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 November 12, 2018

 

General News

SEPTA to begin charging for parking at all Regional Rail lots
SEPTA plans to convert seven Regional Rail stations with free parking to paid lots. The change will come to the Woodbourne, Bristol, Wissahickon, Ivy Ridge, Miquon, Conshohocken and Levittown stations, the transportation agency said. The seven stations' lots combined have 1,500 parking spots. Parking costs are expected to begin in the seven lots in 2019 to coincide with a parking fare increase systemwide and the installation of devices that can accept SEPTA's fare card, the Key, as payment for parking. Parking at 146 SEPTA stations now costs $1 a day, or $20 for a monthly permit. That will increase to $1.25 a day and $25 for a month, a bump up the agency approved in 2017. The Regional Rail stations have a combined 25,000 parking spaces, which generated about $4.8 million in revenue for SEPTA in the most recent fiscal year. The new parking payment systems will accept payment with cash, debit and credit cards, along with the Key card's travel wallet function, Busch said. A person parking will have to stop in a space and enter the parking spot's number into the payment device before paying.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/31/2018

PUC schedules public hearings on proposed Aqua PA rate hike
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is seeking public input on a proposed rate hike for Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. and Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc. The commission announced that it will hold six in-person public meetings between Nov. 13 and 15, as well as one telephonic “Smart Hearing” in Harrisburg on Friday, Nov. 16, that will be live streamed on the PUC’s website. The hearings are part of the regulatory agency’s process for setting utility rates to ensure “the lowest reasonable rate for consumers while maintaining the financial stability of utilities,” according to the commission’s ratemaking process. Aqua Pennsylvania filed a request with PUC on Aug. 17 to increase its annual operating revenues for water services by approximately $66.37 million — an increase of 15.4 percent. At the same time, the company also filed to seek a corresponding increase in its annual operating revenues for wastewater services by $5.37 million — a 40.1 percent increase. The total annual revenue increase request amounts to approximately $71.8 million. If approved as filed, the average monthly bill for a residential Main Division water customer using 4,080 gallons per month would increase by $9.22 per month, from $59.85 to $69.07. The average monthly bill for a residential Media Division wastewater customer using 4,200 gallons per month would increase $20.73 from $42.19 to $62.92. The hearings are scheduled for the following times and locations:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 1 and 6 p.m.: both at Jennersville YMCA, 880 W. Baltimore Pike, West Grove
  • Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 1 and 6 p.m.
    • 1 p.m. at Montgomery County Community College Science Center — 214 Small Auditorium, 340 DeKalb Pike (For GPS and Google maps, use 1313 Morris Road) Blue Bell
    • 6 p.m. at Bensalem Township High School, 4319 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem
  • Thursday, Nov. 15, at 1 and 6 p.m.
    • 1 p.m.: Springfield Township — Science Center Building, 50 Powell Road, Springfield
    • 6 p.m.: Upper Dublin High School, 800 Loch Alsh Ave., Fort Washington
  • Friday, Nov. 16, (Smart Hearing broadcast on PUC website) at 10 a.m.: Commonwealth Keystone Building, Hearing Room 1 — Plaza Level, 400 North St., Harrisburg. Participation in the Smart Hearing may be in person (at the Harrisburg site) or by telephone (from any location). In-person participation requires no further action. To participate via telephone, interested persons should contact the Office of Administrative Law Judge (OALJ) by 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, to provide their names, telephone numbers, and the topics of their testimony. They may call the OALJ at 717-787-1399 to register.
Source: Daily Times; 11/4/2018

Bucks County

Hilltown poised to hold the line on property taxes
Hilltown Township officials are poised to hold the line on municipal property taxes in the 2019 budget.  According to Township Manager Lorraine Leslie, the proposed $8.37 million budget will maintain the millage rate at 8.75 mills. If adopted, it would mark the eighth straight year without a tax increase. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, so a Hilltown property assessed at $45,000 would owe $394 in municipal real estate taxes in 2019. Township officials are still refining the 2019 budget and it will need to be advertised and then approved before the end of this year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/2/2018

Trumbauersville Borough opens public comment on MS4 Stormwater Plan
Trumbauersville Borough is preparing an application for a stormwater permit to be submitted to the PA Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) in December. Residents of the borough have the opportunity to review and provide written comment on the pollution reduction plan (PRP) for the borough. A 30-day public comment period is open until Tuesday, Nov. 20. The PRP can be reviewed and written comments sent to the borough office, 1 Evergreen Drive, P.O. Box 100, Trumbauersville, PA, 18970. The plan will be considered for adoption at the Thursday, Dec. 6, borough council meeting at 7 p.m.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/15/2018

