. Under the program guidelines, eligible households may apply for assistance, with funding paid directly to the landlord or utility provider. An “eligible household” is defined using the following criteria:

  • Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19
  • Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
  • Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median 

DHS is administering the ERAP for counties with populations under 200,000, while counties and cities with populations above 200,000 are administering their own programs with direct funding from the U.S. Treasury. For more information, read the PAR JustListed article, which links to other resources.
Source: PAR JustListed; 3/11/2021

American Rescue Plan awaits president’s signature
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the final version of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill known as the American Rescue Plan. The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law by Friday. The relief bill contains numerous measures championed by the National Association of Realtors®, including those related to rental, housing and small business assistance, as well as extended unemployment benefits. Read more about the details of the package at Realtor Magazine.
Source: Realtor Magazine; 3/10/2021

CDC updates guidance for the vaccinated
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on March 8 issued new guidance for individuals who have been fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks or more have passed since their final dose. The changes apply primarily to “visiting with others in private settings.” The new CDC communication provides general guidance from the federal government, but it does not override any Pennsylvania-specific orders that are currently in place. Read more here.
Source: PAR JustListed; 3/9/2021

NAR stresses support for independent contractor classification
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has been educating policymakers on the importance of real estate professionals’ ability to be classified as independent contractors. The ability to work as an independent contractor is recognized and protected under many state and some federal laws. However, litigation and new federal and state legislation continue to threaten workers’ ability to be classified as independent contractors, including many real estate professionals. More specifically, NAR has communicated concerns about adoption of the “ABC test” used for classifying workers. Should new federal standards adopt the test, there may be states that mirror that action and also encourage more litigation challenges that may impact real estate professionals’ independent contractor status. Read more here.
Source: NAR.realtor; 3/5/2021

Are you running for office?
Are you a Realtor running for local office? If so, the Suburban Realtors Alliance would like to hear from you. Contact us at grassroots@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

Bucks County

BCAR, SRA to host Realtor® Town Hall with Bucks County Commissioners
The Bucks County Association of Realtors (BCAR) and the Suburban Realtors Alliance (SRA) will host a virtual town hall with the Bucks County Commissioners on Friday, March 19, at 10:30 a.m. The commissioners will give a general update on the state of the county, discuss real estate issues and provide an update on the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions from attendees will also be accepted. The event is open to BCAR members and affiliates. Registration is free, but space is limited. Register for the virtual town hall here.

Middletown to amend rental ordinances
Middletown Township supervisors will consider a proposed ordinance that would amend and consolidate Fire and Housing Code Tenant (HCT) inspections. Annual apartment inspections for fire code compliance would be consolidated under a new article — Apartment Inspections. The proposed ordinance would: define apartment complexes and rental dwellings; require bi-annual inspections of apartment complexes with advance notice; require owners, landlords and property managers to obtain an inspection and certificate of approval prior to the rental of a dwelling to a new or initial tenant; name who may conduct the inspections; and set forth penalties for violation. A public hearing will be held via Zoom on Monday, March 15, at 7 p.m. Visit the Middletown Township website for meeting information and public comment instructions. The township also publishes proposed ordinances here.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/7/2021

Snow removal costs and obstacles pile up in Springfield
Springfield Township Manager Jason Wager reported to township supervisors that snow removal costs have reached $120,000 since January. Roadmaster Richard W. Pursell Jr. told supervisors that there were several areas that the road crew had trouble navigating due to cars being parked on the streets. The roadmaster’s report comes as supervisors have begun discussing the current snow emergency ordinance and how far the township wants to go with changes to the law, including the ability to tow vehicles left on roadways. The board tabled the matter to allow for more public discussion.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/4/2021

Bristol Township zoners deny variances for senior housing facility
The Bristol Township Zoning Hearing Board turned down a request for variances for a proposed senior-living facility. Ingerman Senior Housing Communities was seeking 27 variances for a 56-unit, four-story building on Norton Avenue between Elwood and Watson avenues on part of the Norton Avenue First Baptist Church property. The new building would be adjacent to the church. Of the 56 units, nine would be market-rate, 47 would be affordable housing, and all would be restricted to residents age 62 and older. The church is supportive of the project. The zoners reviewed the 27 variances, ranging from parking to impervious surface, before turning down the request.
Source: LevittownNow.com; 3/4/2021

Chester County 

Chester County Recorder of Deeds changes fees
Effective March 22, the Chester County Recorder of Deeds office is revising fees in its fee schedule.
Source: Chester County Record of Deeds Office; 3/5/2021

East Vincent supervisors reject senior housing zoning change
More than 18 months after a developer first proposed more than 200 units of new senior housing on farmland off Stony Run Road and West Bridge Street, East Vincent Township supervisors have unanimously rejected a zoning change that would have allowed the project. Residents who had opposed the development hailed the vote as a victory. In June 2019, Artisan Construction Group proposed 231 homes on the 66-acre Ruth farm at 1241 W. Bridge St. and the 89-acre Bucco tract at 446 Stony Run Road. The proposed zoning language changes were reviewed by the township and county planning commissions, and public hearings were held last August and September. Supervisors Chairman Chris Canale said that, after the review process, “I do not believe that amending the zoning district in this fashion is in the best interests of the township at this time.”
Source: Daily Local; 3/6/2021

