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 May 14, 2018

 

General News

SBA extends term of real estate loan program
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has extended the term of its popular 504 real estate loan program to 25 years, from a previous term length of 10 to 20 years. The new term length means fixed-rate payments will be lower and spread over a longer time period, which will help small businesses to buy real estate instead of leasing. The SBA has two main loan programs: the 7(a) loan, which is a variable-rate loan that can be used to acquire real estate or inventory, or for expansion, working capital and acquisitions; and the 504 real estate loan, a fixed-rate loan which can only be used to purchase land, buildings and some equipment.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 5/4/2018

Inequities continue in state education funding
As school districts finalize their 2018-2019 budgets, perhaps the most certain financial reality is that real estate taxes will be their driving revenue source, leaving most to raise taxes to cover rising expenses. The Education Law Center determined in 2013 that the state’s share of school funding amounts to about 34 percent. Without additional funding from the state, there is continued disparity throughout Pennsylvania due in part to the longstanding “hold harmless” provision, which states that districts will receive state money at a level that is no less than what they were given in the prior year regardless of enrollment. A fair funding formula was passed into law in 2015, but only new money added to the state’s basic education fund since then, approximately $450 million, is appropriated by the funding formula, which is about seven percent of the $6 billion basic education fund for 2017-18. The advocacy organization Equity First recently released a report ranking underfunded counties in the state in terms of school funding, which included Montgomery County in seventh place and Delaware County in eighth. “It is going to be a long time for severely underfunded schools to catch up,” Rebecca Kann, co-founder of Equity First, said. “There’s not a whole lot of money going through the formula.” Bills introduced in the state assembly would ramp up full implementation of the fair funding formula, which sponsors say have bipartisan support.
Source: Daily Times; 5/8/2018 and Daily Local News 5/7/2018

Primary election day is Tuesday, May 15
Pennsylvania will hold its primary election on Tuesday, May 15. Friday, May 11, is the absentee ballot deadline for civilians. Residents can view their registration status and find polling places at votespa.com. The Committee of Seventy has put together a voter guide for the election, showing candidate information and ballot questions.

Bucks County

Preservation proposed in Tinicum
The developer of an existing subdivision in Tinicum Township is proposing a conservation conversion for its 42 remaining lots. The 72-lot, 408-acre subdivision on Shull Farm Road created conflict within the township during its inception in the 1990s and now may add as much as 95 acres to the township’s preserved open space. The open space is associated with the developer’s farm at Tettemer and Permanent School roads. The developer, Mark Hankin, sought “consideration for the township to participate in and acquire the development rights to preserve the open space” from the township supervisors at the May 1 meeting. Hankin said the proposal has support from the Bucks County Agricultural Preservation Program, which would bear the bulk of the cost. He also requested “reconsideration for extension of the Stipulated Settlement Agreement” for the subdivision, which would allow for further development if the open space initiative couldn’t be accomplished. Hankin stated that his family was urging the switch to conservation. The supervisors indicated they would consider the matter.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/3/2018

Plumstead posts supervisor vacancy
Plumstead Supervisor Chair Stacey Mulholland submitted her resignation at the April 10 board meeting. Current and former supervisors, as well as residents, were on hand to express appreciation for her 13 years of serving the Plumstead community. Mulholland is taking a position with a regional government commission that requires her to not hold public office. Residents who may be interested in serving on the board of supervisors are invited to submit letters of interest and a résumé to the township manager. Visit the Plumstead Township website for more information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/9/2018

New superintendent named in Pennridge
Pennridge School District officials have announced David Bolton as the district’s new superintendent effective Aug. 1, pending successful negotiation of a contract. Bolton is currently the assistant superintendent for elementary education in the Central Bucks School District. Pennridge’s current superintendent, Jacqueline Rattigan, is retiring at the end of the school year. If the contract is worked out, Bolton will attend a community forum scheduled for Monday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. at Pennridge High School, 1228 N. Fifth St., Perkasie.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/8/2018

