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 March 5, 2018

 

General News

Regional property taxes rise in the past decade
In the past decade, the average real estate tax levy has increased about 28 percent for homeowners in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties. That amounts to an average increase of $1,387 in a homeowner’s annual bill, according to an Inquirer and Daily News analysis of state and local tax data and Nielsen housing data. School taxes constitute the majority of property-tax levies, although municipalities’ expenses are rising as well, and they often feel pressured to limit tax increases because of constituent complaints about rising school taxes. Property taxes are the primary means of funding local government and schools in Pennsylvania, and although voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in November as a step toward property tax elimination, total elimination of property taxes may be unlikely. Another problem is that the state’s system of assessing properties creates a naturally occurring system of unfairness, which is a contributing factor to the unpopularity of property taxes. Property assessments are legal values established by counties that determine tax bills. It is estimated that more than 200,000 property owners in Southeastern Pennsylvania are paying more than their fair share because counties go decades between reassessments, a problem that leads to unfair tax burdens for some homeowners and breaks for others. Delaware County is beginning a court-ordered reassessment that will take effect in 2021. The countywide reassessment will distribute the tax burden more fairly, with the end result producing a more accurate assessment of individual property values. The process could set off reassessments in other counties. Both Delaware and Chester County’s last reassessments happened after a court order. Following those court orders, Montgomery County voluntarily reassessed properties. Bucks County, however, has not completed a reassessment since 1972.
Source: Philly.com; 2/27/2018

Petition day arrives with congressional boundaries in doubt
The first day for congressional candidates in Pennsylvania to circulate petitions has arrived amid legal challenges to recently issued court-ordered boundaries of the state’s 18 U.S. House districts. The map of districts continues to spur more would-be candidates to reconsider whether — and where — to run, as Republican challenges to new U.S. House district boundaries await action in federal courts. Perhaps the most prominent name, Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale, said he would not run for Congress after spending several days considering a shot at a more competitive district in south-central Pennsylvania. February 27 was the first day under a delayed schedule to gather signatures to qualify for May 15 primary election ballots, and the deadline to submit them is March 20. An interactive map of the new, court-ordered congressional districts can be found on the Alliance blog.
Source: Daily Times; 2/27/18

Bucks County

East Rockhill quarry reopening causes stir
The “Rockhill Quarry” in East Rockhill Township was last fully operational in the early 1980s. Last December, residents near the quarry were alarmed to see heavy equipment moving around the edges of the property and spoke with East Rockhill Township Manager Marianne Morano, who told them that the quarry “was going to go fully active.” Now the residents find themselves at the center of what may be a brewing battle between the township and the property’s owners, Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania of Allentown, as well as the quarry’s lessee, Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. of Pilesgrove, N.J. Pierson was awarded a $224 million contract by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for the reconstruction and widening of seven miles of the Northeast Extension and wants to use rock from the quarry for the project. As residents voiced concerns over the quarry, township officials, who were initially noncommittal about a course of action, denied a zoning permit for extractive operations at the quarry in January because a special exception from the Zoning Hearing Board is required. However, the state Department of Environmental Protection notified the township that blasting would begin anyway on Feb. 2. The blasting went ahead as scheduled. DEP spokeswoman Virginia Cain wrote in an email that Hanson had maintained an active state quarry permit through the decades because it had “been able to demonstrate” removal of at least 500 tons of rock per year, the state’s minimum requirement. Pierson has appealed the township’s determination that a special exception is needed, and a public hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 14, at 6 p.m. at Pennridge High School, 1228 N. 5th St., Perkasie. Visit the township website for more information.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/24/2018 & East Rockhill Township e-news; 2/23/2018