Northampton supervisors fill vacancy
Northampton Township supervisors unanimously voted to appoint Fire Chief Adam Selisker to a vacancy on the board of supervisors. Selisker is a 38-year member of the Northampton Township Fire Company and the township’s deputy emergency management coordinator. Selisker was selected from a field of 11 candidates. “He’s a great addition to the board,” said Chairman Barry Moore. “We’re very pleased we were able to get such a recognized community leader in the township with such a high level of integrity.” After being sworn in by District Judge William Benz, Selisker commented that he is looking forward to “doing great things and keeping Northampton a great place to live.”
Source: The Advance; 10/21/2018

Fortune 500 company relocates to Lower Makefield
Crown Holdings, ranked at 338 in the Fortune 500, has officially opened its new global headquarters in Lower Makefield Township. The company is leasing 55,000 square feet of space at the Lower Makefield Corporate Center on Township Line Road. Crown Holdings is one of the largest publicly-traded companies based in the Philadelphia area. Crown supplies food, beverage and consumer packaging to companies around the world. It currently operates 146 plants in 36 countries and employs approximately 24,000 people. The company relocated to Bucks County from Philadelphia, bringing with it more than 250 jobs.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 11/7/2018

Chester County 

Solar panel fight ends in triumph for Chester County homeowner
Birmingham Township and a homeowner were at odds over the installation of a solar system. In 2017 the township's zoning board rejected their proposed system because it did not comply with rules prohibiting rooftop solar panels from being visible from the street. The homeowner sued the township, saying it could not constitutionally prohibit rooftop solar panels on purely aesthetic grounds. Last month the township conceded and let the homeowner install their $60,000 rooftop solar system on the house, facing the street. This case is not unusual, solar experts say. As the popularity of renewable power grows, homeowners eager to install solar systems are encountering a host of obstacles: cumbersome municipal permitting processes, inhospitable utilities and homeowner associations firmly opposed to any exterior alterations. "Some people don't like the look of solar systems, and they think it will change the character of a neighborhood," said Zachary Greene, a program director for the Solar Foundation in Washington, which aims to advance the adoption of solar energy. "You see this in historical areas where the architectural consistency is something they might want to maintain." Birmingham Township's solar zoning ordinance makes no distinction between the historic district and newer developments. The zoning ordinance simply prohibits all rooftop solar installations that are visible from the street. Birmingham’s solicitor, Kristin Camp, said she would advise the town to get rid of the solar restrictions when it conducts a review of all its ordinances pertaining to alternative energy systems. She believes the township could devise more rigid restrictions in Birmingham's historic district, which is protected under state laws.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/25/2018

Task force confident Phoenixville passenger rail will happen
Developers are confident passenger rail to Phoenixville can still happen. The projected timeline has been pushed back, but a $110,000 operational study was authorized. This comes in the wake of news that Norfolk Southern was not interested in letting its non-electrified freight tracks be used for the potential project due to an inability to handle the additional traffic, according to a statement from Royersford Borough that was disputed by developers. "I believe that there was misinterpretation of the document that was presented to Royersford by Norfolk Southern," said project manager Barry Cassidy. "The document offers a very clear path for the establishment of passenger rail service." Cassidy acknowledged that in a recent meeting between the mayor's task force and Norfolk Southern, the railway giant said "no," and often. The task force also officially determined that the current project would include three additional stops, including Phoenixville, Schuylkill Township and King of Prussia, and would not go farther west. They also agreed to formally ask the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to investigate what the estimated ridership would be on the line. Finally, the task force will create a “station committee” that includes three subcommittees to address specific issues: one for platform positioning, one for handicapped accessibility and one for land use issues. Organizers are optimistic that beyond relieving traffic, the rail project will be an economic boon. Properties within a three-mile radius of the stations will increase in value, according to Phoenixville Mayor Peter Urscheler.
Source: Phoenixville Patch; 10/30/2018

Phoenixville releases draft budget
The 2019 Draft Budget for the Borough of Phoenixville is available for public inspection at Borough Hall and on the borough website here. Borough Council will consider adoption of the 2019 Budget at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall, located at 351 Bridge St., 3rd Floor, Phoenixville.
Source: Montgomery Publishing Group; 11/02/2018

