Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Teams legislation introduced
Central Bucks $342 million budget holds the line on taxes
Smart growth topic of June 20 forum
Delco puts spotlight on opportunity zones
Lansdale council discusses alleys
Philly to increase homestead exemption to $45,000
Tax reform legislation and its negative impact on housing prices
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is opposed to the tax reform legislation that has been unveiled in the House of Representatives. The bill is a direct threat to consumers, homeowners and real estate businesses. Not only will millions of homeowners not benefit from the proposal, many will get a tax increase. Additionally, homeowners could lose substantial equity from the more than 10 percent drop in home values likely to result if the bill is enacted. NAR has created an interactive map to show the negative impact of the proposed tax reform legislation on housing prices by congressional district. View and download a side-by-side comparison of the proposed House and Senate tax legislation here. To protect homeowners, Realtors® should take action and send a message to Congress by visiting www.realtoractioncenter.com/taxreform.
House passes flood insurance bill
With less than a month left before the National Flood Insurance Program expires, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is applauding the House of Representatives for passing smart, much-needed support for the program. "Realtors® know firsthand what happens when the NFIP expires, and it isn’t good for consumers, businesses or our communities," said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. The "21st Century Flood Reform Act," or H.R. 2874, reauthorizes the NFIP for five years, while taking steps to reform the program. These reforms include:
These changes, Mendenhall said, would improve the NFIP’s financial health, put consumers on a stronger footing, and deliver certainty to current and prospective homeowners. With the Dec. 8 deadline around the corner, NAR is hopeful the Senate will now step up to the plate and do its part by passing a flood reform and reauthorization package without delay.
Source: Nar.realtor; 11/16/2017
Towns weigh whether to allow new mini-casinos
Pennsylvania’s new law expanding its casino industry has set off debates in cities and towns around the state about whether to try to lure one of the 10 new mini-casinos created by the law, or ban them. Boosters say a casino will bring tourism, millions of dollars of investment in construction, permanent casino jobs and spin-off economic development — not to mention a cut of casino profits for the host city. Some areas of Pennsylvania are off-limits; one provision of the law eliminates Montgomery and other counties because they are already home to resort casinos. There’s also a 25-mile prohibition around the existing casinos, which puts Pennsylvania’s most heavily populated areas off-limits. Under the law, a municipality wishing to prohibit the mini-casinos must do so by passing a resolution before Jan. 1, 2018. The municipality can undo the decision later, but then that’s it — it cannot reconsider again.
Source: Daily Local; 11/4/2017
Spotted lanternfly quarantine zone spreads
The continuing infestation by the invasive spotted lanternfly insects has pushed Pennsylvania officials to declare quarantines at the county level and to add seven counties to the list of those already affected. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture had previously been issuing quarantines on an individual municipality basis. Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties are all included, and the state has now added Carbon, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Monroe, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties. The quarantine now includes areas where the insect is not yet confirmed, but where there is a high risk of its rapid spread beyond the region, according to a release from the Department of Agriculture. “This invasive insect threatens to destroy $18 billion worth of agricultural commodities here like apples, grapes and hardwoods, inflicting a devastating impact on the livelihoods of our producers and businesses,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. Residents of the quarantined counties are being asked to:
Anyone who finds insects or eggs outside the quarantined area should report sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org and include photos, if possible, to confirm the sightings.
Source: The Mercury; 11/3/2017
Hulmeville to consider earned income tax
Hulmeville Borough Council will consider for adoption an ordinance levying an Earned Income Tax (EIT) of 1 percent. The EIT will be applied to salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, incentive payments, fees, tips and other compensation earned by residents and those who work in the borough on or after Jan. 1, 2018, and on the net profits earned on the operation of a business, profession or other activity by those who conduct the business profession or other activity in the borough on or after that date. Borough Council feels the EIT is necessary to produce additional revenue to fund the general operating expenses of the borough. The amount of revenue estimated to be derived from the tax is $145,000 per year. The proposed ordinance will be considered for adoption at the borough council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Borough Hall, 321 Main St.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 11/10/2017
New Britain holds the line on taxes
New Britain Township’s proposed $11 million budget will maintain the current property tax rate. The 2018 budget keeps the property tax rate at 12.0625 mills and the earned income tax rate at 1.025 percent, of which 0.025 percent is dedicated to open space funding and the remaining one percent is split evenly with the Central Bucks School District. The adoption of the final budget and tax levy resolution is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. at the New Britain Township Building, 207 Park Ave.
