Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Fannie, Freddie loan limits announced for 2021; NAR urges access to safe, affordable financing
Weeks left for Bucks COVID-19 Mortgage Assistance Program
Chester County Recorder’s office temporarily closed, but services continue
Recorder of Deeds system disrupted by hack
SEPTA maintains commitment to King of Prussia Rail project
Philly is set to create a new construction tax and cut a big property tax break
Realtor® resources for Nov. 5 election
Election Day is Tuesday Nov. 5, and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find your polling place and check your registration status here. The Southeast REALTORS® Political Action Committee (SERPAC) has created a website — Suburban Realtors Vote — listing its endorsed candidates for the 2019 municipal election. To learn more about how local elected offices affect real estate, click here.
Pa. tries a new tactic to help people navigate its professional license system
Pennsylvania’s Department of State (DOS) has a new web page designed to help people apply for professional licenses, which the commonwealth requires for around 130 jobs — from hairdressing to funeral directing to auctioneering. The commonwealth has 29 licensing boards and commissions, including the Real Estate Commission, that oversee 255 varieties of license and certification. Acting DOS Secretary Kathy Boockvar estimated it covers around 130 different professions. Boockvar said when she took over the department in January, she was struck by how confusing the licensing process was. “The more I learned, the more I realized how counterproductive that is for everybody,” she said. Boockvar said licensing is a challenge in virtually every state, but recent reports highlighted significant problems in Pennsylvania. Boockvar said it’s a work in progress, but that the DOS plans to get all the licensing categories represented on the new site eventually.
Source: WHYY; 10/16/2019
West Rockhill hears opposition to short-term rental ordinance
West Rockhill Township is considering a proposed new ordinance that would regulate short-term home rentals, such as Airbnb, Vrbo and Home Away. The township said the ordinance was proposed after ongoing problems with a “party house” in a residential area where short-term rental tenants held parties, generating complaints about noise and parking. Under the proposed ordinance, short-term rentals would be limited to parts of the township zoned for commercial use. Property owners Dariusz and Teresa Koszycki appeared before the township supervisors at the Oct. 16 board meeting to voice opposition to the ordinance. They stated that there are strict rules for the use of their house and that background checks are completed for all tenants. In a written statement, the Koszyckis said, “In our humble opinion, banning short-term rentals is simply wrong, hurting not only tax revenues for the township but also having adverse effects on tourism in the area.” Another resident, Carolyn Hufnagle, said short-term stays should be allowed in residential areas, “because people utilizing Airbnbs want the flavor of the community.”
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 10/28/2019
Pennridge passes property tax rebate for seniors
The Pennridge School District Board of Directors has passed a property tax rebate program for seniors, widows, widowers and permanently disabled homeowners having an annual income of $35,000 or less. One half of Social Security income received must be included as annual income. The property tax rebate program is based on the existing Pennsylvania Property Tax and Rent Rebate program. Pennridge homeowners must qualify for the state rebate program to qualify for the district rebate program. Click here for more information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/24/2019
Central Bucks to update comprehensive plan
Administrators in the Central Bucks School District unveiled an updated comprehensive plan at the Oct. 15 school board meeting. The state requires school districts to update their comprehensive plans every three years, and a group of teachers, administrators and community members have been working on the Central Bucks plan for several months. The plan calls for more community collaboration by bringing senior citizens into the schools and exploring opportunities for internships and other collaborations with businesses and community organizations. The plan also calls for using common assessments and implementing the use of STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — principles in the classroom. The full draft of the plan is available at www.cbsd.org. The plan will be presented for board approval on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/24/2019
Declining tax revenue affects Newtown Township budget
Newtown Township Manager Micah Lewis recently gave a 2020 budget presentation to the board of supervisors. Lewis announced that the township’s current real estate tax millage rate doesn’t cover the cost of future debt service payments after 2020. The downward trend includes loss of Earned Income Tax revenue as surrounding municipalities have enacted EITs of their own. Also down are real estate transfer tax revenues — the township has reduced the budgeted figure for transfer taxes for the second consecutive year, from $800,000 to $750,000. Township officials have significantly scaled back expenditures in the 2020 budget in order to offset projected shortfalls, but according to Lewis, “this practice is unsustainable as costs for services and personnel continue to rise.” The township manager is recommending that future budgets contain revenue increases to support the diminishing general fund and offset the volatility of the current funding structure.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/24/2019
Residents face tax to pay for Embreeville purchase
West Bradford Township is proposing a half-mill real estate tax to help cover the $22.5 million cost of purchasing the former Embreeville State Hospital grounds. The tax increase — up from 0 mills — means a property assessed at $100,000 will pay $50 per year. Township officials continue to pursue county, state and other funding to defray the burden on local residents, and Chester County Commissioners have already pledged $5 million from the county’s Open Space Municipal Grant Program. Many residents stated during special meetings regarding the Embreeville settlement that they would be okay with a property tax increase, the first in the township’s history, to help with the cost of purchasing the land, but said the tax should end when the land is paid off. In the settlement with the developer, Embreeville Redevelopment LP, the township will purchase nearly 200 acres of the property at its appraised value of $22.5 million. The developer had planned to build 1,100 homes on the largely undeveloped site. The settlement agreement requires the township to issue bonds to raise the necessary funds for the purchase price, which would be paid off over a matter of years with revenue generated by the new tax. The township will acquire the land after the developer has cleared and cleaned it, demolishing the decaying buildings there, and reclaimed the asbestos on the property so that it meets environmental standards set by the state. The developers estimate the clean-up cost at about $18.6 million. West Bradford supervisors will consider a resolution imposing the 0.5 mill real estate tax on Monday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. at the West Bradford Township Municipal Building located at 1385 Campus Drive, Downingtown.