Delaware County

No tax increase proposed for Delaware County
Delaware County’s proposed budget for 2019 was presented by county Executive Director Marianne Grace. The budget proposes no tax increase for 2019. If ultimately adopted by County Council, this would be the fifth year in a row with no tax increase. The total proposed General Fund expenditures are $354.8 million for 2019, a decrease in spending of $2.2 million from the budgeted 2018 expenditures of about $357 million.  Pass-through federal and state grants, mostly to human services programs, total an additional $307.86 million. While the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and many local governments and school districts have struggled to fully fund pension funds, Delaware County’s employee pension fund is currently funded at 101.5 percent, which marks the fifth year in a row that the pension fund has been funded at or above 100%. Delaware County’s overall economic strength remains strong. The county’s real estate assessment continues its steady growth of approximately 1 percent per year, generating additional operating revenue. In 2018, the county maintained its excellent bond ratings with both Standard and Poor’s Rating Service at AA and Moody's Investors Service at Aa1. With over 283,000 residents employed and unemployment at 3.9 percent, Delaware County’s workforce remains strong. The proposed 2019 budget is available for public inspection at the Office of the County Clerk, located on the 2nd floor of the Government Center, and can also be found online here. A budget hearing will be conducted on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. in the County Council Meeting Room (201 W. Front St., Media), and county council will consider the 2019 budget ordinance at two of its regular meetings on Wednesdays, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12.
Source: Delaware County; 11/2/2018

Concord to hold budget hearing
Concord Township Council will hold a public hearing on the 2019 proposed preliminary budget. The budget is balanced, with expenditures in the General Operating Fund of $4.06 million, and expenditures in the General Operating Sewer Fund of $3.53 million. The document and full summary will be available for public inspection at the township building, 43 Thornton Road, Glen Mills, and will also be published on the township’s website. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.
Source: Daily Times; 11/02/2018

Delco DA to address opioid crisis
Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun “Kat” Copeland will speak about the county’s response to the opioid crisis on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 9:40 a.m. in the Devine Hospitality Suite at Neumann University, One Neumann Drive, Aston. The program is free and open to the public. Copeland will speak for about 30 minutes and then will take questions from the floor. She will address drug enforcement investigations and prosecutions, and discuss how Delaware County is continuing to respond to the opioid crisis. In January of this year, according to a report by the Associated Press, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf declared the state’s opioid addiction epidemic a public health emergency and ordered a command center be established to treat the crisis. Other state efforts announced by Gov. Wolf included revamping the drug monitoring program, making naloxone, also known as Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat opioid overdose, available to all residents who want it, setting prescription guidelines and developing new instruction on opioids at state medical schools.
Source: Daily Times; 11/7/2018

County offers resources for reassessment project info
Delaware County has set up a website and video to educate residents and answer questions about the reassessment project. A Reassessment Hotline has also been set up for residents to call with any questions or concerns: 610-891-5695.

Source: Delaware County; 9/26/2018

Montgomery County

East Norriton selling sewer system to Aqua
Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. announced it will acquire the East Norriton Township sewage system for $21 million. East Norriton has been exploring the sale of its aging sewer system since a 2016 law was passed in Pennsylvania encouraging the privatization of smaller water systems. Act 12 allows new owners to charge ratepayers for the appraised fair-market value of an acquired system, rather than its lower depreciated cost. The current rate of about $462 a year will remain frozen until Aqua’s next expected rate filing and then increase to as much as $652 in 2022, the township estimated in a statement. The aging East Norriton system needs an estimated $17 million in upgrades and the township said if it borrowed to make its own upgrades, annual sewer bills could go up to $671 in 2020 under continued township ownership. The East Norriton system is mostly debt-free, so the township will see all of the proceeds from the sale invested back into the township for property tax stabilization, and capital improvements to streets and buildings. The sale is expected to be completed in September 2019.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/6/2018

Upper Moreland poised to adopt property and fire codes
The Upper Moreland Township Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing at the regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 117 Park Ave., Willow Grove, to consider for adoption a variety of proposed ordinances. The first will amend Chapter 243 of the code of ordinances to adopt the 2015 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code, and to set forth requirements related to: permit fees, penalties for failure to comply, height limitations for weeds or plants to be maintained on premises and exterior property, and time periods for required insect screens and heat supplies. At the same meeting, the commissioners will consider an ordinance to adopt the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code to: set forth permit fees, set forth requirements governing the identification of air conditioning system rooftop units, automatic fire suppression systems, fire sprinkler systems, manual fire alarm systems, smoke detectors and exit signs. The full text of both proposed ordinances is available at the township building during regular business hours.
Source: The Intelligencer; 11/2/2018