Source: The Intelligencer; 11/9/2017
Taxes steady in Haycock
The preliminary 2018 budget recently passed by Haycock Township supervisors maintains the current tax rate of 6 mills into 2018. Total spending is projected at $1.35 million, and the largest expenses include general construction and heating contracts, along with repairs and maintenance services for the new Haycock Township Community Center. The budget maintains a long-running philosophy to keep extra cash on hand to avoid having to take out special loans.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/9/2017
No tax increase proposed in Sellersville
Sellersville Borough Council is evaluating a proposed spending plan that will maintain the current property tax levy of 24 mills. A mill is equal to a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A Sellersville property assessed at $30,000 would pay $720 in municipal property taxes next year. The council will review the proposed 2018 budget on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at the regularly scheduled Public Management Committee meeting. The budget could be finalized at the council meeting on Monday, Dec. 11.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/9/2017
West Grove to provide volunteer service real property tax credit
The Borough Council of West Grove will consider the passage of an ordinance providing incentives for municipal volunteers of fire companies and nonprofit emergency medical services agencies. The volunteer service real property tax credit will be considered for adoption on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the West Grove Borough Municipal Building, 117 Rosehill Ave.
Source: Daily Local; 11/14/2017
Sunoco wants to dig trenches in Exton area
Mariner East 2 Pipeline builder Sunoco Pipeline LP is looking to make changes to the plan for the installation of the pipeline in Exton. Instead of utilizing horizontal directional drilling for a swath of just less than a mile through the heart of Exton, Sunoco now wants to mostly open cut — with open trenches — through wetlands and across two streams. As part of a horizontal directional drill analysis submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Sunoco agents wrote that there would be a “direct but temporary impact on our streams.” As part of the project, which Sunoco refers to as the Swedesford Road Crossing, the creek that runs by the Chester County Library would be dammed for the project. At the same time, running water in the stream bed, which would be breached by trenches, would be pumped around the work area. The construction changes would affect the pipeline stretching from Shoen Road, near Route 100, past the Giant supermarket and Target, through a baseball outfield, close to a senior care center, through backyards, and within feet of Exton Mall and the Chester County Library. Sunoco requested the change in construction methods after Aqua America representatives noted that horizontal drilling might have a negative effect on drinking water at the Hillside Drive Production Well. The plans were “altered to further reduce the potential impact to this public water supply well,” Sunoco wrote. DEP has announced that a two-week “public comment” period will run through Monday, Nov. 20. Citizens can email their comments to the DEP at email@example.com.
Source: Daily Local; 11/10/2017
Easttown Township planners nix townhouse plan for Devon Center Overlay
Residents who packed an Easttown Planning Commission meeting applauded when planners voted unanimously against recommending zoning changes that would permit townhouses to be part of the Devon Center Overlay District, which is the new zoning overlay governing the Devon Yard commercial development at the former Waterloo Gardens. The Planning Commission voted without allowing Fred Fromhold, a lawyer for property owners Denise Lehmann and Andrew Holder, to present a revised plan for the property at 133 Berkley Road. Chairman Mark Stanish thanked the residents for their emails and thoughts on the proposal, including arguments that it would be tantamount to “spot zoning,” which is illegal. Kristin Camp, the solicitor, said that Joseph Kohn, a lawyer for about 70 residents who opposed the plan, made that argument in a memorandum of law. The planners also had a lengthy discussion about plans for the former Fritz Lumber property on Lancaster Avenue, now called Fritz Town Center, in Berwyn. That plan calls for three mixed-use buildings that would include 44 apartments, about 19,000-square-feet of retail space and a parking garage.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 11/13/2017
Parkesburg sewer line upgrade planned
Pennsylvania American Water announced the start of construction to replace an aging sewer main in Parkesburg Borough to improve service reliability and prevent sewer blockages. The project, with an estimated cost of nearly $345,000, will replace outdated pipe dating back to the 1940s. Crews will work weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Traffic restrictions will be in place during construction hours, and motorists are urged to allow extra time when traveling through the area. The company expects to complete the sewer main installation and final paving restoration by Spring 2018. For more information, visit www.amwater.com.