County officials announce $5.9M for hospitality businesses
Grants from the commonwealth’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) are being administered at the county level, and the application period in Chester County begins Monday, March 15. The county has been allocated about $5.9 million in CHIRP funding, and the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) will help administer the program. Restaurants, bars, hotels and other hospitality businesses can apply for grants of $5,000 to $50,000. Businesses can register online for an informational CHIRP webinar on Friday, March 12, at 11:30 a.m. CCEDC recommends that businesses begin to gather documentation for their grant applications now, including documentation of NAICS designation, 2019 tax returns, and quarterly profit and loss statements for 2019 and 2020. Program information can be found at the CCEDC website. Applications will be accepted via the website until Monday, April 12. Grant awards will be announced in May.
Source: Daily Local; 3/6/2021

Downingtown council holds hearing on Trestle View Village proposal
Downingtown Borough Council held a conditional use hearing to consider approving construction of a new land development project called Trestle View Village. The proposal includes the construction of 66 homes within the Johnsontown section of the borough. The developer, borough native Francis Taraschi, said he’s been working on the project for 20 years. If approved, he’ll build 11 homes per acre to create the new development. Some residents voiced traffic concerns. Borough council is expected to vote on the Trestle View Village project at its April meeting.
Source: Daily Local; 3/6/2021

Delaware County

Delco to begin distributing $37M in rental assistance
About 5,000 Delaware County renters having trouble paying their rent and even facing eviction will receive $37 million, or six months of rent plus utilities, by the end of September through the Emergency Assistance Rental Program. Delaware County Council approved a $2.5 million contract with Philadelphia-based Capital Access Inc. to administer the $37 million Emergency Assistance Rental Program and to provide software for distributing the funds. The county is on track to receive $16.8 million from the federal 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and $20.3 million from Pennsylvania Act 1 allocations. “The monies will be utilized to pay past due rent, past due utilities [and] up to three months of prospective rent in order to make sure that renters are not subject to eviction ejectment and the problems of homelessness,” county solicitor William Martin said. Participants have to meet salary requirements of 50% or less of the county’s median salary, which was $74,477 as of 2019. County representatives have been communicating with the Court of Common Pleas so that landlords who filed cases on or before Jan. 31 are notified that representatives will be reaching out to them to try to resolve the rental issues. Jeremey Newberg, CEO of Capital Access, said he’s anticipating funding three months of past due rent, three months in future rent and some utilities for about 5,000 for approximately $7,000 each.
Source: Daily Times; 3/7/2021

Hospitality industry in Delco to get $6.4M boost
Through the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP), hospitality businesses can apply for grants of up to $50,000. County Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer said the grants are available to “the whole hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, bars, caterers, cafes, delis.” Applications can be submitted via the Delco Strong website from Monday, March 15, until Monday, April 12. The funding comes from a $145 million state allocation to provide assistance to hospitality businesses hurt by the pandemic. Delaware County is receiving $6.4 million of the funding, which will be distributed through the Delaware County Economic Oversight Board and the Delaware County Commerce Center. Businesses must have been operating as of Feb. 15, 2020, and must demonstrate and document a minimum 25% loss in gross receipts due to the pandemic. They must be located in Delaware County, have a tangible net worth of less than $15 million and have fewer than 300 full-time employees. Businesses can use the money for operating expenses, such as payroll, mortgage or rent, and utilities.
Source: Daily Times; 3/6/2021

FBI, D.A. investigate missing Chester Upland funds
The FBI and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer are investigating millions of dollars’ worth of missing funds in Chester Upland School District, sources close to the investigation confirmed. Chester Upland was court-ordered last year to complete audits going back to 2017 as part of a financial recovery plan. The district’s state-appointed receiver, Juan Baughn, sought to put any rumors of wrongdoing within the district itself to rest, saying the investigation is related to a hacking incident involving subsidy payments from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. He noted that it was the district administration that alerted Stollsteimer’s office about the alleged discrepancies.
Source: Daily Times; 3/4/2021

Final approval for Drexeline redevelopment in Upper Darby
In a unanimous vote, Upper Darby Township Council granted final approval for the Drexeline Redevelopment Project to move ahead. Phase 1 of the development, located on State Road at Township Line Road, is scheduled to begin in April and includes a new 72,000-square-foot ShopRite, 14,000 square feet of retail space and a new Wawa, all expected to open in fall of 2022, pending additional state and federal approval. An existing PNC Bank branch will be renovated with an additional 6,400 square feet along State Road. The final phase of the project is slated to begin in fall of 2022 and will include a new market-rate, multi-family residential building and a multi-use trail along the Darby Creek, as well as a new self-storage facility. The project should be fully completed in mid-2024. MCB Real Estate, based in Maryland, purchased the property in 2016 and appeared before the zoning board in 2018 for variances. “Drexeline is Upper Darby’s largest redevelopment project in 25 years, and it will be of tremendous benefit to the community,” said Mayor Barbarann Keffer. Keffer said the development will help bring new jobs, improved roads and an enhanced hub for public transit.
Source: Daily Times; 3/6/2021

