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 6, 2017

 

General News

Home builders pledge to defeat income tax overhaul
The proposal to overhaul the tax code gained a powerful adversary over the weekend when the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), a trade group that been supportive until now, launched a drive to defeat it. A study commissioned by the National Association of Realtors® had found that the reform proposals would lower the value of the average home by 10 percent. "Even though they're technically not touching the home mortgage interest deduction, the reality is they're going to gut the mortgage interest deduction," said Gerald H. Howard, CEO of NAHB. "Doubling the standard deduction would mean only the wealthiest homeowners would be able to take the mortgage interest deduction." Pending tax reform plans threaten to wipe out the tax benefits of owning a home for 95% of American families. Realtors® are being encouraged to send a message to Congress that both the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local property tax deduction incentives are critical for a strong housing market.
Source: USA Today; 10/31/2017, and www.nar.realtor/taxreform

Regional school districts react to the referendum
Several school districts in the region have taken a position on the upcoming homestead exemption referendum that will appear on Pennsylvanian’s ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 7. These school board actions, in some cases, included remarks about how the referendum relates to S.B. 76, a separate bill related to school funding, or fears over giving control to the state legislature. It should be noted that this referendum gives the legislature more options to pass new laws regarding your property taxes and will help to pave the way for real property tax reduction or elimination. Allowing school boards and other taxing authorizes to have the option to exclude up to 100 percent of the assessed value of a home from taxation will put them in control of their tax collections and could potentially give relief to homeowners. This referendum can be the first step in meaningful property tax reform for Pennsylvanians. We encourage you to learn more about the statewide referendum here.

Moody’s: Pennsylvania unprepared for next recession
The credit rating agency Moody’s recently completed a study on the ability of states to weather another recession and found Pennsylvania is one of 15 states that are significantly unprepared. The study found that a state would need to have a reserve of at least 7 percent to make it through a moderate recession without increasing taxes or cutting spending. Pennsylvania’s lack of any real reserves means it would have to increase taxes or cut spending by a substantial amount to get through a recession. For the study, Moody’s applied the financial stress test the Federal Reserve uses to test if banks could survive a moderate recession.
Source: Politicspa.com; 10/25/2017

Bucks County

Warminster planners endorse White Column Farm plans
The Warminster Township Planning Commission recommended that the township supervisors approve plans to build six detached single-family homes around the historic White Column Farmhouse at 900 York Road. Warminster-based developer JAMP LLC, said the homes would be between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet and would mirror the architecture of the abandoned farmhouse, which will be refurbished. Matthew Piotrowski, co-owner of JAMP, said the current plan should please the small contingent of Warminster residents that opposed the initial plans, which called for demolition of the farmhouse and construction of a larger number of homes. The developer will appear before the Warminster supervisors next month for final land development approval.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/29/2017

Richland to consider changes to parking ordinance
The Richland Township Board of Supervisors will consider the enactment of a proposed parking ordinance at the regular public meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. The ordinance would amend the Richland code to clarify the regulations for the parking of commercial vehicles and to provide off-street parking space requirements as part of the general parking standards. According to the township, the ordinance contains significant, substantive changes to the Richland Township zoning regulations regarding parking standards, and should be reviewed in its entirety for a comprehensive understanding of its provisions. Click here for the proposed ordinance.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/27/2017

Bristol Township approves marijuana dispensary
Bristol Township recently approved a medicinal marijuana dispensary project. Franklin BioScience-Penn LLC plans to open the dispensary in a commercial district of the township, after being awarded one of 26 other medicinal marijuana permits by the state in June. The dispensary will be located in two side-by-side vacant storefronts in the Durham Square Shopping Center and will have a security guard keeping watch during the store’s hours of operation, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. There will also be 18 24-hour security cameras, capable of storing up to 4 years of footage, located around the property. Under the state Medicinal Marijuana Act, signed in April 2016, dispensaries must become operational within six months of receiving their permits or risk losing them. Two other companies are planning secondary dispensaries in Bucks County — TerraVida Holistic Centers in Sellersville and Holistic Pharma LLC in Bensalem.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/20/2017