Upper Moreland proposed ordinance to fine violators
The Upper Moreland Township Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing at the regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 117 Park Ave., Willow Grove, to consider for adoption an ordinance that will impose a fine, rather than a non-traffic citation, for violation of certain township ordinances. The proposed ordinance will authorize the issuance of a Township Notice of Violation by the Upper Moreland Township Police Department for certain offenses and violations of township ordinances regulating the following: alcoholic beverages; dogs; bicycles; skateboards and scooters; firearms; graffiti; littering; newspapers, advertising circulars and other publications; nuisances; vehicles in parks; peace and good order; peddling, soliciting and canvassing; snow and ice removal from streets and sidewalks; and parking. A copy of the full text of the ordinance is available at the township building during normal business hours.
Source: The Intelligencer; 11/2/2018

Perkiomen School District seeks input on South Elementary
Perkiomen Valley School District is seeking a group of district stakeholders to help officials continue discussions about the facility needs at South Elementary School. The district is including the entire community in the conversations because addressing the needs of South Elementary will affect the entire school district. Any school district resident who is interested in serving on the steering committee is invited to complete a survey by Friday, Nov. 16. Participants will be notified if they are selected to be on the task force. More information about facility needs at South Elementary can be found on the Perkiomen Valley School District website.
Source: The Reporter; 11/5/2018

Philadelphia

The Penn Alexander effect: Disappearing low-income housing University City
An array of forces have worked together to drive up real estate prices and, in some cases, drive out low-income renters in University City. Those factors include appreciating values across what real estate observers call “greater Center City;” aggressive investments by the University of Pennsylvania, including creating home-buying programs for staff and backing the creation of the University City District; and, in 2002, the opening of the transformative school, Penn Alexander, which is a collaboration between the school district and Penn. At the same time, two census tracts that cover parts of Penn Alexander’s territory each lost more than 500 units of affordable housing from 2000 to 2014, according to an analysis published by the Federal Reserve. Home prices doubled in University City from 1998 to 2011 — but in the area serviced by Penn Alexander, they tripled, adding a cool $100,000 or more to a property's price tag. Penn Alexander has been recognized as one of the best schools in the nation, and its racial and economic demographics are shifting rapidly. Emily Dowdall, policy director at the Reinvestment Fund, said these trends reflect complex and interlocking issues. Among them, "It brings up some of the tensions that come up a lot in the community development field, when a place-based investment becomes so successful that the lower-income households it has been intended to serve can no longer afford to live in the community." Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/11/2018

Trash talk: Bigger fines and free neighborhood cans
Philadelphia residents are tired of construction companies — or their neighbors — dumping debris in vacant lots and public parks. Lower Northeast Councilman Bobby Henon introduced a bill in city council that would designate dozens of Litter Enforcement Corridors across Philadelphia. “Short dumping is running rampant, and it’s destroying the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Henon. “It really sends a message: ‘Look at that pile of trash; it must be okay to do that in this neighborhood.’” Under Henon’s bill, Litter Enforcement Corridors will be marked by signage that will inform those who violate the law that they could end up paying fines that are orders of magnitude larger than usual. Existing city law subject individuals who get caught illegally unloading trash to a fine of between $50 and $300 on first offense, as well a trash-clean up community service sentence. Those fines could double under the bill. Commercial operators who get caught using a vehicle to dump can be subject to fines between $500 and $5,000. Those fines could triple under Henon’s legislation. Henon said the money from the fines would be used to step up enforcement. He said that more addresses would be added to the list of Litter Enforcement Corridors as the bill gets amended.  The roughly 50 corridors included in the newly introduced bill reflect recommendations made by fellow city council representatives, according to Henon's legislative director, Tom Holroyd. Earlier this month, city council unanimously passed a bill designed to encourage community groups to install and independently maintain trash and recycling cans on the streets. Community groups would be responsible for managing the cans and ensuring they get emptied without the involvement of the Streets Department and its sanitation workers. City Hall will handle requests for free receptacles on a case-by-case basis.
Source: PlanPhilly; 10/26/2018

Philly votes yes on $181M infrastructure bond issue
Philadelphians turned out in droves for the midterms and voted yes on a $181 million infrastructure bond issue. The Philadelphia Commissioners’ office reported that 72 percent of Philadelphians voted for the bond issue (with 96 percent of precincts having reported.) The question asked if the city should borrow $181 million to be spent for capital improvements, such as: transit; streets and sanitation; municipal buildings; parks, recreation and museums; and economic and community development. Philadelphians have voted “yes” on a similar funding question that has been on the ballot for the past 10 years. The city’s current debt is $5.5 billion, to be paid over the next 30 years.
Source: Curbed Philly; 11/7/2018

 


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