Grant awarded to test some residents for water contaminants
A grant was recently awarded that will allow the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) “to support biomonitoring efforts” for some residents in areas of water contamination in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Biomonitoring is a term typically used to describe blood testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals that were used in firefighting foams at nearby military bases. The chemicals could have been in the water supply as far back as the 1970s, building up in residents’ blood all along until the contamination was discovered in 2014. The tests costs hundreds of dollars per person, and the $175,000 grant will only allow a few hundred residents to be tested from the more than 70,000 current residents who are believed to have been exposed to high levels of the chemicals in Warminster, Warrington and Horsham. According to an email from DOH spokesman Nate Wardle, “Resident households will be selected based off of (CDC protocols) which involve random sampling based on address.” Testing is just a part of a much larger picture, with federal lawmakers working to provide the CDC with $7 million in funding for a large nationwide study on the health effects of the chemicals through the annual budget process. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have been reporting on the issue, and as a public resource, have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available to subscribers and nonsubscribers on their websites — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos. Resources include maps of the affected areas, recent news articles, and efforts by area congressmen to fund testing and cleanup. Realtors® are encouraged to reach out to specific municipalities for more information regarding water safety in areas where they may do business.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/27/2018

Tullytown to consider amendment to fire protection ordinance
Tullytown Borough Council will consider an ordinance that will amend Chapter 83, Fire Prevention of Tullytown Borough Code, by defining re-inspections by the Fire Marshall for existing properties; and detailing the authority for the position of Borough Fire Marshall. The proposed ordinance amendment will be considered during the regular meeting on Tuesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in the Borough Municipal Building, 500 Main St. The Alliance has requested a copy of the proposed ordinance.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/13/2018

East Rockhill offers parks survey
East Rockhill Township is seeking input to help prioritize park and recreation projects. Click here for a short survey regarding park amenities for Willard H. Markey Centennial Park at 1418 Ridge Road, Mood's Bridge Park at 1100 Branch Road, and Iron Bridge Park at 1450 Branch Road. Visit the Parks and Recreation page on the township website for more information about existing amenities. The survey will close on Friday, March 23.
Source: East Rockhill Township e-news; 2/23/2018

Chester County 

Oxford to receive $143k from state for roads
State Sen. Andy Dinniman and state Rep. John Lawrence announced that the Borough of Oxford will receive more than $143,000 in state funding to support downtown roadway and pedestrian access improvements related to a proposed transportation center. The project aims to resolve parking issues that continue to impede Oxford’s revitalization. The transportation center plans call for a multimodal transit hub, with increased parking and an integrated bus station and loop road. With the addition of the grant, more than $5 million in local, county and state grants have been committed to the project. According to the Oxford Main Street website, “The Oxford Borough Multimodal Transportation Center is designed to be a four-story, five-level parking structure, with multimodal transportation integration and park-n-ride capabilities.”
Source: Avon Grove Sun; 2/15/18

West Goshen pursues Tree City USA designation
The West Goshen Township Board of Supervisors voted to become an accredited Tree City USA. It is the first township in Chester County to do so, though the boroughs of West Chester and Phoenixville are members. The program is run by the Arbor Day Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters. West Goshen will meet the program’s four requirements: establishment of a tree board or department, enactment of a tree-care ordinance, creation of an annual forestry budget of at least $2 per capita, and establishing an Arbor Day observance with a proclamation. The township’s sustainability task force, which recommended the action, said in a statement that trees help to improve the look of a neighborhood, increase property values, reduce cooling costs, clean the air and provide wildlife habitats. More information about the program is available on the Arbor Day Foundation website.
Source: Daily Local News; 2/28/18

Riverkeeper challenges Bishop Tube decision
Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed an appeal with the state Environmental Hearing Board challenging the state Department of Environmental Protection’s ratification of two settlement agreements regarding the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland. Developer Brian O’Neill wants to clean up the contaminated 13-acre site on South Malin Road and build more than 200 homes, while the “Riverkeeper,” Maya K van Rossum, wants to build a park. The challenge asserts that the state failed to acknowledge critical changing facts, including that the DEP quietly voided key elements of the agreement. The Bishop Tube site is a former metals processing plant. The site is bordered by Little Valley Creek, a stream designated under state law as “exceptional value.” Groundwater, soil and surface water at the site are contaminated with trichloroethylene, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA and also causes other significant health problems, the Riverkeeper Network said.
Source: Daily Local News; 2/23/18