East Rockhill hopes to hold the line on taxes
East Rockhill Township supervisors got a look at the proposed 2018 budget for the township during a recent workshop. The spending plan maintains the current 10.235 mill tax rate into the coming year. A mill is equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value. An East Rockhill property assessed at $35,000 would pay $358 in township property taxes if the proposed budget is approved. Township supervisors will continue budget discussions, including the potential allotment of funds for a study into recreational improvements at Iron Bridge Park. The budget will be finalized following a public hearing before the end of the year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/26/2017

Chester County 

Hearings continue over proposed Crebilly Farm development
Westtown Township officials heard arguments from both sides at a continued hearing concerning Toll Brothers’ proposed subdivision for the 322-acre Crebilly Farm. More than 200 residents attended the ninth continued hearing, which lasted more than four hours, at Stetson Middle School Tuesday night. With the possibility of just one more witness addressing supervisors, the general public will get a chance to have a say at a meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 27, at 6 p.m. at Rustin High School, 1100 Shiloh Road.
Source: Daily Local; 10/26/2017

Pipeline foes take fight to the ballot box in West Goshen and Uwchlan
Sunoco’s controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline could face a new obstacle: local elected officials who are willing to use zoning laws to stop construction in their communities. That is the approach being pioneered in West Goshen and Uwchlan townships, where residents are backing candidates in the respective Board of Supervisors races who are opposed to the pipeline project. If the candidates win, the boards will shift to anti-pipeline majorities that would be willing to enforce local regulations concerning pipelines. In both municipalities, organizers and community members argue that the current Board of Supervisors has not taken advantage of existing zoning regulations that would effectively shut down Sunoco’s construction. The pipeline route is not in compliance with the setback provisions in the zoning code, leaving occupied structures like houses and schools inside the pipeline’s “blast zone.”
Source: Daily Local; 10/27/2017

North Coventry seeks suggestions for Paravis Hall and the Stubblebine House
The North Coventry Board of Supervisors is requesting help to determine the future use of two buildings in Coventry Woods — the Stubblebine House located at the main entrance of Coventry Woods, and Paravis Hall (the lodge). The township has spent the last several years securing Paravis Hall to protect it from exposure to the elements and to make it ADA compliant. The next phase of the project requires a determination on the future use of the building and the feasibility of that proposed use. The Stubblebine house was most recently used by the nonprofit In Ian's Boots and is now vacant. Any public use of the building will require it to become ADA compliant. The township must decide the viability of preservation, instead of demolition, and would like public input. Suggestions may be submitted through a form on the township website.
Source: North Coventry Township

Volunteers, supporters celebrate Habitat for Humanity’s 150th home
Habitat for Humanity of Chester County held a groundbreaking ceremony in Coatesville to commemorate the start of its 150th affordable home in Chester County. Executive Director Chip Huston said the event celebrated not only the homes, but more so the welcoming of families into them, the volunteers who built them, and the financial assistance from donors and partners who made the homes a reality. He explained how the group received a Neighborhood Stabilization Grant through the federal government with help from county officials, and bought the property on Community Lane in Coatesville when it was a just grassy lot. Habitat made plans to build 64 homes on that lot and, after the groundbreaking ceremony, it has 14 more homes to build to reach the goal.
Source: Daily Local; 10/27/2017

East Vincent to set age limits on per capita tax
The East Vincent Board of Supervisors will consider and may enact a proposed amendment to Ordinance 97A, the Per Capita Tax Ordinance, at a hearing to be held Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The amendment is being considered so as to set age limits, and will state that the tax shall apply to township residents between the ages of 18 and 65. The change will create no additional revenue. The hearing will be held at the Township Building, 262 Ridge Road, Spring City.
Source: The Mercury; 10/31/2017

Delaware County

Middletown eyes recreational use for 76-acre Smedley tract
The fruition of more than a decade of planning is within sight, as Middletown Township Engineer Eric Janetka recently provided an update on the Smedley tract. The 76-acre property, at the northeast corner of Rose Tree and North Middletown roads, was purchased from the Smedley Group in 2005 to save it from development. The parcel is intended for active and passive recreation. The master plan for the property is the result of a nine-month process in which residents, business owners and others interested in the planning were invited to participate in a series of public meetings to convert the tract into a municipal park. The township received a $25,000 state grant for planning, education and technical assistance, and retained consultants for the study. The land will include two full-size, multipurpose athletic fields, a Little League/girls softball field, a Pony League baseball field and an adult softball field. Wooded areas will be preserved with trail access and the site will have associated parking.
Source: Daily Times; 10/26/2017