Source: Daily Local; 10/27/2019 and 10/30/2019
North Coventry to consider adopting comprehensive plan
The North Coventry Board of Supervisors will consider the adoption of the North Coventry Township Comprehensive Plan at a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. at municipal building, 845 S. Hanover St., Pottstown. The plan sets forth a guide for development based on existing and projected population, and makes recommendations for recreation, open space, natural resources and township services.
Source: Mercury; 10/28/2019
West Chester to hold line on taxes
West Chester Borough Council voted to advertise a preliminary $47.9 million budget at last week’s meeting. Typically, minor tweaks and adjustments are made to the preliminary budget prior to final passage in December. The preliminary budget lists no increases in taxes or fees for 2020. In recent years, the earned income tax rose and a stream protection fee was added. The 2020 budget includes 138 full-time employees and 34 part-timers. There are 45 full-time police officers and five full-time police administrators. The borough has 32 full-time public works employees and five part-timers. The recreation depart will continue to employ two full-time employees and 26 part-timers. The balanced budget reflects $4.5 million in reduced revenues as compared to the 2019 budget, with revenue projections based on three years of historical data. Real estate taxes are down $484,000, local enabling taxes were reduced $605,000 and the stream protection fund was reduced by more than $225,000, after creating credits for heritage trees. Bond proceeds were down $3 million, permit fees decreased by $130,000 and recreation revenue took a $59,000 hit.
Source: Daily Local; 10/24/2019
County water authority plans meetings for public input
The Chester County Water Resources Authority is hosting a series of meetings to gather public input on topics to include in updates to Watersheds, the county’s stormwater management plan under state Act 167. Doors will open at 7 p.m. for each meeting, with a presentation at 7:30 p.m. followed by public comments and questions. The dates and locations of the planned meetings are:
View the flyer here.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; 10/28/2019
Concord rejects development near Brandywine Summit
Applause broke out as Concord Township Council voted unanimously to deny a proposal submitted by the Wolfson Group for the construction of “Concord Ventures” on Watkin Avenue off southbound US Route 202. As proposed, a five-story high-rise complex of 166 apartments in three buildings and 29 townhouses was to be constructed on 80 acres of property that borders the Brandywine Summit neighborhood, a residential community of single detached homes. “After hearing all the hours and hours of testimony from consultants on both sides of the issue, and after reviewing the plans, we felt that the construction of the development so close to Brandywine Summit would have an adverse impact on the township and residents,” said Dominic Pileggi, chairman of Concord Township Council. “It was not the right for Concord Township at this time.”
Source: Daily Times; 10/24/2019
Radnor Township eyes $35.5M 2020 budget
William White, the Radnor Township finance director, kicked off budget season with a “high level” look at the manager’s recommended 2020 township budget. “At the end of the day, the goal is to provide services to the township,” said White. “It’s always difficult to assign finite resources to infinite requests.” In the past, the township benefited from a constantly growing business tax, but that has slowed down in the past two years, said White. The township is also spending about $1.5 million more on other post-employment benefits (OPEB) in 2020 than in 2012, he said. The draft budget shows $35.5 million in revenue and $35.2 million in expenses. There are projects expected to cost $5.3 million in the capital plan, but not all of those will go forward, White said. Township Commissioner Richard Booker pointed out that the taxpayers had tax increases in 2016 and 2019 of more than 10%. The business privilege, mercantile, real estate transfer and local services taxes make up 37% of the budget.
Source: Daily Times; 10/28/2019
Springfield to make changes to rental ordinance
The Springfield Township Board of Commissioners will consider amendments to Chapter 106 of the township Code, “Rental Dwelling Units.” The proposed new Subsection 106-3G, which says a dwelling unit’s certificate of use will be revoked if it “received multiple citations for violations of any and all applicable Township ordinances and regulations within a twelve (12) month period and any such violations remain unabated for a period in excess of thirty (30) days.” Township commissioners will consider the amendment at a regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 8 p.m. at the township building, 50 Powell Road.
