NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
NAR responds to administration proposal to reform Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

Bucks County
Bensalem approves 106 more townhouses at Waterside community 

Chester County
Embreeville Redevelopment zoning hearing postponed 

Delaware County
SEPTA upgrades Secane station

Montgomery County
New Hanover Town Center project raising concern 

Philadelphia County
Center City developers benefit the most from city’s tax abatement 

 

News Briefs Archive May 27, 2019

 

General News

Audit finds $4.25 billion diverted from PA road repair to state police
According to a report by Pennsylvania Auditor Eugene DePasquale, over the past six years more than $4.25 billion has been diverted from the Pennsylvania Motor License Fund to the Pennsylvania State Police. The fund generates about $2.8 billion per year through the state gasoline tax as well as drivers' license and registration fees. The diversion of funds has left PennDOT without enough money to address the state’s 2,829 structurally deficient bridges. “That $4.25 billion could have cut that list in half, and, if PennDOT could use all of the gas tax money for roads and bridges, we could get that number to zero in about 5 years,” DePasquale said. “Pennsylvanians are frustrated that our roads and bridges still need so much help at the same time we are paying the highest gas tax in the United States.” According to the state constitution, money from the Motor License Fund is to be used solely for transportation projects. State police used additional funding as municipalities closed their police departments. DePasquale’s audit also raised questions about funds awarded through the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund and recommended the program be revised to work as a competitive grant program. PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards called on the federal government “to join states like Pennsylvania in significantly investing in our country’s infrastructure.” Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a fee for state police coverage ranging from $8 to $166 per capita depending on population size. Out of 2,571 municipalities in Pennsylvania, 1,297 rely on full-time state police coverage and 414 rely on part-time coverage — comprising a combined 26% of the state’s population.
Source: Levittownnow.com; 4/26/2019 & Daily Times; 2/10/2019

Pennsylvania to begin sampling drinking water across the state
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will begin sampling about 360 drinking water systems across the state at the end of May. The samples will be tested for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — contaminants linked to cancers and other health problems that have closed drinking wells in Bucks and Montgomery counties. DEP will sample about 320 systems for contamination and compare them to samples from 40 systems not located near suspected sources of pollution. Officials will not release a list of systems they are testing, saying the sites could change during the program. DEP will release results to water suppliers and the public, likely rolling them out quarterly, said Lisa Daniels, director of DEP’s Bureau of Safe Drinking Water. Pennsylvania officials are moving forward with the sampling plan and creating a maximum contaminant level, rather than waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to set a federal regulation. The EPA will not issue the determination on whether to create the level until the end of 2020, and then the process to establish the level will take “several years,” according to an EPA official. More information on PFAS can be found here.
Source: Philly.com; 5/8/2019

Bucks County

DEP issues ‘draft’ denial of Elcon proposal
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rejected a proposal from Elcon Recycling Services LLC to build a hazardous waste treatment facility in Falls Township. The decision is another setback for Elcon, which has been working to win approval for the facility for years. Earlier this month, Falls Township supervisors voted unanimously to deny a land development application from Elcon, citing lapses in Elcon’s paperwork and safety concerns. The DEP decision is not a final blow. According to Virginia Cain, regional spokeswoman for DEP, the notice was only a “draft” decision that noted 18 deficiencies in Elcon’s application to treat hazardous waste. There will be a 45-day comment period from June 1 to July 15, during which Elcon could potentially submit materials to correct the deficiencies. DEP laid out the deficiencies in the draft denial, and they included a proposed footprint larger than was laid out in an initial site review, omissions of pertinent documents and concerns over environmental monitoring. Cain said the DEP could accept changes made by Elcon within the 45-day comment period and allow a draft permit, or move forward with a denial if the issues are not resolved.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/16/2019

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

Doylestown Borough wins national contest for best small-town cultural scene
USA Today recently declared Doylestown Borough the winner of a nationwide contest ranking small towns with big cultural scenes. A panel of experts selected 20 finalists, ranking towns with a population of less than 30,000 based on their offerings of the arts, entertainment and history. The public chose the top 10 through online voting. Doylestown is the county seat of Bucks County, and offers a Main Street business district, museums, historical sites, eateries and more. Click here for more information about the winners.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/18/2019 & Doylestown Borough; 5/17/2019

Council Rock earns ‘Great District for Great Teachers’ designation
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has named Council Rock School District a winner in its Great Districts for Great Teachers Initiative. A rigorous analysis of more than 50 district policies and data points demonstrated that Council Rock is a leader in developing and caring for great teachers who can deliver great instruction to their students. The NCTQ found that Council Rock excels at providing professional development, ongoing mentoring, opportunities for teachers to participate in district decision-making and competitive salaries. More details about the program can be found at www.greatdistricts.org.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 5/21/2019