Source: Daily Local; 11/15/2017
Water authority will charge Chester property owners new fees
Property owners in the City of Chester have begun receiving letters from the Chester Stormwater Authority, notifying them of additional charges they will incur each month. Based on the amount of developed ground on the property, defined as “impervious surface” that does not allow water or other liquids to pass through, most homeowners will receive a $15.60 bill at the beginning of December. However, a 10,000 square-foot property would be charged about $137 a month, or $1,644 a year. Chester Stormwater Authority Solicitor Joseph Oxman, a partner with the Philadelphia-based law firm Oxman Goodstadt Kuritz P.C., said “our fees will be far smaller than taxes. Frankly, many commercial and business entities have had a free ride. They have used many of Chester’s public entities — water, gas, electric, roads, stormwater — without having to pay in.” The Chester Stormwater Authority was launched back in June as a private/public entity that partnered with the Chester Water Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Corvias, which helped launch a similar program in Prince George’s County, Md., three years prior.
Source: Daily Times; 10/14/2017
Upper Darby Township to consider comprehensive plan
The Upper Darby Township Comprehensive Plan Committee will hold a final public hearing on adoption of the township’s comprehensive plan on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 100 Garrett Road. More information about the comprehensive plan can be found on the Upper Darby website.
Source: Daily Times; 11/14/2017
Oil pipeline encircling Philadelphia converts to shale gas
A petroleum pipeline that encircles the Pennsylvania suburbs around Philadelphia will be converted to deliver natural gas to Marcus Hook under a $189 million deal between Talen Energy Corp. and Adelphia Gateway LLC, a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources Corp. Adelphia Gateway plans to convert the southern 50-mile portion of the pipeline, which now transports oil in a northern direction, so that it will transport gas southward to customers in Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties. The pipeline was built in the 1970s to deliver oil from Sunoco’s former Marcus Hook refinery to power plants owned by Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. It was partly converted to natural gas in 1996. With the refinery’s closure and oil’s fall from favor as a fuel source for electricity generation, the pipeline becomes the latest piece of energy infrastructure converted to accommodate new gas production from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fields. The sale requires the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and is expected take about a year to close.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/3/2017
Newtown Square gets its hotel
The opening of a Hilton hotel in Delaware County puts Equus Capital Partners one step closer to completing its vision of creating a campus that would attract corporations while meeting "unmet demand for hotels" in the area. The 138-room Hilton Garden Inn at the 218-acre mixed-use community Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square, will officially open on Wednesday, Nov. 22. When completed, Ellis Preserve, at the intersection of Route 252 and Route 3, will include 1.5 million square feet of office space, 420,000 square feet of retail anchored by Whole Foods that will open in 2018, 142 townhomes and 252 apartments. "When we bought the property in 2004, it was well known that there was significant unmet demand for hotel rooms in that immediate market," said Steve Spaeder, president of Equus’ development arm, BPG Development Co.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 11/14/2017
Pottstown caps tax increase at 18.6 percent
Pottstown Borough Council recently voted 5-2 on a proposed 2018 budget that will cap the proposed 2018 tax increase at 18.6 percent. Borough Manager Mark Flanders had reported in September that the borough would need a 23 percent tax increase to cover a projected $2.4 million budget gap. Since then, the projected budget deficit has decreased to $1.4 million, but the latest round of property assessment challenges continues to decrease the revenue side of the budget. If council fails to find any additional revenue or savings, the proposed budget would cost the owner of a property assessed at the borough average of $80,000 an additional $164 in borough property taxes in 2018.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 11/15/2017
Lower Pottsgrove tentative 2018 budget includes tax increase
Lower Pottsgrove Township Commissioners unanimously approved a tentative $6.4 million budget for 2018 that would raise taxes by 7.4 percent if finalized with no changes. The average property owner with a home assessed at $125,000 would see an increase of $31 on the property tax bill from the township. The proposed tax increase can be attributed to the commissioners’ plan to create a savings account for major projects, called a capital reserve fund. The proposed tax increase would raise $149,000 toward that fund, said Township Manager Ed Wagner. The budget will be advertised and final adoption will take place in December.