Montgomery County

Limerick sets hearing date for senior housing project
Limerick Township supervisors have set a hearing date of Tuesday, March 16, to review a proposal to build a 112-bed assisted living facility off North Lewis Road. Senior Housing Development LLC is proposing a 33,000-square-foot, two-story assisted living and memory care facility with 67 parking spaces on 8.6 acres at 545 N. Lewis Road. The project complies with the retail business zoning for the site, but the first requirement is to obtain conditional use approval from the board of supervisors. Township planners have recommended the project receive a conditional use permit from the supervisors. If the conditional use permit is approved, the development plan returns to the planning commission for a full site plan review and approval before construction can begin.
Source: Times Herald; 3/6/2021

Six new homes proposed in Bryn Mawr
Lower Merion planners approved preliminary site plans for a proposed project in Bryn Mawr. A developer plans to tear down a home and add six new houses to two existing lots on the 100 block of Mount Pleasant Road. The plan calls for dividing the two lots into six new lots, each with a single-family home. The total space is 7.3 acres, so it falls under the township’s open space preservation district overlay. A 4.3-acre preservation area will be required on the property. One of the lots was an unimproved wooded lot that will be cleared, and new landscaping will be planted. According to Chris Leswig, director of building and planning for Lower Merion, a tour of the site in the fall found the existing trees were a haven for the invasive spotted lanternfly. The plan will now move to the supervisors for approval.
Source: Main Line Media News; 3/4/2021

Collegeville looks to protect historic properties
Pennsylvania’s Cultural Resources Geographic Information System lists more than 30 properties that are at least 100 years old in Collegeville Borough. The borough does not currently have a commission, a historic overlay or a list of borough-identified historic properties that offers any kind of protection from demolition. The borough is looking to protect historic resources, and the first step is to define the criteria for including a building on a list of historic structures. The borough can then contact historic building owners to keep them informed on the development of a draft ordinance to help protect the buildings, while including bonus provisions to benefit property owners. Residents who would like to serve on the historic committee or would like more information can email Borough Council President Cathy Kernen.
Source: Collegeville e-news; 3/2021

Upper Providence to increase powers of municipal authority
Upper Providence Township supervisors will hold a virtual meeting on Monday, March 15, at 7 p.m. to consider an amendment to the articles of incorporation of the township’s municipal authority. The amendment would increase the powers of the municipal authority in a variety of ways, including stormwater planning, management and implementation necessary to maintain compliance with state or federal stormwater laws and regulation. A complete copy of the proposed ordinance is available for review by appointment at the township office. Visit the Upper Providence Township website for more information.
Source: Mercury; 3/2/2021

Philadelphia

Iconic Ben Franklin Parkway to get a major redesign
Philadelphia is moving forward on a long-term plan to overhaul much of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with an eye toward improving access for walking and biking. The city released a request for proposals (RFP) seeking consultants for a major redesign of a stretch of the parkway between Logan Circle and the Philadelphia Art Museum. According to documents obtained by PlanPhilly, the city is seeking designs for “permanent improvements” aimed at making the avenue a more “pedestrian-oriented civic space.” The joint RFP, filed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Office of Transportation Infrastructure and Sustainability, and the Mayor’s Fund, calls for a total redo of Eakins Oval –– including the removal of a surface parking lot –– and better infrastructure for public gatherings. All of it will be driven in part by a public design workshop slated to kick off in June following the selection of a number of qualified design teams. The improvements trace back to a 2013 plan called “More Park, Less Way.” Tens of thousands of people travel on the parkway on the average weekday, and huge crowds routinely descend for concerts, protests and other events, yet critics have long assailed design elements that can make the boulevard feel uninviting and even dangerous. Read more here.
Source: WHYY; 3/5/2021

Philly school board rejects five new charter schools
The Philadelphia School Board unanimously rejected the applications of five new charter schools. District officials cited flaws in all of the proposals, which would have created 4,000 new charter openings and transferred millions of dollars from the district to independently run schools. Charter schools have been the subject of heightened political debate lately, with Gov. Tom Wolf backing efforts to overhaul the state’s charter law. School districts, which pay charters based on enrollment, have said rising costs from an inequitable funding system are squeezing budgets and driving up local property taxes.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/4/2021

Funds available to improve urban agriculture infrastructure
Pennsylvania’s Urban Agriculture Grant Program will provide funds to improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, aggregation of product, sharing of resources and support for community development efforts, according to a statement by Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. The $500,000 grant program is part of the 2020-2021 Pennsylvania Farm Bill. Two types of grants will be awarded: “microgrants” and “collaboration” grants. The grant application period is open until Friday, April 16. For more information or to apply, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website.
Source: Gettysburg Times; 2/27/2021

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