Chester County 

Avondale inks deal with regional police for 24-hour coverage
Residents of Avondale Borough will get around-the-clock police coverage beginning July 1, following a deal between the borough council and the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department (SCCRPD). The 18-month contract sets the cost of coverage at $90,000 per year. For the past 20 years, Avondale purchased police services from Parkesburg Police Department, which is just over 11 miles away and did not provide around-the-clock coverage. “This is a good fit, and it will be good for Avondale Borough,” said Jerry Simpson, SCCRPD chief. “Our personnel levels are in good shape to take on this challenge. We have been preparing for this.” A town hall meeting has been set for Tuesday, June 4, at 8 p.m. at Avondale Fire Company, 23 Firehouse Way, for residents and business owners of all communities serviced by SCCRPD to learn more about the arrangement.
Source: Southern Chester County Weeklies; 5/21/2019

West Marlborough and Franklin residents vote to allow sale of booze
In West Marlborough and Franklin townships, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to allow the sale of alcohol. In West Marlborough, 91 voters (67%) voted yes and 43 voters (32%) voted no to the ballot question asking if they favor the granting of liquor licenses for the sale of liquor in the township. The referendum reverses West Marlborough’s decades-long “dry” status. Because of the wording of the existing statute, the sale of wine and spirits has been forbidden in the township, although beer and cider can be sold. Franklin Township residents approved a similar measure 659 votes (78%) to 183 votes (21%). Chester County still has 23 “dry” towns. Statewide, there are 684 dry or partially dry townships, boroughs and cities, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Most are concentrated in the north central, south central and northwest regions of Pennsylvania.
Source: Daily Local; 5/22/2019

115-acre Crouse Farm in East Pikeland preserved as open space
East Pikeland Township supervisors have settled on the $5.18 million purchase of a 115-acre farm, which will be preserved as open space instead of a high-density development. The farm is located along Spring City Road and Wall Street, and the township has been working for several years to resolve land-use litigation over the property, which was owned by The Crouse Family Trust, with Longview Development as the equitable owner. The purchase marks the eighth transaction to acquire open space or a conservation easement since 2006, when voters approved a referendum implementing a 0.25% increase in earned income taxes to start a fund to preserve open space. The cost to purchase the property will be offset by a $1.21 million land acquisition grant from Chester County. To date, 1,305 acres have been preserved either through the township’s open space program or private property owners’ initiatives, representing 22 percent of the land in East Pikeland Township. With this acquisition, the township now owns 353 acres of open space and parkland.
Source: Daily Local; 5/17/2019

Rep. Houlahan to hold open house for West Chester office
Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-6) has invited the public to an open house at her West Chester office on Saturday, June 1, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The office is located at 709 E. Gay St, Suite 4. Light refreshments will be served.
Source: The office of Rep. Houlahan; 5/22/2019

Delaware County

Haverford changes curb replacement ordinance
The Haverford Township Board of Commissioners recently made changes to the township’s curb replacement ordinance. The ordinance now states that the seller shall replace the entire frontage of any section of curb in which more than 70% of the continuous street frontage requires replacement. The ordinance requires replacement if the curb has a reveal of less than three inches from the road surface to the top of the curb. The Alliance staff has reviewed the ordinance, and commentary has been sent to the township commissioners.
Source: Daily Times; 5/17/2019

Arbor Estate brings affordable housing to Chester
Public and private officials broke ground on the Chester Community Improvement Project’s (CCIP) Arbor Estates housing development. The four single-family homes will stand on formerly city-owned ground near the Robert H. Stinson Tower at West 15th Street and Arbor Drive. The project brought together CCIP, the Chester Economic Development Authority and members of Riverfront Alliance of Delaware County, among others. “We look to provide affordable homes to families … looking to become first-time home buyers, by providing attractive homes like these,” CCIP Executive Director Annette Pyatt said. The four semi-detached units, about 1,500 square feet in size, are open to first-time home buyers at or below 80 percent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s median income level. Arbor Estates marks the second new housing development project for CCIP, following its Central Avenue Townhomes development in 2000. The organization has also completed 91 housing acquisition and rehab projects since its 1978 formation.
Source: Daily Times; 5/19/2019

Swarthmore approves senior housing ordinance
Swarthmore Borough Council passed Ordinance 1085, Senior Cooperative Housing, which is intended to “maintain the viability of Swarthmore as an age-friendly community by providing affordable housing alternative living arrangements without altering the existing residential quality of the immediate neighborhood, natural features or open space.” The ordinance permits this type of housing by conditional use in all zoning districts, except park and institutional districts. With its wealth of large homes, the borough seems ideal to have provisions for groups of unrelated seniors buying portions of a residence with many rooms. The ordinance defines senior cooperative living as “a facility containing multiple dwelling units for persons over the age of 55, which may be jointly owned by tenants in common, joint tenants, equity holders of a real estate cooperative, a condominium or such other form of ownership.” Specific provisions include: two or more dwelling units; shared food preparation, dining and recreation facilities; and a design that permits co-operation and interaction between the facility residents. Councilwoman Betsy Larsen, chair of the planning and zoning committee, said this ordinance has been in process for some time as an outgrowth of recommendations of the Aging in Place Task Force.
Source: Daily Times; 5/19/2019

