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 8, 2021

 

General News

Federal judge rules eviction moratorium is unconstitutional
A federal judge in Texas ruled Thursday that the national eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and aimed at helping victims of the coronavirus pandemic hold onto their homes is unconstitutional. Judge John Campbell Barker called the moratorium unprecedented and overbroad, and beyond the authority of the federal government. The judge stopped short of issuing a preliminary injunction, but said he expected the CDC to respect his ruling and withdraw the moratorium. It is unclear whether the Department of Justice, which represented the CDC in the case, will appeal the ruling. An eviction moratorium was first enacted as part of the CARES Act in March 2020 and expired the following July. The CDC issued its moratorium last September, which was set to expire at the end of January but was extended through March.
Source: NBC News; 2/26/2021 & CNN; 2/26/2021

Rental assistance, other Realtor priorities are part of proposed relief
The U.S. House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan legislation. The $1.9 trillion bill contains an array of coronavirus relief measures championed by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), including: new aid for struggling state and local governments; the creation of a homeowners assistance fund and a small-business grant program; and a fresh round of funding for rental assistance, expanded unemployment, stimulus checks, vaccines and testing. “Perhaps the biggest component of this bill is state and local aid, which was left out of previous legislation,” said Shannon McGahn, NAR’s chief advocacy officer. “Nearly nine in 10 cities expect a budget shortfall this year.” The American Rescue Plan would be the sixth major coronavirus relief package passed by Congress. The plan is expected to pass the Senate without significant changes and be signed into law by mid-March, when current unemployment benefits expire.” Specifically, the plan would provide:

  • $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans, phased out for higher earners
  • An extension through Aug. 29 of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and an increase of Pandemic Unemployment Compensation from $300 to $400 weekly
  • $20.3 billion in new money for rental assistance (on top of the $25 billion allocated in December)
  • An extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium and forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages through Sept. 30
  • A one-year increase from $2,000 to $3,000 in the child tax credit
  • Expanded paid sick and family leave through Sept. 30
  • $10 billion for a Housing Assistance Fund that will allow state housing finance agencies to help homeowners with COVID-19 hardships
  • $100 million for housing counseling services
  • $15 billion for a new small business grant program
  • $350 billion in state and local aid
  • $130 billion for schools

Read NAR’s letter to Congressional leadership about provisions that are important to Realtors.
Source: NAR.realtor; 2/27/2021

Municipal database tax information
The local tax information in the SRA Municipal Database is gleaned from a variety of sources, including state, county and municipal websites, and local newspapers. When a tax rate is confirmed, the “applicable year” is updated to “2021” in the database entry. There are times when confirmation is difficult due to different information. Some tax rates are being investigated and will be updated as soon as they are confirmed. The SRA strives to maintain information that is accurate and up-to-date. Please do not hesitate to email the SRA if you have updates or if you encounter a broken link.

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.

Bucks offers $7.1M to hospitality businesses affected by COVID
Bucks County officials are offering $7.1 million in state grant money to local hospitality businesses affected by the pandemic. The county’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) will accept applications from Monday, March 15, to Friday, April 2. Grants will be awarded in the order in which they are received and will range from $5,000 to $50,000, based on need. Businesses can review eligibility requirements and apply on the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority website.
Source: Bucks County; 3/1/2021

Bristol Water Treatment Plant receives national award
The staff at the Bristol Water Treatment Plant recently earned a national award. The Phase III Directors Award was presented by the Partnership for Safe Water, a program developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association, and associated partner organizations. To qualify for the award, the plant was subject to a comprehensive evaluation of operations and performance, an assessment of performance-limiting factors, and the development of action plans to achieve optimization.
Source: Levittownnow.com; 2/28/2021

Riegelsville and Ottsville fire companies to merge
Riegelsville Community Fire Company and Ottsville Volunteer Fire Company have announced plans to merge. Riegelsville Community Fire Company is a full-service engine and rescue company that serves Riegelsville Borough and also Durham and Nockamixon townships. Ottsville Volunteer Fire Company is also a full-service engine and rescue that serves Nockamixon and Tinicum townships, as well as parts of Bedminster and Haycock townships. The consolidation comes as a result of funding limitations and other serious challenges, including lack of volunteers and population growth in service areas. The companies hope to have a merger plan in place for the new entity by the start of next year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/25/2021

Information on Doylestown area Route 202 trail extension
Doylestown Borough and Doylestown Township have collaborated for years to create an extensive network of multi-use trails. Recently, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission awarded a $30,000 grant to fund a feasibility study to explore a trail extension along Route 202 between Central Park and Route 313. Click here to review project information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/25/2021

