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 13, 2017

 

General News

Tax plan delivers tax hike on homeowners
The House Ways and Means Committee has released its legislative proposal for an overhaul of the American tax code, and the National Association of Realtors® believes the bill represents a tax increase on middle-class homeowners. NAR is opposed to this tax reform legislation. "Realtors® believe in the promise of lower tax rates, but this bill is nowhere near as good a deal as the one middle-class homeowners get under current law,” said NAR President William E. Brown. “Tax hikes and falling home prices are a one-two punch that homeowners simply can't afford.” By eliminating or nullifying the incentive for homeownership, Realtors® are concerned that homeownership's wealth-building potential could be pushed out of reach. Earlier this year, NAR released a full analysis of the House Republican blueprint for reform, finding that it would cause a 10 percent drop in home values and raise taxes on middle-class homeowners by an average of $815. This bill, however, goes even further by capping the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000 for newly purchased homes. The legislation also eliminates state income tax deductions altogether, while installing a new cap on property taxes. At the same time, the proposal puts new restrictions on the capital gains exemption homeowners utilize today when they sell their home. The exemption is vital to allowing homeowners to use their equity to pay for retirement and other long-term needs.

PA voters pass property tax referendum
Pennsylvania voters agreed to a ballot measure that will amend the constitution to allow municipalities to stop charging property taxes on owner-occupied homes. It's a step forward in an ongoing fight to lower the commonwealth's high property tax rates. Under previous constitutional language, local governments could only exempt up to 50 percent of their median home value from property taxes. Now, they can technically exempt all homestead properties. Terry Madonna, a political analyst from Franklin and Marshall College, noted that can't happen until there's a new source of revenue, which would involve action from the legislature. "If the legislature moves, it would have to be a fairly complex piece of legislation that would provide for what the school boards would use to substitute for the loss of the property taxes," Madonna said. There's currently no consensus on what that bill would look like. Other revenue options include sales and income taxes at the local level. Madonna noted, those taxes wouldn't affect all communities in the same way.
Source: WITF; 11/8/2017

Mapping out patterns for why some PA towns give up their local police forces
This year, state police will get around $773 million of the $2.8 billion motor license fund. The state police’s share is expected to increase four percent this year. More and more state transportation dollars go to the state police. That’s because more and more Pennsylvania towns are giving up their own police forces and opting to rely on state police for coverage instead. For these localities, it’s a clever cost-saving move — cut the town’s budget, passing the cost of stepped-up state police coverage onto taxpayers statewide. Plan Philly examines the data relating to towns that rely upon state police coverage here.
Source: PlanPhilly; 10/31/2017

DVRPC’s Long-Range Plan Adopted
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission Board adopted the Connections 2045 update to Greater Philadelphia's long-range plan on Oct. 26. Connections 2045 establishes a vision for the growth and development of the region and serves as a blueprint for prioritizing transportation funding over the next 28 years. DVRPC is required by federal regulations to update the plan every four years, and this policy document enables the region to receive over a billion dollars annually in federal transportation funding. It was developed with the input and support from residents, regional planning partners, DVRPC's working committees, and stakeholder groups. Visit www.dvrpc.org/Connections2045 to check out the vision and list of major regional projects, and to view the technical document.
Source: DVRPC; 10/31/2017

Bucks County

Yardley Borough draft budget holds the line on taxes
Yardley Borough Councilman Rich Wayne presented a draft of the borough’s budget that projects no tax increase in 2018. The draft budget funds the new police contract, proposes the establishment of a new fund for weather emergencies and includes spending for several large projects. Yardley raised property taxes in 2017 for the first time in 11 years, rather than imposing a proposed earned income tax. Wayne said the data show that Yardley may be able to get by for a few more years without increasing taxes, but eventually financial reality will catch up and require whoever is in charge to make a choice: borrow money, adopt an EIT or outsource police services. The borough council will vote to advertise the proposed budget in early November for adoption in December.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 11/6/2017

Richland Township residents vote down supervisor referendum
Richland Township residents voted on a referendum that asked, “Should two additional Supervisors be elected to serve in this Township?” There were 719 votes (41 percent) in favor of adding supervisors and 1,036 (59 percent) opposed. In July, Richland supervisors passed a resolution noting the “plain English” version of the question as, “The ballot question asks the voters of Richland Township whether the township board of supervisors should continue to consist of three (3) elected supervisors or if it should be expanded to consist of five (5) elected supervisors.”
Source: Bucks County Election results; 11/8/2017