Media’s State Street named a ‘Great Street’ by state
Media Borough has followed a 2015 Great Places in Pennsylvania Award with a new recognition. Rebecca Ross of the Delaware County Planning Department presented the borough council with a Great Streets Award from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association. “This award meant it is a model that others want to emulate,” said Ross. “Judges cited it as a quintessential ‘main street.’” Ross said some of the factors included in the decision were the 101 trolley down the center of the street; walkability; bike racks in several locations; and many events taking place on the street throughout the year. Source: Daily Times; 10/25/2017

New assessment means bigger tax bills for Sunoco
Representatives from Energy Transfer Partners’ subsidiary, Sunoco Partners, joined local officials to announce an agreement for a tax reassessment for the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. The improvements made there will net the Chichester School District, Delaware County and Marcus Hook an additional $4.8 million in property taxes. Sunoco’s tax bill has been increased by 200 percent. The taxing authorities and the company agreed last week that the new assessment for the industrial property will be $114 million. It had previously been $32 million, according to company officials. In the new allocation, Sunoco Partners will pay an additional $3.3 million to the Chichester School District; a $1 million increase to Delaware County; and a $455,900 hike to Marcus Hook. “The school district welcomes the additional revenue and thanks Sunoco for that,” said Ruth Ann Baiocco, president of the Chichester School Board. Marcus Hook Borough Manager Andrew Weldon spoke to the sustainability that this will provide. “The borough is happy that this facility has been repurposed and that the new jobs are coming back to Marcus Hook,” he said. “It’s our hope that the Mariner East 2 pipeline is completed. This will result in more jobs to the borough and afford our residents additional job opportunities as they have in the past.”
Source: Daily Local; 10/27/2017

Delco OKs $65k for 14-acre open space parcel in Thornbury
Delaware County Council unanimously approved a $65,000 grant for Thornbury to purchase 14.72 acres off Stoney Bank Road. In the action, council agreed to use money from Marcellus Shale Legacy Funds to help the township buy the property at 69 Stoney Bank Road, which is adjacent to a township park. The $65,000 is expected to cover about 10 percent of the purchase price. “I think that the action that we are taking today is another step where we’re partnering with a local municipality to help them with the funding necessary to be able to preserve the open space,” Vice Chairwoman Colleen Morrone said.
Source: Daily Times; 10/26/2017

Montgomery County

Conshohocken task force to hold real estate forum
The Comprehensive Plan Task Force of the Borough of Conshohocken will hold a real estate forum on Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Borough Hall, 400 Fayette St. The purpose of the forum is to work in concert with borough leadership groups, community members and real estate agents in assessing residential trends to meet the needs of the community. Anyone requiring special accommodations to attend should contact the Conshohocken Borough Administration Office at 610-828-1092 as soon as possible to make arrangements.
Source: Times Herald; 11/1/2017

Pottstown considers land bank ordinance
Pottstown Borough Council intends to adopt an ordinance creating the Pottstown Borough Land Bank at its regular meeting of Monday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Council Meeting Room of Pottstown Borough Hall, 100 E. High St. It is the intent of the ordinance to create the Pottstown Borough Land Bank, which will use available resources to facilitate the return of vacant, blighted, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties to productive use, thereby combatting community deterioration, creating economic growth and stabilizing the housing and job markets in the Borough of Pottstown. Click here to read the proposed ordinance.

