Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Biden administration extends forbearance and foreclosure protections
Big developments move forward in Bucks
Phoenixville to consider repeal of per capita tax
Media’s open space, parks and recreation survey closes soon
Lower Merion ranked among best places to live and work from home
‘Once-in-a-generation’ anti-poverty plan sends $4.5M to community groups
Members of Congress tour PFAS contamination areas, discuss solutions
U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), of Montgomery County, Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), of Bucks County, Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) recently toured the former Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and the treatment plant of the Horsham Water and Sewer Authority. The tour was followed by a roundtable discussion with regulatory agencies and environmental activists that focused on congressional efforts to tackle contamination from per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in drinking water supplies across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been criticized for rolling out regulations too slowly. In April, the agency, under pressure from the Defense Department, also significantly weakened a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by PFAS, which were commonly used at military bases. A new bipartisan PFAS Task Force has grown to more than 40 members in the US House of Representatives, and Dean announced she will introduce a bill to regulate all PFAS chemicals under the Toxic Substances and Control Act. Horsham Township, after discovering its drinking water had some of the highest levels of contamination in the nation, drafted an emergency plan in six weeks to purify the drinking water at a cost of millions of dollars. “If your local community can come up with a short-term plan in six weeks, it shouldn’t take the federal government five years,” Bill Walker, Horsham township manager, said at the roundtable. The following day, Rep. Fitzpatrick hosted a meeting focused on neighborhoods in Warwick and the Rockhills, where PFAS drinking water contamination lingers. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has provided homeowners with bottled water for several years as an investigation into sources of the chemicals continues. DEP has decided to install in-home carbon filtration systems for residents rather than connect homes into public water provided by the Perkasie Regional Authority. Residents, local officials and Fitzpatrick disagree, saying filters can fail. As of March 2019, at least 610 locations in 43 states are known to be contaminated with PFAS. See the recently updated interactive map of the known sites contaminated with PFAS across the nation from the Environmental Working Group, a national advocate for stricter limits on PFAS. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available on their websites as a public resource — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/7/2019 & 5/8/2019 and EWG.com; 5/6/2019
Municipal primary election is on Tuesday, May 21
Pennsylvania’s municipal primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 21. Residents planning on voting absentee must request absentee ballots by Tuesday, May 14, at 5 p.m., and the completed ballot must be received by county election officials by Friday, May 17, at 5 p.m. For more information on absentee ballots, or finding your precinct and polling place, visit the state’s Votes PA website. To see what your ballot will look like, select your county below:
New public water, sanitary sewer inspection requirements in Northampton
The Northampton Municipal Authority has made amendments to its rates, rules and regulations regarding fees and certifications for public water and sanitary sewer. The authority adopted Resolution No. 2019-1219, regarding access to customer property to determine compliance with Northampton Township Ordinance No. 492 about unlawful connections, such as sump sumps, roof leaders, and ground and floor drains that are connected to the public sanitary sewer system. The inspection and fee changes take effect on June 1. Click here (PDF) to read the new requirements and a FAQ.
Source: Northampton, Bucks County, Municipal Authority; 4/2019
Central Bucks proposes no tax increase
The proposed $342.25 million 2019-2020 budget for the Central Bucks School District does not include a tax increase, nor does it rely on drawing money from the district’s fund balance or savings account. The total millage would remain at 124.1, or about $4,960 in annual taxes for a homeowner with a property assessed at the district average of $40,000. If approved without changes, it will mark the fifth straight year without a tax increase for the school district. Information on the proposed final budget can be viewed at www.cbsd.org. The school board is scheduled to approve the final budget at its Tuesday, June 11, meeting.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/5/2019
Bucks County’s Aaa bond credit rating affirmed
Moody’s Investors Service has again affirmed Bucks County’s Aaa bond credit rating. First attained in 2010, the Aaa credit rating from Moody’s ensures the county will continue to reap the financial advantages of the highest credit rating available. The rating enables Bucks County to sell its bonds at the lowest interest rates, keeping debt service costs to a minimum. “It’s a challenge to maintain a rating of the highest level and still balance the needs of taxpayers and residents,” said Robert G. Loughery, chairman of the Bucks County Commissioners, “but we have proven again that we can do it.”