East Goshen offers free sewer cap replacements
As winter weather leads into the spring thaw, now is a good time for homeowners to check the sewer caps in their front lawns for signs of cracking or damage. East Goshen Township is offering to replace damaged caps for free. Damaged sewer caps are the main entry point for rain and groundwater into the municipal sewer system. Groundwater infiltration and inflow into the sewer is expensive to treat and accounts for a substantial portion of the township’s sewage treatment costs. Residents wishing to request a free cap replacement from the township can call 610-692-7171.
Source: East Goshen Township; 2/26/18

Delaware County

Radnor School District ranks safest in nation
Niche.com, a website that reviews schools and neighborhoods, released a study ranking Radnor Township School District as the safest district in America. The criteria for the ranking included student absenteeism, suspension rates, expulsions and law enforcement referrals. In 2013, all 230 schools in Delaware County received a panic button that immediately alerts law enforcement of threats. “It is nice to be recognized, but rankings aren’t our concern when it comes to school security,” said Michael Petitti, director of district communications. “We’re focused on continuing to keep our students safe.” In statewide rankings, Unionville-Chadds Ford School District was ranked 4th, Tredyffrin-Easttown was 5th, Marple-Newtown was 9th, and Spring-Ford was 10th. Click here to view the Pennsylvania rankings.
Source: Daily Times; 2/24/2018

County plans informational meetings on reassessment
Delaware County will hold four public informational meetings in March at different sites throughout the county to educate residents about the upcoming Delaware County Tax Reassessment Project. The county was ordered in March 2017 by the county Common Pleas Court to conduct a countywide property tax reassessment, effective for the 2021 tax year. Reassessment began in December and is expected to conclude in 2020. Street-level photography of properties is ongoing, and pictometry, or image collection from the air, will begin in the spring. The four public meetings to provide more information about the process will be held:

  • Tuesday, March 13, 2 to 3 p.m., Penn State Brandywine, Tomezsko Classroom Building (25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media)
  • Thursday, March 15, 7 to 8 p.m., The Creekside Center (794 Milmont Ave., Swarthmore)
  • Monday, March 19, 7 to 8 p.m., Neumann University/The Schmidt Room (1 Neumann Dr., Aston)
  • Wednesday, March 21, 1 to 2 p.m., Haverford Recreation Center/EverGreen Room (9000 Parkview Dr., Haverford)

Registration is not required and residents can attend any meeting. A Reassessment Hotline has also been set up at 610-891-5695 for residents to call with any questions or concerns.
Source: Delaware County website; 2/2018

Sunoco expects pipeline to be operational by June
After seeing construction halted for more than a month by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Mariner East 2 Pipeline work has resumed, and its owner, Sunoco Logistics, expects the project to be complete by June. Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said in a statement: “With 94 percent of mainline construction complete and 83 percent of drills completed or underway … We expect Mariner East 2 to be in service by the end of the quarter.” The completed pipeline will run 350 miles, zig-zagging from the Marcellus shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and western Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. The pipeline will transport ethane, butane and propane, including through high-density areas and within 100 feet of several schools, churches and senior care centers. State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) questioned the stability of the planned pipeline and its resilience to sinkholes and other geologic problems. Three environmental groups recently filed an appeal to the DEP consent order and agreement that allowed Sunoco to resume construction.
Source: Daily Times; 2/28/2018

Applications being accepted for lead paint control program
The Community Action Agency of Delaware County is accepting applications for its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program. Families with a child age 5 or younger may qualify for new windows and other repairs to help remediate lead paint hazards. Applicants must meet certain income guidelines, own the home (renters are not eligible at this time) and be a resident of Delaware County, though not all communities are eligible. For more information, email Debbie Brodeur at dbrodeur@caadc.org or call 610-891-5101.