Lower Merion moves forward with new park
Lower Merion commissioners approved a motion to accept a donation from Sunoco of a small parcel of land just off City Avenue in Merion, near the Overbrook train station. The township once had an agreement of sale on the property with Sunoco in 2007, but, under the terms of the agreement, Sunoco was supposed to have the site cleaned up within five years, and the company failed to meet that deadline. The property, once a gas station, has since been cleaned of contamination. The new park at 2 Merion Road in Merion could give residents in the area a safer way to walk to the train station.
Source: Main Line Times; 10/29/2017

Development atop parking lot begins in Lansdale
Developer Equus Capital Partners announced construction has begun on a series of apartment buildings atop the Madison Parking Lot in Lansdale Borough. In April, borough council approved plans for a complex of six apartment buildings totaling 181 units, surrounded by retail space and a public plaza, above the current lot. An additional 85 parking spaces will be created around the area, along with a planned widening of Madison Street. Equus announced the project will be named “Madison Lansdale Station,” and the 181 luxury apartment units will include one- and two-bedroom units with a total of 14 different floor plans. Amenities available to residents will include an outdoor pool, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor resident lounges, and an indoor dog wash. The first apartment units and retail spaces are expected to be available for occupancy in fall 2018 and residents can begin reserving units in spring 2018.
Source: The Reporter; 10/26/2017

East Norriton budget looks steady for 2018
East Norriton Township supervisors reviewed the preliminary 2018 budget that keeps property taxes at their current level. Expenditures for 2018 are projected at $19.8 million, down from over $20 million in 2017. In the coming year, the administration will explore grant opportunities and alternative funding sources, and emphasis will be placed on sewer delinquency collection, said Finance Director David Christ. Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the final budget at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Visit the East Norriton Township website for meeting information.
Source: Times Herald; 10/28/2017

Philadelphia

Is property-tax abatement subsidizing successful neighborhoods?
Philadelphia’s 10-year property tax abatement program was introduced 17 years ago, when the city was losing population and jobs. The program has been wildly successful, setting off a revival that has transformed the midsection of Philadelphia. The abatement program, however, has spurred gentrification in the ring of neighborhoods surrounding Center City, while doing little for the struggling neighborhoods beyond that core. A report from the Business Industry Association (BIA) includes a map of the 15,000 currently abated homes which shows a concentration in the central, thriving neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Those 15,000 private homes and rental units cost the city almost $88 million a year in taxes, with the abated properties equal to 11 percent of the city’s tax base, according to the BIA report. Some observers are beginning to question Philadelphia’s one-size-fits-all style of abatement and hope the city will look toward abatements structured to encourage targeted policy goals, such as historic preservation and affordable housing. Click here for the BIA report.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/27/2017

Report: New homes in Philly metro cost 188 percent more than old houses
The Philadelphia metropolitan area has the third highest price gap between new construction and old homes, according to a new Trulia report. For the analysis, Trulia looked at listings from 2012 to today and adjusted for inflation. Homes that were built within the past two years were considered new. Trulia researchers found that the older the housing stock of the metro area is, the pricier the new homes will be in comparison. Not surprisingly, Philadelphia has the oldest housing stock out of the metros in the study, with a median house age of 82 years. The average new home in Philadelphia is 74 percent larger in square footage than an old home. It’s also notable that, while Philadelphia has one of the highest markups in the nation on new homes, many of them come with a 10-year tax abatement.
Source: Curbed; 10/26/2017

Philadelphia Archdiocese advances vision to redevelop cathedral campus near Logan Square
A year after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced its vision for sleek, high-rise towers beside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, it is officially seeking requests from developers interested in taking on the project. In a Request for Qualifications issued in late October, the archdiocese said it expected “several” developers to express interest in the project, which aims to develop the 2.3-acre property surrounding the Center City cathedral. To whichever developer is ultimately selected, the archdiocese will extend a 60-year lease for the L-shaped parcel running to the north and east of the 1864 cathedral, located on the 1700 block of Race Street, next to Logan Square. Ultimately, the archdiocese aims to redevelop or demolish three buildings that surround the cathedral: the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center (222 N. 17th St.), the Holy Family Center (227 N. 18th St.), and a former convent on the parcel (adjacent to the rectory at 1701-1711 Race St.). The cathedral, its adjacent chapel and the rectory will remain untouched. It is still unclear what might be built in place of the three properties. In renderings presented to members of the Logan Square Neighbors Association last year, the archdiocese envisioned the construction of two high-rise buildings that would house mostly residential units. Even with details remaining vague, whatever is ultimately developed on the site could be one of the archdiocese’s highest-profile real estate projects in recent years.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/31/2017


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