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 5/1/2019
Doylestown gets $1.5M state grant for new borough hall
State Rep. Wendy Ullman (D-143), of Plumstead, recently announced a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program award of $1.5 million for Doylestown Borough. The borough will use the money “to acquire and redevelop” a 6.4-acre PennDOT property at 229 N. Broad St. The borough will renovate the office on the property into a new borough hall and Central Bucks Regional Police Department headquarters. The equipment yard on the lot at the intersection of Broad and Doyle streets will be turned into a park. Ullman and state Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10), of Lower Makefield, pushed for the grant’s approval to keep the project moving forward. PennDOT, the borough and the Heritage Conservancy came to an agreement on the land in 2015, after years of discussion. The borough will lease the property from the conservancy for $975,000 over the next 99 years — with $585,000 to be paid immediately after PennDOT leaves the site, followed by four annual payments of $97,500. The RACP grant program helps local governments fund regional, economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/7/2019
In Pittsburgh, Toll Brothers spars with Westtown over Crebilly plans
During an appeal hearing in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in Pittsburgh, Toll Brothers’ attorney Gregg Adelman and Westtown Township solicitor Patrick McKenna faced off over preservation of Crebilly Farm, a 322-acre historic property sitting at the intersection of routes 202 and 926. Toll Brothers is seeking a conditional use application to construct a 319-home subdivision. Most of the half-hour hearing concerned a “collector” road, which has not been included in all of Toll’s plans and improvements. The Robinson family owns the farm, and Toll Brothers is the equity owner. Proponents for open space want to see the property preserved as a park. Hundreds of residents packed auditoriums during two years of public meetings and 10 public hearings, leading up to Common Pleas Judge Mark L. Tunnell’s decision in October 2018 to deny the conditional use application. A decision on the Toll’s appeal from the three-judge panel in Pittsburgh could take up to three months.
Source: Daily Local; 5/8/2019
New Garden to get grant for park
State Rep. Christina Sappey (D-158) announced $60,000 in state grant funding is headed to New Garden Township to assist in planning a public park at the St. Anthony in the Hills property. “The township has been working towards preserving this space for over a decade, and I am happy to help them in their efforts,” Sappey said. New Garden Township acquired the 137.5-acre property in March last year. Sappey said the plan to keep it as public greenspace also will help to protect water quality in Chester County and beyond, because the property contains several streams that flow to Broad Run Creek and into the White Clay Creek Preserve.
Source: Daily Local; 5/6/2019
Barclay Friends breaks ground to rebuild after 2017 fire
A groundbreaking ceremony with local dignitaries was held to mark the beginning of construction on Barclay Friends Assisted Living Center in West Chester, which will house 60 residents. The new building will be named for Dr. Ann Preston, an educator, abolitionist and physician from Chester County. Several speakers at the ceremony alluded to the November 2017 fire that killed four residents at Barclay Friends Senior Living. The groundbreaking was a chance to move on and recognize construction of the planned $24 million, 61,000-square-foot structure.
Source: Daily Local; 5/5/2019
FEMA proposes West Whiteland flood map updates
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) proposes new or modified flood hazard determinations, it must provide the affected communities with a 90-day appeal period. The agency is soliciting technical information or comments on proposed flood hazard determinations for the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), and where applicable, the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) report for West Whiteland Township. These flood hazard determinations may include the addition or modification of base flood elevations, base flood depths, special flood hazard area boundaries or zone designations, or the regulatory floodway. These determinations are the basis for the floodplain management measures that the community is required to adopt to qualify for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program. For more information, visit FEMA’s website at www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/fhm/bfe, or call the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX) at 877-FEMA-MAP.