Chester County 

Phoenixville to consider updates to water ordinance
Phoenixville Borough Council will consider updates to Chapter 26, Water, of the borough code. The proposed ordinance is available here. The ordinance will be considered at a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Residents and taxpayers who wish to participate or listen to the meeting may do so by phone or computer. Directions for attending the meeting will be published on the borough website.
Source: Daily Local; 3/1/2021

Brandywine Creek flows freely again after Lenape Dam removal
The Brandywine Red Clay Alliance (BRCA) spearheaded a local effort to remove the dangerous and historic Lenape Dam from the Brandywine Creek in Pocopson Township. A year ago, BRCA became the project sponsor for the dam removal after the Lenape Cabin Club, which owned the dam, reached out to the conservation community for support. “The dam had a breach in it,” said Brian Winslow, BRCA watershed conservation director. The dam was removed in February using traditional earthmoving equipment. Sediment impounded behind the dam was permitted to naturally and passively re-distribute downstream as the dam was removed. The removal restored a 3,300-foot section of the Brandywine Creek to free-flowing condition. The Lenape Dam was a 280-foot long, rock-filled “low head” structure on Brandywine Creek originally constructed in the early 1900s to create an impoundment of water for boating and recreational purposes for Lenape Picnic Park, Winslow said.
Source: Daily Local; 2/27/2021

Avon Grove officials lauded for excellent budgeting
For the second consecutive year, the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) has recognized Avon Grove School District (AGSD) with the 2020-2021 Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) for excellence in budget preparations. Districts who apply for the award “recognize the importance of presenting a high-quality, easy-to-understand budget internally and to the community,” ASBO executive director David J. Lewis said. To earn the award, districts submit their applications and budget documents to a panel of school financial professionals. “As soon as the budget is approved in June, we start putting our presentation together. It takes about five to six months,” said Eric Willey, assistant business manager for AGSD. “In addition to the numbers, the budget information must add context to provide a better understanding of our district, the decisions that are being made and their impact on our community.” AGSD is constructing a new high school at the intersection of Old Baltimore Pike and Sunnyside Road, part of a multi-year facilities initiative. View the 2020-2021 AGSD budget presentation (PDF).
Source: Daily Local; 2/26/2021

Coatesville is home to a $5M start-up accelerator in former Lukens Steel offices
In a bid to turn around the City of Coatesville, an innovation center and start-up accelerator is springing up in the former offices of the once-giant Lukens Steel plant. The project at 190 W. Lincoln Highway will operate within a newly designated state Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ), affording companies who locate there significant state tax breaks. The two-acre site is under construction to become a 30,000-square-foot start-up hub with space for at least 30 people, as well as an engineering and fabricating center. It should open next month. The property is one of 29 such innovation zones in Pennsylvania, which include the Philadelphia Navy Yard in South Philadelphia and an area in North Philadelphia near Temple University. Under the KIZ program, businesses must be less than eight years old to qualify for assistance. More than 150 small businesses take part in the KIZ program across Pennsylvania. Coatesville City Manager James Logan said he hopes the new center will be part of a movement to “attract new partners from educational institutions, light manufacturing and fintech companies to our area.”
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/1/2021

Delaware County

Delaware County mails revenue-neutral 2021 tax bills
Delaware County has completed mailing all 2021 real estate tax bills to property owners — the first tax bills that reflect the property values determined by the countywide reassessment project. In 2017, Delaware County Common Pleas Court determined the county’s real estate assessments had become increasingly inequitable over time and needed to be updated to ensure that the tax burden borne by property owners was fair and roughly uniform. The last countywide assessment was in 2000. The county and local taxing authorities are legally prohibited from using the reassessment to obtain an increase in real estate taxes, so the county reset its tax rate to collect the same aggregate amount in real estate taxes in 2021 as in 2020. The county legally could have taken a separate vote to increase revenue by up to 10% in 2021, but county council instead passed a revenue-neutral budget. However, property owners should be aware that the tax burden upon any specific real estate owner may have increased or decreased. The tax rates for all types of real estate — residential, commercial and industrial — are the same or “uniform” based on Pennsylvania law. For example, a home worth $1 million bears the same tax burden as a store worth $1 million. In 2017, voters approved a referendum to remove that uniformity clause, but state legislators have not written legislation necessary to enact the change.
Source: Delaware County; 3/1/2021