$1 million grant awarded to Solebury park
The completion of the Route 202 Trail in Aqetong Spring Park will be funded in part by a $1 million grant from the state’s Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program, which helps pay for pedestrian and bicycle trails. The Aqetong trail will run alongside Route 202 from the northern border of the park to the parking lot on Lower Mountain Road, part of a larger plan to complete the Route 202 Cross-County Trail. The $1.6 million project will be covered by the Set-Aside grant, along with other grants and township matching funds. Information about the ongoing project is available at the Aquetong Spring Advisory Committee page on the township website.
Source: Solebury Township e-news; 5/9/2018

Chester County 

Pennsylvania American Water purchases Sadsbury sewer system
Pennsylvania American Water announced it will acquire the wastewater system of Sadsbury Township for $9.25 million. Pennsylvania American, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based American Water Works Co., already provides water service to Sadsbury after it acquired the Coatesville water and wastewater systems in 2001. The company said there will be no immediate change to customers’ wastewater rates, and that any future increases will come under review of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The Sadsbury collection system serves about 1,000 customers. The sale will enable Sadsbury Township to eliminate the system’s $2.5 million in debt. The township’s storm water system facilities were not included in the sale.
Source: Inquirer; 5/2/2018

East Whiteland plans Route 30 revitalization
The section of Route 30 that runs from Philadelphia’s border to Route 202 through the wealthy Main Line is a victim of patchwork zoning that crisscrosses three counties and multiple municipalities. Its vacant storefronts, 1970s strip centers, broken sidewalks and lack of streetscaping reflect a lack of cohesive planning. East Whiteland Township is trying to change that by taking a comprehensive look at a stretch of Route 30 between Old Lincoln Highway and Route 202. “We took a bus tour of the township and noticed the Route 29 corridor was developing and moving forward, but the Route 30 corridor had been neglected,” said Sue Drummond, a township supervisor. That tour led to a series of analyses, community meetings and input from residents and businesses. A report is slated to be released in June that will outline a vision for the corridor and make recommendations on how to achieve it. The objective is to create an identity for the township that caters to its 12,000 residents and the 50,000 people who commute to work in the township daily. SEPTA is planning to start a feasibility study this summer about potentially adding a train station in the township. GMH Capital Partners is proposing a four-story apartment building with retail space at the site of the former Frazer Lanes bowling alley. “Once investment begins in an area, it will spur additional interest,” Drummond said.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 4/27/2018

East Fallowfield’s new manager optimistic about grant funding
Scott Swichar secured millions of dollars in grants for Bristol Borough, Bucks County, during his six years as deputy township manager there. On April 30, East Fallowfield supervisors named him the new township manager, and he is optimistic he can bring the same successful grant funding process to his new town. “I love bringing in new sources of grants for the community,” Swichar said. In the position, Swichar will direct all executive functions, including supervision of the police department, for the township of just over 7,500 people. Supervisor Chairman Steve Herzog said Swichar will continue to make progress in key areas, “such as improving an aging infrastructure, stabilizing the community’s finances and enhancing quality of life.”
Source: Daily Local News; 5/7/2018

Oxford schedules hearings on sidewalk maintenance, land acquisition
Oxford Borough has scheduled public hearings to consider multiple draft ordinances that would update the sidewalk maintenance ordinance and authorize the borough to move forward with acquiring property for the planned multimodal transportation center. The proposed sidewalk maintenance ordinance lays out the situations in which the borough can compel property owners to install or repair sidewalks, such as “to protect public health, safety and welfare or to improve or facilitate pedestrian movement or to eliminate a missing link in a sidewalk system or to reduce conflicts between pedestrian and vehicular traffic or in areas of relatively high, or potentially high, pedestrian traffic.” Two other proposed ordinances will be considered the same night, relating to the acquisition of parcels by the municipality for the eventual construction of the Oxford Multimodal Transportation Center on Octorara Alley between Second and Third streets. The proposed ordinances allow the borough to take all actions necessary to acquire the properties, including negotiation with the owners or eminent domain, if necessary. The Alliance has requested the draft ordinances. The public hearings for all three ordinances will be held Monday, May 21, starting at 7 p.m., at the Oxford Area Senior Center, 12 E. Locust St.
Source: Daily Local News; 5/7/2018