Solebury Township residents vote for increased emergency services funding
Solebury Township residents voted in favor of the ballot question “Do you authorize the Township of Solebury to levy a tax of up to 1.1 mills to fund 24-hour advanced life support, ambulance, and emergency services beginning in 2018?” Solebury voters came out in support of the question with 1,709 (73.3 percent) of residents voting in favor and 623 (26.7 percent) of residents voting against it. Click here for more information about the tax.
Source: Bucks County Election results; 11/8/2017

Development plan submitted in Hilltown
Warrington-based developer Hallmark Homes has submitted a development plan to the Hilltown Township Planning Commission. Hallmark Homes is proposing to build 15 single-family homes on 23 acres on Orchard Road. An existing farmhouse on the property would be demolished, but a formerly farmed field will be left in its natural state as open space, said project engineer Robert Cunningham. Hallmark is working with Hilltown’s township engineer to refine the plan, which did not raise any red flags with the planning commission. Hallmark said the goal is to obtain approval from the planning commission and ultimately the board of supervisors with the hope of breaking ground in 2018.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/20/2017

Chester County 

Residents tell Chester County officials where future growth should occur
When it comes to planning Chester County’s future, there are many voices and viewpoints on ways to balance preservation with growth. That’s why the Chester County Planning Commission recently conducted a public meeting about Landscapes3, the county’s next long-range comprehensive plan. About 50 county residents attended the meeting, which included an hour-long open house at the beginning with stations highlighting key themes: preserve, protect, appreciate, live, work and connect. At these stations, planners were available to answer residents’ questions about the topics. In addition to a projected 55,000 new housing units in the next 30 years, a Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission report indicates there will be 146,000 new residents and 87,000 new jobs in the next three decades. Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary said sprawl has been limited since the adoption of the first Landscapes in 1996, and 27 percent of the county has been preserved as protected open space. He added that downtowns have been revitalized, and transportation infrastructure has expanded and improved. For more information, visit www.chescoplanning.org.
Source: Daily Local; 11/1/2017

Commissioners decline Bishop Tube request
The Chester County commissioners declined to support a request by an environmental activist and local residents to oppose partial clean-up efforts and development proposals at the so-called Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland. Maya van Rossum, who heads the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, was joined by several others in requesting that the commissioners formally oppose the plans of developer Brian O’Neill to build homes on the 13-acre site off Malin Road. They say the property is heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals, following decades-long industrial use there, and would cause environmental havoc if developed. The property has been vacant for almost 20 years. The commissioners noted that opposition by the township and by the Chester County Economic Development Council to proposed grants for the clean-up work that O’Neill has proposed made the issue moot. “My understanding is that this thing is dead in the water,” Commissioners Chairwoman Michele Kichline told van Rossum and the others in attendance at the commissioners’ business meeting, at which van Rossum and others spoke at length about the plan and its impact on the community. Ultimately, the commissioners offered to have officials from various county departments — the Planning Commission, the Office of Open Space, the Department of Community Development, and the Health Department — meet with the community groups to discuss the issue.
Source: Daily Local; 11/3/2017

Kennett Township officials deliberate over marijuana facilities and casinos
Kennett Township Supervisors have been working on an ordinance to regulate medical-marijuana dispensaries and indoor growing facilities. Nobody has expressed any interesting in opening such a business, according to the supervisors, although East Marlborough Township recently rejected an application for a growing facility. The state regulations require indoor growing facilities to be at least a thousand feet from any residentially zoned parcel and from any tract with a school or day care site on it. State law is silent on setbacks for dispensaries, however, so Township Manager Lisa Moore asked if the supervisors wanted to require a similar thousand-foot setback for them or make it shorter. The ordinance would restrict such sites to the limited-industrial and commercial zones in the township, most of which are adjacent to the east and west borders of Kennett Square Borough. In other business, the township addressed a new state law that allows the creation of 10 new, small casinos in the commonwealth. The supervisors voted unanimously to opt out, as is allowed by the law, closing the door to having such a casino in the township.
Source: Daily Local; 11/3/2017

West Chester University unveils construction plans
West Chester University officials unveiled construction plans, talked about ongoing projects and celebrated recently completed additions to the campus at an annual briefing session. The most notable addition to the campus is “the Commons,” with a total project cost of $130 million. That figure includes costs for engineering, furniture, and technology and audio-visual systems. The project will be located at University Avenue, west of Church Street. The new structures will cover 175,000 gross square feet and house dining and science facilities, an engineering center and a parking garage. The 460-space garage will more than double the number of parking spaces now available in the “D” lot. The Speakman Building and boiler plant will be demolished during spring 2018 to make way for the project, which is expected to start in the summer 2018 and conclude by fall 2020. Other planned projects include construction of a master walkway linking the president’s walk to the new business and public management center. The old library and baseball and softball dugouts will be renovated. The former Dynamic book store at 20 Linden St. will become a retail classroom with a classroom experience for students on the autism spectrum. The former Papa John’s, at what was once the Ratskeller bar, will host a student-run Saxby’s coffee house.
Source: Daily Times; 11/6/2017