Source: Daily Times; 10/25/2019
Broomall Fire Co. set to open new $7M firehouse
On Saturday, Nov. 2, at noon, Broomall Fire Co. members will dedicate their new firehouse located at the northeast corner of West Chester Pike and North Malin Road, across the street from the previous firehouse. During the two years of construction on the $7 million facility, some residents were curious about the big size and cost of the new building. “The public doesn’t realize the type of firehouse we came out of and the parameters placed upon us by various codes and standards that required us to build this type of fire station,” said James Capuzzi, the fire company president.
Source: Daily Times; 10/30/2019
New 14-story office tower to rise in Conshohocken
A 14-story, 260,000-square-foot office building called Seven Tower Bridge is planned for construction in Conshohocken near the Schuylkill River on Washington Street. The complex is a collaboration among Oliver Tyrone Pulver Corp., American Real Estate Partners and the investment management firm Partners Group. The 180-foot building will be visible from interstates 76 and 476 and the Fayette Street Bridge, and is expected to open in November 2020. “Real estate prices are crazy here,” said Anita Barton, a member of the Conshohocken Borough Council. “We are very hot at the moment, and it’s just almost gotten out of hand.” Seven Tower Bridge already has a prominent tenant signed on — investment management firm Hamilton Lane will move its headquarters to the top five floors of the building and feature its logo on the penthouse.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/23/2019
Lower Merion eyes traffic calming on River Road
River Road in Gladwyne is not known as one of the busiest roads in Lower Merion, but traffic apps have turned it into a bypass for drivers trying to avoid a section of the Schuylkill Expressway. Residents on the street have raised concerns about cars traveling 55 mph on a road that is designated as 25 mph. A traffic study in the area found that 25% of the cars going westbound exceed the 25 mph speed limit by more than 10 mph. Twenty percent of the cars going eastbound are going at least 35 mph. Lower Merion officials approved an updated traffic-calming policy earlier this year that allows the township to implement engineering changes such as speed bumps, speed humps or speed tables on roadways. According to police Superintendent Mike McGrath, the residents living on River Road submitted an application and meet the criteria put in place by the board of commissioners for traffic-calming measures. McGrath said the next phase would be to have the township engineer look at the road with members of the township staff.
Source: Main Line Times; 10/28/2019
King of Prussia office building sells for $37.85 million
A King of Prussia office building at 200 N. Warner Road recently sold for $37.85 million. The 165,000 square-foot, four-story multi-tenant building is located across the street from the King of Prussia Town Center and a quarter-mile from the King of Prussia Mall. It sits in the Swedesford/Warner Road Class A Office Corridor, one of the highest performing, most sought-after micro-markets in the suburban Philadelphia area, according to information provided by Newmark Knight Frank, a commercial real estate advisory firm. The property was sold by the joint venture of Taconic Capital and Cohen Equities to Pembroke Capital of Bryn Mawr. Prior to the sale, a $4.2 million comprehensive modernization program was completed that “led to momentous leasing success.”
Source: Daily Local; 10/28/2019
Perkiomen Township to consider grinder pump ordinance
The Perkiomen Township Board of Supervisors will consider for adoption a grinder pump ordinance at a public meeting to be held Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Perkiomen Township Municipal Building, 1 Trappe Road, Collegeville. The ordinance will enact procedures for the installation, use and maintenance of sewage grinder pumps and any associated force mains or low-pressure laterals. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available for inspection at the township building during normal business hours. Visit the township website for further meeting information.
Source: Times Herald; 10/17/2019
Closed Sharswood school to be transformed into veterans’ housing
The former General John Reynolds Public School, a historic Art Deco building at 24th and Jefferson streets in Sharswood, is slated for a transformation. A cleanup grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will help renovate the 1920s-built former school, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, into housing for formerly homeless veterans. Construction for the new veterans’ housing building will begin in February. The building is expected to open 15 months later, according to the developer. Click here for more.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 10/25/2019
Philly needs to move its airport before it’s underwater
Philadelphia Airport (PHL) is set just 260 yards from the Delaware River, and its terminals, runways and cargo carriers are highly vulnerable to tidal flooding that’s projected to become more regular by 2050 and dire by 2100. If sea levels rise by as much as four feet by the end of the century — current projections top out at more than six feet, depending on the extent to which greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed — a Category 1 hurricane would put a majority of the airport underwater. Airport brass are aware of the threats, which were cited in a city report. They’ve built storm barriers, upgraded substations and more, but their efforts aren’t proactive enough. To look long-term, the city needs to consider the idea that a new location could be necessary. The endeavor would be a challenge in both scale and cost. A 2014 federal report warned that PHL is just one of 13 of the nation’s 47 largest airports that are vulnerable to flooding. Megan Ryerson, an associate professor of city and regional planning and electrical systems at the University of Pennsylvania, says that in order for cities like Philly to have the means to move their airports, the FAA will have to begin aiding them with funds reserved specifically for adapting to climate change — including, potentially, airport relocation.
Source: Philadelphia Magazine; 10/26/2019
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