Delaware County

Residents fight to save Earle’s Lake in Radnor and Newtown
The state Department of Environmental Protection in 2011 determined the Earle’s Lake dam to be unsafe due to an inadequate spillway and deterioration of the dam itself. The dam created Earle’s Lake, which sits on the border of Radnor and Newtown Townships, and plans are being developed to remove the dam in summer 2019, which would drain the lake. The DEP worked with the Green Countrie Village (GCV) homeowners’ association, who made the decision to remove the dam, but a group of residents is making efforts to save the lake, including circulating a petition that has gathered more than 600 signatures. One GCV resident, Elisa D’Amato, reported hearing that the uncertainty around the lake was affecting mortgage applications. Ashley Wilson, whose house abuts the lake on the Radnor side opposite GCV, wrote a business plan to establish a nonprofit trust and offered to raise money to repair the dam, which would cost an estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million. George Earle, an engineer whose great-grandfather built the dam in 1910, said the lake serves as a stormwater management feature, though the DEP disputes this. Radnor Board of Commissioners President Lisa Borowski has been working with homeowners, the township engineer, the state DEP and state Sen. Daylin Leach’s office to find a resolution, including the possibility of a partial breach of the dam. “Before any action is taken, we also need to clearly understand what this means to Darby Creek, which is where the water from any proposed dam breach would drain,” she said. The DEP intends to submit plans for the dam’s removal in the summer. A Facebook group set up by residents seeking to save the creek can be found at www.facebook.com/SaveEarlesLake.
Source: Suburban Life; 4/6/2018

Three Delco employers make Forbes magazine Top 500 list
Forbes magazine recently published its annual list of America’s Best Employers. The magazine worked with the marketing research firm Statista, which surveyed 30,000 Americans, asking them to rate their own company and to nominate organizations in other industries. Delaware County was represented three times:  Newtown Square-based SAP ranked the highest at No. 19; Wawa ranked 126th; and Radnor’s Lincoln Financial placed 288th. The full list can be viewed on the Forbes website.
Source: Pivot.Today; 5/8/2018

Lawsuit against Chester Stormwater Authority rejected
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Spiros E. Angelos has denied four petitions seeking preliminary injunction against the Stormwater Authority of the City of Chester. The petitions were filed on behalf of Widener University, Chester Charter School for the Arts, and more than 50 city business and property owners, who contend that the authority’s fee structure is arbitrary and its work would be duplicative of stormwater remediation efforts performed by the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA). “We appreciate the judge’s wisdom with making a decision that’s according to the law,” said authority Executive Manager Rev. Horace Strand. “The City of Chester is going to benefit tremendously from the work we are going to do.” The authority was created in 2016 and introduced a monthly fee structure of $15.60 per ERU (equivalent residential unit), which would have left some business owners with five- and six-figure monthly bills. The fees were scaled back, but activists said the fees were never sufficiently explained or justified. The judge’s orders do not rule out the possibility of further legal challenges to the authority.
Source: Daily Times; 5/9/2018

Penn-Delco looks to hire armed security officer
The Penn Delco School Board voted at its April 26 meeting to begin negotiations with Aston Township to employ an armed law enforcement officer in the district for the 2018-2019 school year. The duties and cost of the “school resource officer” (SRO) have yet to be determined, but the expense will be shared between the two governing bodies — 75 percent by the district and 25 percent by the township. The officer will remain a township employee or contractor. The state Department of Education awards one-year grants of up to $60,000 for districts to retain SROs. “The board and I have often spoken highly of the exceptional support the district receives from our local police departments, and I am pleased that we appear to be poised to increase our safety and support resources even further,” said Superintendent George Steinhoff.
Source: Daily Times; 5/3/2018

Montgomery County

Norristown releases 2017 annual report
Norristown municipality released its annual report for 2017. “Norristown Moving Forward” provides a snapshot of the municipality’s demographics and economy, and details various community initiatives, capital improvements, business overviews and departmental updates for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2017. The report also includes Norristown’s 2017 financial report and a section highlighting ongoing and planned revitalization projects. The 37-page document is available in booklet form at the Montgomery County Public Library or for download on the municipality’s website, www.norristown.org.
Source: Times Herald; 5/3/2018