Source: The Mercury; 11/13/2017
Lower Merion releases proposed budget, capital improvement plan
The 2018 Lower Merion Township proposed budget and the proposed 2018-2023 Capital Improvement Program have been posted on the township’s website. The budget includes no increase in the township’s real estate tax rate of 4.19 mills, for the seventh year in a row. A second public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. at the Township Administration Building, 75 East Lancaster Ave., Ardmore. The budget and six-year Capital Improvement Program are scheduled for adoption on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Source: Lower Merion Township; 11/6/2017
Theater sale will support economic development projects in Souderton
Souderton Borough Council recently announced proceeds from the sale of the Broad Street Theater will support economic development projects in the borough. The borough became the owner of the theater after the previous owner defaulted on a $500,000 loan made to it by the borough using state grant money, and no bids were made on the property when it went to sheriff’s sale. Borough Manager Mike Coll said the money from the loan, if it had been repaid, would have created a revolving loan fund for future economic development projects, and the borough now plans to do the same thing with the money from the sale of the theater. “It’s all about revitalization,” said council member Jeff Gross. The council recently approved a $250,000 bid from the owners of Broad Street Pizza to buy the portion of the theater project in building adjacent to the theater. The council will discuss the specifications of how to sell the theater itself at a work session in January.
Source: The Reporter; 11/15/2017
Atlas provides deeds, 311 info, and historic images all in one place
Searching for homes and vacant lots in Philly is about to get much easier with the launch of Atlas, a new online mapping tool that compiles nearly every bit of information about one property. The new city service is a big step forward for the Philadelphia’s open data initiative, benefitting a user base that includes developers, historic preservationists and “anyone in community groups who want to understand what’s happening in their neighborhoods,” says Mark Wheeler, Philadelphia's chief geographic information officer and deputy CIO for Enterprise Data and Architecture. Atlas compiles everything about a single address into one comprehensive database, including deed information, permits, 311 data, crime statistics, zoning appeals and the registered community organization that’s associated with the property. It also includes historic imagery of the site, dating as far back as 1860. Atlas was created by the Office of Innovation and Technology, a city department that has been leading efforts to promote Philly’s open data and “Smart Cities” initiatives. Atlas can be found online at atlas.phila.gov.
Source: Curbed Philadelphia; 11/7/2017
City receives influx of Puerto Ricans, but no federal relief funds yet
After Hurricane Maria, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College published a report estimating that Puerto Rico may lose 14 percent of its population over the next two years. The same report suggests Pennsylvania will see the second largest migration of Puerto Ricans (behind Florida), estimating between 6,500 and 27,000 people moving to the city annually. Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has several centers to help Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria get the services they need. In the past when Philadelphia has welcomed displaced populations — the Lebanese repatriation, Haitian earthquake or Katrina survivors — there’s been always significant federal support. Compared to those events, the federal government has provided relatively little support so far, especially in the form of direct financial assistance. “What we’re seeing is that the federal response to Puerto Rico is disproportionate to the traditional response in similar types of natural disasters, from the assistance, the decision-making and the time it's taking to activate,” said Philadelphia Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez. For now, OEM has relied heavily on local nonprofits and businesses for temporary housing, food, health services and transportation.
Source: Plan Philly; 11/6/2017
Germantown takes first place in national competition for historic preservation funds
Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood emerged Thursday as the first-place winner in a national competition for historic preservation funds after beating out 24 other cities and neighborhoods across the United States. Since Sept. 25, Germantown has competed in the 2017 “Partners in Preservation: Vote Your Main Street” competition, which aimed to dole out multiple $150,000 preservation grants to the cities that received the most votes. Across the nation, communities rallied residents to vote for their Main Streets, which would use the grant money to preserve historic community landmarks. Germantown, which won both a $150,000 grant plus an additional $10,000 for being the community that advanced the most in its rankings in just one week, plans to use the money to rehab the facades of two Germantown buildings that officials say are integral to the neighborhood’s African American history: Parker Hall, 5801 Germantown Ave., and the John Trower Building, 5706 Germantown Ave.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/2/2017
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