Montgomery County

Pottstown and West Pottsgrove riverfront project concept unveiled
Officials from the Montgomery County Planning Commission, working with Pottstown and West Pottsgrove officials, unveiled plans for the redevelopment of 255 acres along the Schuylkill River. The concept calls for a mix of development including residential, in the form of “high-end apartments,” and nonresidential uses, which include industrial, office and research and development. Peggy Lee-Clark, director of Pottstown Area Industrial Development said, “This is just a concept to give a developer some ideas.” The study was made possible through a $200,000 grant funded by gambling revenues “and covers the largest undeveloped land area in Pottstown,” said Lee-Clark. It also includes 80 acres in West Pottsgrove that were once Stanley Flagg Brass, which closed in 1997 and was most recently proposed as a site for a medical marijuana grow facility. Michael Narcowich, a principal planner with the Montgomery County Planning Commission, said there is an added benefit in that much of the design work has already been done, and the defined plan can supersede zoning “and allow a developer to proceed directly to final plan approval.” According to the planning commission’s analysis, a build-out would result in another $51.8 million in nonresidential property assessment for Pottstown and another $37.5 million for West Pottsgrove.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 2/19/2018

Grant awarded to test some residents for water contaminants
A grant was recently awarded that will allow the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) “to support biomonitoring efforts” for some residents in areas of water contamination in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Biomonitoring is a term typically used to describe blood testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals that were used in firefighting foams at nearby military bases. The chemicals could have been in the water supply as far back as the 1970s, building up in residents’ blood all along until the contamination was discovered in 2014. The tests costs hundreds of dollars per person, and the $175,000 grant will only allow a few hundred residents to be tested from the more than 70,000 current residents who are believed to have been exposed to high levels of the chemicals in Warminster, Warrington and Horsham. According to an email from DOH spokesman Nate Wardle, “Resident households will be selected based off of (CDC protocols) which involve random sampling based on address.” Testing is just a part of a much larger picture, with federal lawmakers working to provide the CDC with $7 million in funding for a large nationwide study on the health effects of the chemicals through the annual budget process. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have been reporting on the issue, and as a public resource, have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available to subscribers and nonsubscribers on their websites — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos. Resources include maps of the affected areas, recent news articles, and efforts by area congressmen to fund testing and cleanup. Realtors® are encouraged to reach out to specific municipalities for more information regarding water safety in areas where they may do business.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/27/2018

Hatfield Township launches redesigned website
Hatfield Township has announced the launch of a redesigned website. The changes were based on feedback from residents, businesses and data from website use in 2017. The new site allows for easier use by mobile users. The township is requesting feedback if users experience any issues. Check out the new site here.
Source: Hatfield Township; 2/15/2018

Your Way Home announces 2-1-1 support line
Your Way Home is a public-private partnership designed to eradicate homelessness in Montgomery County by connecting the homeless and those at risk of being homeless with housing and social service programs, and providing “wraparound services” consisting of ongoing support. Effective March 1, Your Way Home is working with a new call center provider, 2-1-1 of Southeastern Pennsylvania, as part of a partnership with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. The new partnership creates 2-1-1 as a free, 24-hour helpline that connects individuals to the help, support and information they need. Visit www.211SEPA.org for more information about the service. For more information about Your Way Home, visit their website.
Source: Montgomery County press release; 2/23/2018

Philadelphia

Panel nominates 27 for school board
The school board nominating panel forwarded the names of 27 people out of 500 resumes for Mayor Kenney to consider to run the Philadelphia School District. Nine new members will be selected by the end of March to run the school district after the School Reform Commission dissolves on June 30. The 13-member nominating panel combed through the resumes and applications, and interviewed about 80 to arrive at the final list. Mayor Kenney has 10 days to return to the nominating panel to request more names if he feels a deeper pool is needed. Click here for a list of nominees.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/27/2018

‘Greening’ vacant city lots cuts down on crime
A new Philadelphia study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by researchers from Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, found that crime rates declined in areas where vacant lots were cleaned and maintained over an 18-month period. Researchers selected 541 blighted parcels to receive one of three treatments from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society: a full-scale makeover with grading, planting and fencing; a basic intervention with just clearing and mowing; and no treatment at all. The study compared the ‘green’ lots to vacant lots that were left alone and found that crime rates declined in the nearby vicinity of a greened lot. The impact was especially dramatic in neighborhoods where the median household income was below the poverty line. The study found the rate of gun assaults dropped by 17.4 percent near lots that received a full makeover, and by 29.1 percent near lots that got any kind of greening — either the full treatment, or basic clearing and mowing. Researchers estimated the number of fatal and nonfatal shootings could go down by as many as 350 each year if the city were to clear all of its blighted lots — a total currently close to 30,000.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/27/2018

 


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