Assessment appeals window to open on March 15
Delaware County property owners can appeal their 2022 real estate assessments by filing an appeal between March 15 and Aug. 1 to the county’s Board of Assessment Appeals. More information regarding assessments, including links to current valuations and details of the appeal process, can be found on the county website.
Source: Delaware County; 3/1/2021

Concord seeks input for open space
Concord Township is working on its Recreation, Parks and Open Space Plan, and wants input from the community on how to best allocate resources. The township will conduct a public outreach survey that will be made available soon on the township website and social media.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 3/3/2021

Aston to amend code relating to waivers and licensing of contractors
The Aston Township Board of Commissioners will amend sections 1234.10(a)5 and 1292.08(c) of the township’s zoning code to change the waiver procedures for relief from regulations. The proposed amendments to Section 1234.10(a)(5) would create a new procedure for appealing municipal decisions regarding sidewalk and curb construction. New procedures to seek a waiver to Amendments will also be made to sections 1420.18 and 1445 to revise procedures for the licensing of contractors. The public meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 17, at 7 p.m. in the Aston Township Municipal Building, 5021 Pennell Road. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will be limited to 25 attendees. Members of the public are welcome to view the meeting on Facebook Live or on Aston TV (Verizon channel 45, Comcast channel 5), and to participate in the meeting by calling 484-768-6620.
Source: Daily Times; 3/2/2021

Montgomery County

New Hanover rejects quarry plan
New Hanover supervisors voted unanimously to reject the final site approval for the first phase of the Gibraltar Rock Quarry. The quarry was first proposed in 2001. A preliminary plan approved by the supervisors in 2015 included a number of conditions that needed to be met before final approval could be granted. Among the conditions was the securing of permits from the state, but one of the permits — the mining permit — was revoked in 2020 after a legal victory for the township and a local opposition group. The legal decision from the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board ruled that the state Department of Environmental Protection failed to properly consider how a hazardous cleanup adjacent to the quarry site would be affected by the start of quarry operations. Stephen Harris, attorney for Gibraltar Rock, said an appeal is likely.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/2/2021

Limerick hosts Linfield Master Plan meetings
A committee tasked with creating a master plan for Linfield, an unincorporated village in Limerick Township, is conducting an online survey to gather public input. The Linfield Master Plan Committee updated township supervisors in February on key issues the plan would address, and in March it held a public meeting to hear from community members. The planning process began at the end of February 2020, but slowed due to the pandemic. Since then, a developer has made proposals for the Publicker site and the supervisors decided it would be best to re-start the master plan process to include the community.
Source: Pottstown Mercury/Digital Notebook Blog; 3/3/2021

Gun shop plan in residential area raises concern in Lower Pottsgrove
Lower Pottsgrove commissioners have expressed concern over a proposal to open a gun repair shop and dealership in a residential neighborhood. The business is regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which requires the owner to obtain permission from the township. Township solicitor Charles D. Garner explained that the township’s zoning ordinance classifies the use as a “low-impact home-based business” that only requires a “special exception” from the zoning hearing board. The applicant will go before the zoning hearing board to provide more information to the township. A hearing will be held Tuesday, March 16, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Residents who live within 500 feet of the site will be notified in writing, and meeting access information will be posted on the township website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury/Digital Notebook Blog; 3/3/2021

Lower Merion to consider zoning amendment for generators
Lower Merion Township commissioners will consider a zoning amendment related to generators at a meeting to be held via Zoom on Wednesday, March 17, at approximately 7:30 p.m. The proposed ordinance would amend the code to allow generators to project into required yard setbacks on lots improved with a single dwelling unit, to provide for their proper screening, and to provide for notice to abutting property owners. The commissioners will also consider amendments to the existing bamboo and noise regulations at the same meeting. The draft ordinances and meeting information can be found on the Lower Merion website.
Source: Times Herald; 3/1/2021

Philadelphia

City council looks to treat short-term rentals as businesses
A Philadelphia City Council bill introduced this month aims to treat short-term rental arrangements, such as Airbnbs, as businesses. The bill would require those who offer their primary residences as short-term rentals to be either owners of the properties or tenants who have written permission from the owner to profit from the use of the properties by others. The city would treat them as businesses and require them to get free commercial activity licenses, as well as proposed limited lodging operator licenses for $150 per year, even if residents rent out their homes for only a few weekends a year. Current city law requires permits for those renting out homes for more than 90 days in a year, and some operators purposefully stay under the threshold to avoid regulations. If the bill passes, everyone — owners and tenants — who rents a home also has to use licensed booking agents and adhere to local zoning requirements.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/28/2021


 
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