Delaware County

Future of Chester Water Authority is murky
In May, the Chester Water Authority (CWA) unanimously rejected a $250 million unsolicited acquisition offer from Aqua America after receiving the proposal May 8. In an Oct. 26 letter written to CWA Board Chair Cynthia Leitzell, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland opened up a new threat to the future of the authority, stating the city had the right to “reclaim and transfer operation of the authority’s assets” and to “dissolve the authority.” It is widely believed the city, struggling to get out from under its Act 47 state designation as a distressed city, would like to use revenue from a possible sale of the water authority to bolters its shaky finances. Leitzell responded by penning a letter that stated the city of Chester does not have the ability to dissolve the authority, saying: “The Authority is no longer an asset of the city, but rather of present and future ratepayers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, particularly following the 2012 amendments to the Municipal Authorities Act.” The CWA does not receive funds from the city; however, it has given more than $13.5 million to the city since 1996. CWA Solicitor Frank Catania has been questioning why Chester’s financial oversight group, Econsult, was considering a sale of the CWA more than a year before Aqua made its bid. CWA officials have been attempting to obtain Right-to-Know information from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), but they have received only partial information that was heavily redacted. The Act 47 Recovery Plan requires the city to eliminate its budget deficit and address its funding deficit by May 2018. The Chester Water Authority itself is not in financial distress. The next meeting of the Chester Water Authority will be on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 2 p.m., at Neumann University’s Rocco Abessinio Building, 1 Neumann Dr., Aston.
Source: Daily Times; 11/4/2017

Edgmont tees up 167 units at country club site
Edgmont supervisors approved the tentative plan for 167 residential units on the former site of the Edgmont Country Club. In the Planned Residential Development process, tentative approval is equivalent to preliminary plan approval. Developers now must return to supervisors for final approval and can be expected to satisfy all the comments and conditions in the prior tentative decision. After purchasing the entire property of about 200 acres in March 2016, Ridgewood Real Estate Partners, based in New Jersey, has created a development consisting of 73 detached single-family detached and 94 single-family attached homes, and carefully worked on retaining the natural resources. While the process has taken close to two years, Ridgewood’s consideration of design standards and environmental concerns has earned the support of township supervisors and planners.
Source: Daily Times; 11/1/2017

Chadds Ford intervenes in Ridge Road suit
Chadds Ford Township has filed a petition to intervene in the latest round of litigation involving the proposed Shops at Ridge Road and associated road improvements. In a petition filed Oct. 30, several Chadds Ford residents expressed concern that they had lost representation, as a suit brought by the developer against Concord Township does not include Chadds Ford as a defendant. The suit centers on a condition Concord Township required of the developer, stating that Chadds Ford, whose border is close to the proposed shopping center, would have to sign off on changes to Ridge Road. The developer, Pettinaro Construction, has said Chadds Ford has no jurisdiction over the plan. The Chadds Ford residents’ petition requests the court to allow Chadds Ford to intervene in the matter as a party defendant, as the township had been joined to an earlier suit that was dismissed. It also requests that the suit be dismissed with prejudice since it violates state rules of procedure. Chadds Ford Township Supervisors' Chairman Frank Murphy has said that he won't sign off on the changes until Chadds Ford residents' concerns over road safety and increased traffic are addressed. Chadds Ford Township supervisors scheduled a resident forum on the matter for Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 11/1/2017

Delaware County updates deed recording schedule
Delaware County’s deed recording schedule includes a $15 fee for demolition of blighted properties. This fee is part of state legislation that was signed in to law last year. It enables counties to add up to $15 for each deed and mortgage recorded, to be used for a demolition program. Since then, 11 counties have passed ordinances creating this fund and five have reported they are considering it. To view the full Recorder of Deeds fee schedule, click here.
Source: Delaware County Recorder of Deeds; 2/1/2017; Housing Alliance of PA; 11/3/2017