Upper Darby School Board passes proposed final budget with tax hike
The Upper Darby school board unanimously adopted its 2019-2020 proposed final budget, totaling $213.1 million, with a 3% tax increase. The millage rate will rise to 38.2537, generating an additional $3 million that will help close a $8.8 million budget shortfall. More than $5.5 million from the district fund balance will be used to balance the budget. A half-percent of the overall tax increase has been earmarked to contribute $500,000 for the capital reserve fund, as was done in the current year budget. Expenditures are budgeted to jump $5.8 million over the current budget, with salary and benefits costing $150 million. That figure does not factor in expenditures attributed to one-time legislative grants worth $3.5 million that the district received for the year. The budget includes the funding of a lead teacher at the kindergarten center, two instructional technology coaches and six classroom assistants at Highland Park Elementary School. Five elementary guidance counselor positions will be federally funded through Title I. Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, June 18.
Source: Daily Times; 5/18/2019

Montgomery County

North Penn proposed final budget includes 2.3% tax increase
The North Penn School Board voted 7-2 to adopt a $274 million proposed final budget for the 2019-2020 school year that includes a 2.3% property tax increase. The increase means an additional $87 on the tax bill of a homeowner with an average assessed value of $140,000. Early drafts of the budget included a $14 million deficit. Recent budget figures have the projected deficit down to $6.95 million, and budget variances could bring that number down to $2.75 million, which would need to be transferred from the fund balance. The board is slated to finalize the budget on Thursday, June 20.
Source: The Reporter; 5/20/2019

Upper Moreland to amend property maintenance code
Upper Moreland Township commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday, June 3, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 117 Park Ave., Willow Grove, to consider an ordinance amending the property maintenance code. The amendment seeks to specify the penalties and fines associated with violations of the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code and appeal procedures. The full text of the proposed ordinance is available for review at the township building during normal business hours. Visit the Upper Moreland Township website for up-to-date meeting information.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/20/2019

Rep. Dean plans town hall on May 29
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-4) will hold a town hall on Wednesday, May 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Montgomery County Community College, Science Center Theater, located at 340 Dekalb Pike in Blue Bell. Click here to register for the event.

PennDOT to detail plans for roundabout in Upper Salford
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will hold an open house to inform citizens about an upcoming project to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Old Skippack Road and Schwenksville Road/Shelly Road in Upper Salford Township. Attendees will have the opportunity to circulate among the displays and discuss the different facets of the project with PennDOT’s design team. The project, which is designed to improve safety and travel, will go out to bid in fall 2020 and is anticipated to be funded entirely by federal dollars. The open house will be held on Wednesday, May 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Upper Salford Township municipal building, 1441 Salford Station Road, Salford.
Source: The Reporter; 5/20/2019

Fifteen projects receive Montco 2040 Implementation Grants
Montgomery County Commissioners announced 15 projects that will receive more than $1.6 million in Montco 2040 Implementation Grants. The grants — aimed at implementing the county comprehensive plan, titled “Montco 2040: A Shared Vision” — assist municipalities in making targeted physical improvements that achieve real progress toward the goals of the plan and its themes of connected communities, sustainable places, and vibrant economy. The grant recipients are: Cheltenham, Collegeville, Hatboro, Horsham, Jenkintown, Lower Frederick, Lower Merion, Lower Providence, Narberth, Pennsburg, Red Hill, Royersford, Schwenksville, Upper Dublin and Upper Moreland. Click here for project specifics.
Source: Montgomery County; 5/17/2019

Philadelphia

Real estate start-up new to Philly offers ‘co-living’ options
Bungalow, a real estate start-up based in San Francisco, announced it has officially started operations in Philadelphia. The company leases private homes from their owners for years at a time and rents them out by the room. Bungalow CEO Andrew Collins said the company offers a homier, less costly alternative to the “co-living” projects popping up in desirable neighborhoods to house those who can’t — or don’t want to — afford a full-blown home of their own. The Philadelphia portfolio has 13 three-bedroom properties in Center City and surrounding neighborhoods, including Northern Liberties, Bella Vista and Point Breeze, with rooms ranging from $650 to $970 a month. Bungalow started two years ago and has concentrated largely on markets where high housing costs make home-sharing especially attractive, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Click here for the full article.
Source: Philly.com; 5/16/2019

Lidl to open Port Richmond location by next spring
German grocer Lidl plans to open a store in Port Richmond by next spring. The store on Butler Street near Aramingo Avenue will be the chain’s first Philadelphia location and is among 25 locations spanning from South Carolina to New York that Lidl plans to open by spring of 2020. A press release made no mention of proposals for locations in South and Northeast Philadelphia that have surfaced in the past. Lidl spokesperson Will Harwood said in an email that it is too early “to offer specifics on the other sites that are under consideration." Lidl plans to have more than 100 stores in operation by the end of 2020.
Source: Philly.com; 5/17/2019



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