Source: Daily Local News; 5/1/2019
Philadelphia Union owner launches new development effort in Chester
Following the construction of Talen Energy Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Union, plans for a development along Chester’s waterfront never came to fruition, but the team’s parent company is launching development plans again. Keystone Sports & Entertainment, in partnership with the Riverfront Alliance of Delaware County, has asked nearly 20 architectural firms to submit ideas and analysis for a “Chester Waterfront Master Plan.” Specifically, the groups are aiming to create a campus geared toward sports, entertainment, health and wellness. The goal is to have a master plan within three months. The revived potential for the waterfront comes at a pivotal time for Chester, as the city is scrambling to emerge from Act 47, a Pennsylvania program in which the state oversees financially distressed cities. To improve its finances, the city’s Act 47 recovery coordinator, Econsult Solutions, has stressed that Chester must intensify economic development.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/6/2019
Upper Darby School District breaks lease with Clifton Heights in push for new middle school
In the latest turn in the fight over a proposed new $60 million, 950-student middle school in Clifton Heights, the Upper Darby School Board unanimously voted to break the borough’s lease on the proposed construction site and begin seeking permits for the project. The board’s vote is likely to escalate tensions between residents of Clifton Heights, who say they’re fighting to preserve the last open space in their 6,500-person borough, and school leaders, who say that Upper Darby desperately needs a third middle school to fix classroom overcrowding and the Clifton site makes the most sense. Last week, Clifton Heights advertised proposed major changes in its zoning ordinance that could prevent or slow down the push for the new school. The changes — including new requirements for environmental and traffic impact statements — were set for a Tuesday, May 28, vote. In response, the Upper Darby School Board called Monday night’s emergency meeting to vote on terminating the borough’s $1-per-year lease on the property, which dates back to the 1970s. Officials said the vote would start the clock on the project — slated for completion in 2023 — and render any subsequent zoning changes moot. The resolution approved on Monday night also authorized the district’s architects and engineers to submit planning documents to the borough and to Delaware County. It set an Aug. 6 termination date for the lease unless an agreement can be worked out sooner.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/6/2019
Millbourne Fire Co. officially closes
After 110 years of service, Millbourne Fire Company formally closed down. “It was excruciating,” said Chris Cosfol, a 42-year member whose job as bylaw chairman was to craft the resolution to dissolve the firehouse. Negotiations between Millbourne Borough Council and the fire department broke down in February. Strapped both by money and manpower shortages, department members had been asking the borough for funding to cover part-time paid firefighters during day hours. Cosfol noted that Millbourne is not immune to a shortage of volunteers impacting fire service organizations throughout the county and nation. Of the 66 volunteer and professional departments dispatched through the Delaware County Fire Board, two are out of service — Millbourne and Colwyn Borough Fire Company. Residents in Millbourne will be covered by neighboring departments in Upper Darby and East Lansdowne.
Source: Daily Times; 5/7/2019
'Classic conflict of interest' kills stadium bond refinancing
Delaware County could forego $6.4 million in savings on the Talen Energy stadium refinancing if it can't resolve a conflict with its financial advisor. County Council failed to move on a $22.8 million refinancing on stadium construction funds after concerns about the county financial advisor's conflict of interest arose. By a 2-2 vote along party lines, with Republican Council Chairman John McBlain abstaining, the motion to refund the 2009 bonds through an issuance of general obligation notes with the Delaware Valley Regional Finance Authority was deadlocked. Republican council members Colleen Morrone and Michael Culp voted in favor of the motion, while Democratic members Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek opposed it. In March, Zidek raised the concern that there was a conflict in Lucien B. Calhoun, president of Calhoun Baker Inc., serving as Delaware County's financial advisor and also serving as the program administrator for the Delaware Valley Regional Finance Authority, a position he has held since 1989. Culp said Calhoun had always been honest and transparent in his work for the county. Madden suggested bringing in a third-party financial advisor to analyze the figures for the refinancing, and Zidek suggested the refinancing could be done another way.
Source: Daily Times; 5/8/2019
Recorder of Deeds consolidates records
Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds Jean Sorg announced the consolidation of all recorded documents since 1784 into one centralized database. According to Sorg, the documents “were previously housed in two separate databases” that “created a cumbersome process for users” when researching property records. Documents recorded in the office are integral to researching property history but also invaluable in tracking the development of the county. The database can be accessed remotely by visiting the Recorder of Deeds website at www.montcopa.org/rod and creating an account.