Parkside makes changes to rental property requirements
Parkside Borough recently made changes to the requirements for rental properties. The borough now requires that every person who owns rental property must supply a list of all the renters or tenants over the age of 18 who reside at the property. The list must be supplied no later than August 30 or within 30 days of changing renters. The use and occupancy for a transfer of ownership shall be $120 for an unoccupied unit and $200 for an occupied unit. Annual rental license and safety inspection fees are set at $100 for a single-family dwelling, $120 for a duplex and $80 for an apartment. Realtors® are reminded that a certificate of occupancy for rental properties must be renewed annually and whenever a change in occupancy occurs.
Source: Parkside Borough; 11/6/2017

Montgomery County

Hearings scheduled for King of Prussia Rail project
SEPTA and the Federal Transit Administration have released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the King of Prussia Rail Project, which would extend the Norristown High Speed Line. The document is available for review on the project website. SEPTA will hold a series of public hearings to provide officials, stakeholders and the public an opportunity to meet with the project team members, view a presentation and submit comments on the Draft EIS, including the recommended Locally Preferred Alternative. Two hearings will be held Monday, Nov. 13, beginning at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., at the Doubletree Hotel, 301 W. Dekalb Pike in King of Prussia, and one will be held Wednesday, Nov. 15, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Norristown Municipal Building, 235 E. Airy St. Click here for the public hearing details and methods of communicating public comment.

Lower Salford draft budget holds the line on taxes
The proposed Lower Salford budget for 2018 includes a 1.8 percent increase in expenditures but no change in taxes. If approved, the township’s property tax rate will remain at 2.689 mills — about $524 on a home assessed at the township average of $195,000. The 2.689 mills breaks down to 2.034 mills to support the general fund, 0.095 mills for the park fund, 0.33 mills for the library fund, 0.18 mills for the fire fund and 0.05 mills for the ambulance fund. The final vote on the budget is scheduled for the board’s meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Visit the township website for more information.
Source: The Reporter; 11/8/2017

Lansdale draft budget includes 22% tax increase
Lansdale Borough Finance Director John Ramey is recommending council approve a one mill tax increase to the current rate of 4.5 mills. The suggested 22% tax increase is a move Ramey said he hopes will bring Lansdale’s budget back into balance for several more years. Lansdale last approved a property tax increase in 2015. According to Ramey, a one mill tax increase would amount to an additional $125 a year on a home assessed at $125,000. The proposed tax increase would generate about $760,000 per year in new revenue, which would cover the current deficit and put some money into reserves. Borough council will discuss advertising the proposed budget at the meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15, and the budget could be finalized at the meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 20. Visit www.lansdale.org for more information.
Source: North Penn Life; 11/3/2017

Bridgeport to consider sidewalk and curb ordinance amendments
Bridgeport Borough Council will consider an ordinance amending the borough code relating to sidewalk and curb construction. The public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m., at Borough Hall, 63 W. Fourth St. Ordinance 2017-10 will amend the code to include provisions for curb maintenance and replacement responsibility. The proposed ordinance is available for public inspection at the office of the borough manager during normal business hours. The SRA has requested a copy of the proposed ordinance for review.
Source: Times Herald; 11/2/2017

Philadelphia

Kenney announces timeline to take back city schools, but no clear plan to fund them
After 16 years under state control, Mayor Kenney announced plans to take back oversight of the city’s 130,000-student school system and vowed to assume responsibility for making sure the schools are properly funded. “For too long, we’ve pointed fingers at each other — whether it be traditional public schools and public charter schools, or city elected officials and state elected officials,” Kenney said during an address to City Council. “Again and again, we’ve told the people of Philadelphia that the state of their schools is someone else’s responsibility. That ends today.” Kenney did not delineate how exactly he would get the money to pay for reforms he has proposed. He said he will ask the five School Reform Commission members — three of whom are appointed by the governor — to vote to dissolve the commission at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16. The commission eventually will be replaced by a nine-member school board, appointed by the mayor, he said. The state took control of the district in 2001 with agreement from the city, after years of financial struggles and complaints about lack of state funding. Despite state oversight and additional state funding in the early years, problems have persisted.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/2/2017

Legislation to crack down on squatters stalls in committee
Philadelphia City Council recently considered the problem of squatters moving into private homes — not vacant, abandoned buildings, but homes temporarily left vacant. A council committee heard testimony on a bill that would allow police to evict illegal occupants in 48 hours, but committee members voted against taking action. Tenants groups and lawyers called the bill over-broad. Jennifer Schultz, of Community Legal Services, said it would work against another chronic problem. “Forged deeds are regularly filed with the Recorder of Deeds Office,” Schultz said. The committee voted not to advance the bill, but Chairman Allan Domb urged that the advocates help craft a new bill. “I would like us to come back in 30 days,” he said, “and maybe, jointly, we can have something that solves the issue.”
Source: KYW Newsradio; 11/6/2017


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