Lower Merion School District eyes four properties for middle school
Lower Merion School District officials have sent out letters of intent to purchase four different properties in the township for a future middle school. Each property, however, has its own set of challenges, including one owner’s refusal to sell and a historic mansion at another. According to Superintendent Robert Copeland, the four properties under consideration are: a portion of St. Charles Seminary in Wynewood; the Lower School of Friends’ Central in Wynewood; 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh (the former Haas Estate) in Villanova; and the Islamic Foundation property, also in Villanova. The letters of intent are a way to introduce a potential buyer to a potential seller, said district Solicitor Ken Roos, which “show a serious but nonbinding expression of interest in a particular property.” The estimated construction costs of a new school at each of the sites were estimated at $91 million to $105 million.
Source: Main Line Times; 4/26/2018

Norristown Area School District superintendent to retire
Dr. Janet Samuels, superintendent of the Norristown Area School District (NASD), will retire at the end of July. Samuels has a 40-year career in education, the last 10 of which have been as superintendent of NASD. “Dr. Samuels is a champion for the children in our community,” said Turea Hutson, president of the school board. “For the past 10 years, she has led the Norristown Area School District with resolve, increasing Advanced Placement options, emphasizing college and career readiness, providing a greater commitment to music and the arts, and expanding public and private partnerships throughout the district.” The board is discussing options moving forward and will make further announcements soon.
Source: Times Herald; 5/9/2018

Pottsgrove School District budget calls for 1% tax increase
The Pottsgrove School Board unanimously adopted a $67.5 million preliminary final budget that includes a 1 percent tax increase. A home assessed at $120,000 would see a tax increase of about $45. However, Superintendent William Shirk and Business Manager David Nester both said the administration has a plan to get the increase down to zero. “We do have a plan to get to zero, but there are still some big questions out there,” Nestor said, such as tuition to charter schools and state budget numbers. Visit the school district website for the proposed final budget and upcoming meeting dates.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/26/2018

Philadelphia

Building group says ‘unpredictable’ property tax assessments threaten development
According to Leo Addimando, the head of Philadelphia Building Industry Association, unpredictable property tax assessments in the city may be threatening future development projects. Addidamo said the property tax increases are not the problem, but rather it’s the uncertainty surrounding reevaluations that is spooking would-be investors. In 2013, then Mayor Michael Nutter introduced the Actual Value Initiative and officials pledged to conduct annual citywide reassessments in order to bring property assessments back in line. Instead, the appraisals have been sporadic and inconsistent. In 2016, the appraisals focused on land; in 2017, the city shifted focus to commercial properties and this year pivoted again to residential properties — with the average rate increasing by 10.5 percent and up to 47 percent in developing neighborhoods like Strawberry Mansion and Brewerytown. Addimando says increases to property taxes present difficulties for developers already facing high labor and construction costs, and the unpredictability of property assessments is chilling for investors. The city asserts that it has stuck to an annual reassessment schedule.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 5/8/2018

L&I commissioner proposes controversial solution to housing crisis
Philadelphia’s Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Dave Perri wants to allow more rooming or boarding houses in residential neighborhoods where such informal multifamily dwellings are usually not allowed. Rooming or boarding houses are roughly defined as a communal residence with multiple occupants who share kitchen and bathroom facilities. City code prohibits these makeshift apartment buildings in most of the city’s neighborhoods, especially outside of Center City and University City. The restrictions often push operations of boarding houses into the shadows, making regulation difficult. Only 82 rooming houses have been legally established in Philadelphia since 2006, but every year, L&I conducts over 500 inspections based on neighbor complaints about illegal rooming houses. In an interview with PlanPhilly, Perri said: “We have an affordable housing crisis, but a prohibition against establishing the most inexpensive form of housing in the areas where they are needed the most. The code is out of sync with reality. The question is, how can we responsibly put rooming houses back into neighborhoods?” He continued: “We need to start a dialogue, try to rethink this, and create a way of controlling this type of occupancy. It’s out there because there’s a demand for it. So it behooves us to figure out a way to properly regulate it.” Read the full article here.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 5/8/2018

 


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