Source: The Reporter; 5/8/2019
New projects proposed in Douglass Township
Two development projects have been proposed along the Route 100 corridor in Douglass Township. The first calls for 22 single-family homes and 182 townhouses on a 52-acre parcel off Holly Road. Developer Gambone is also calling for 14,000 square feet of retail use, another 14,000 square feet of other commercial use, plus 163 parking spaces, 34,240 square feet of recreation space and 17.35 acres of open space along the northern border of the parcel. The project currently has no planning agency or township supervisor approvals. The second project, proposed by Point 1 LP, has spurred a request for a zoning change to allow “active adult community” to be included as an allowed use in the township’s “neighborhood mixed use overlay district.” According to Township Manager Peter Hiryak, 50 acres of the project is in Douglass Township and 20 acres is in Colebrookdale Township, Berks County.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/6/2019
Lower Merion to consider sidewalk ordinance amendment
The Board of Commissioners of Lower Merion Township will consider an ordinance to amend Chapter 133, “Streets and Sidewalks,” at a public hearing on Wednesday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. The ordinance amendment will require that sidewalks be repaired when there is a difference in elevation between sidewalk blocks, or cracks within a block, of more than one-quarter of an inch, or when a sidewalk crack is more than a half-inch in width, or when a sidewalk block displays a spalling or flaking condition. The full text of the ordinance can be examined on the township website. Sidewalk inspection is included in Lower Merion Township’s resale certification process.
Source: Main Line Times; 5/5/2019
Long-delayed section of Schuylkill River Trail opened
Montgomery County recently completed construction of 1.1 miles of multi-use trail and the installation of one mile of shared bicycle lanes along Industrial Highway and Hanover streets in Pottstown and Lower Pottsgrove. The county funded the design and roughly $810,000 in remaining construction costs, with the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) providing a $199,000 grant toward construction. The trail section will eventually link Riverfront Park with the river crossing now being built onto the Route 422 bridge into Chester County. Work will soon be underway in Chester County for the four-mile section linking the bridge crossing with the finished trail section at Linfield Road in Parker Ford, as well as paving a six-mile section of trail from Parker Ford to the Phoenixville Borough line. The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the state’s highest-priority trails, said Jean Lynch, regional advisor for Bureau of Recreation Conservation for DCNR. Click here for more information about the Schuylkill River Trail.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/29/2019
Sen. Muth plans town hall in Worcester
State Sen. Katie Muth (D-44) will host a town hall meeting on Saturday, May 11, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Meadowood Senior Living Schultz Community Center, 3205 Skippack Pike, Worcester. Details can be found at www.senatormuth.com/event/town-hall-may-2019/. The town hall is open to all constituents and the general public.
Source: Office of Senator Muth; 5/6/2019
Abatement is getting primary attention
Philadelphia’s tax break for newly constructed and rehabilitated properties has been controversial since it went into effect two decades ago. According to an Inquirer survey of city council candidates, the majority of candidates would like to change or abolish it. Several have indicated that it would be their first order of business if elected. Several bills introduced this session would reduce or eliminate the tax break. The abatement currently allows owners of newly constructed or rehabilitated properties to pay no taxes on the improvements for 10 years. Its supporters say it is a needed development incentive that ultimately raises money for the city as the tax breaks expire. Critics say that the city is forgoing critically needed tax revenue and that it is unfair for the owners of new homes to have tax breaks while longtime residents pay full bills and struggle to remain in their homes as neighborhoods gentrify.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/6/2019
Germantown High reimagined as $30M housing development
Northwest Philly residents packed the pews of Janes Memorial United Methodist Church for a public meeting with the owner of the now-closed Germantown High School (GHS) building and neighboring Fulton Elementary. They’re two of seven properties still sitting vacant after the district shut down 22 schools amid a budget crunch in 2013. Sold in 2017 to a Maryland-based development group for $100,000, a fraction of its assessed value, GHS was quickly — and quietly — transferred to a local developer, Jack Azran. Since Azran took ownership of the property two years ago, he’s neglected to pay taxes on the 530,000-square-foot building. It’s now up for sheriff’s sale, and he owes more than $400,000 in back taxes, according to city records. At the public meeting, Azran said he has already resolved his back taxes and that the sheriff’s sale will be postponed. He blamed a city assessment error for the unpaid debt. Attendees heard about Azran’s vision for the pair of huge, historic buildings, which includes residential units, though the quantity and price points were not disclosed. The developer added that he’d like to create some space for a community college, a high school or a local hospital to operate within the building — making education and healthcare more accessible to Germantown neighbors.
Source: Plan Philly; 5/7/2019