NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Senate GOP halts fixes for Pa.’s troubled rent relief program, surprising even their own

Bucks County
Falls Township issues new U&O fact sheet, but process remains too burdensome

Chester County
Chester County initiative will support families and child care providers

Delaware County
Middletown to consider update to the comprehensive plan

Montgomery County
No tax hike in Upper Pottsgrove budget draft

Philadelphia County
City council proposes 1% construction tax, but also a delay in reducing property tax abatement

 

News Briefs Archive October 12, 2020

 

General News

State extends deadline for rent, mortgage assistance
Gov. Tom Wolf has reopened the application period for the COVID-19 rent and mortgage relief grant programs and extended the deadline to Nov. 4. All eligibility requirements remain the same as they were when the programs originally ended on Sept. 30. Renters and homeowners who were financially impacted by the economic slowdown related to the coronavirus pandemic can apply for rent and mortgage relief via the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which is administering both grant programs. Funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The agency’s call center — at 855-827-3466 — is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist the public. The county organizations to which applications are submitted have webpages offering useful information and can also be contacted with questions. Read more here.
Source: PAR JustListed; 10/6/2020

Realtor® election resources
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance has updated its Elections Page and will continue to provide information relating to voting and the upcoming election. The page notes important deadlines, has information on voting via mail, and provides answers to frequently asked questions and links to other resources. It also links to the Pennsylvania Realtors® Political Action Committee (RPAC) voter guide, with information on RPAC-supported candidates.

Coronavirus best practice: Stay civil, including with legislators
Coronavirus has created difficult circumstances for everyone, but it’s important for Realtors® to remain civil and professional, including when interacting with elected officials and their staffs. Realtors® have considerable influence as an industry and a voting bloc, not to mention the political heft RPAC can bring to bear in any given race. Harsh rhetoric to or about elected officials can only weaken our position. It is crucial that we maintain the professionalism that defines us, and help our friends and colleagues to do the same. In the end, that's the best way to achieve our legislative and public policy goals. Visit the Suburban Realtors® Alliance coronavirus page for more best practices and links to other resources.

Bucks County

Casino-funded municipal grants expected to be smaller
A smaller pot of grant money, funded through Parx Casino revenue, will be available to lower Bucks municipalities surrounding the casino. Jeff Darwak, executive director of the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority, which administers the money, estimates about $2.2 million will be available for municipal grants this year — $1.7 million less than last year. The available grant money is based on 1% of gross revenue at Parx for the fiscal year ending June 30. Revenue was down at the casino due to coronavirus-related closures. The annual program was started to mitigate casino impacts on roads and other infrastructure, and support emergency services in the host township, Bensalem, the county and surrounding municipalities, including: the townships of Middletown, Bristol, Hulmeville and Lower Southampton, which border Bensalem; and the boroughs of Penndel, Langhorne, Langhorne Manor and Bristol, which are "contiguous" within the four bordering municipalities.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/25/2020

Bedminster to consider stormwater management ordinance
Bedminster Township supervisors will consider for adoption an ordinance that sets forth new requirements for stormwater management, plans, maintenance responsibilities, enforcement and penalties. A public hearing will be held during the regular meeting on Wednesday, Oct, 14, at 7:30 p.m., at the Bedminster Township Annex Building, 432 Elephant Road, Perkasie. The proposed stormwater management plan can be viewed on the township website.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/28/2020

Doylestown Borough schedules budget meetings
The Borough of Doylestown will hold meetings on the following dates to discuss the 2021 budget: Nov. 10 and 16, and Dec. 10 and 21. The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. virtually via Zoom video conferencing. Information regarding access will be provided within the meeting agenda found on the borough’s meeting information webpage.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/28/2020

Bucks County offers voter information portal
Bucks County has created a 2020 general election information portal to assist residents voting in the Nov. 3 election. The portal includes: important dates; voter registration information; absentee/mail-in allocation status; absentee/mail-in ballot information; information on how to cancel a permanent ballot application; polling places; new voting machine guidance; and other FAQs.

Lower Southampton to update property maintenance and fire code editions
Lower Southampton supervisors will hold a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 p.m. to consider for adoption two proposed ordinances. The first will adopt the 2015 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code, and the second will adopt the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code. Visit the Lower Southampton Township website for instructions on how to participate in the public hearing and submit comments.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/7/2020

Chester County 

West Chester Borough declares state of emergency following virus spike
West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin declared a state of emergency in the borough, following a spike in COVID-19 cases. The declaration expands the powers of the mayor to allow for temporary, protective regulations, including:

  1. Limitation of social gatherings at private residences. All outdoor and indoor social gatherings at private residences must be limited to 10 or fewer people. When the number of members living in a household exceeds 10, no additional persons shall gather at the property, either indoors or outdoors.
  2. Face covering requirement. All persons in the Borough of West Chester shall be required to wear a face covering when within six feet of another person and when the person(s) is/are inside public or governmental buildings, utilizing public transportation, or working a job that entails coming into contact with the public.

All known violations will be cited by the West Chester Police Department at $300 per person. Further updates and a link to the full emergency declaration, which includes specific restrictions and exemptions, can be found on the borough website
Source: West Chester Borough; 10/2/2020

Chester County is conducting COVID-19 business impacts survey
Chester County officials are developing an economic recovery planning strategy to offer constructive guidance to county business and organizational sectors. The county’s goal is to understand and capture specific organizational needs and concerns, share information, and provide assistance to businesses. Click here to complete the confidential survey. The survey will remain open through Sunday, Oct. 11.
Source: Chester County; 9/22/2020

Chandler Mill Bridge reopened
Chandler Mill Bridge in Kennett Township just north of Kaolin Road over a branch of the Red Clay Creek has reopened, though motor vehicle access is limited. The bridge was built in 1910 and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It closed in 2011 because deterioration made it unsafe for vehicular traffic. It will remain closed for most vehicular traffic but will be able to handle emergency vehicles. Its weight capacity is now 24 tons. Its primary use is for "pedestrians, bicycles, and people who want to enjoy the natural surroundings and the preserves that are here, and the Kennett Greenway," said Eden Ratliff, Kennett Township's manager. The township bought the bridge from Chester County for $1, and the repairs cost slightly more than $500,000. The area is now part of a 27-acre preserve donated as part of the bridge preservation and is now part of the Kennett Greenway.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 10/2/2020

Voter Services satellite offices open
Chester County Voter Services satellite offices opened at Henrietta Hankin Library and Oxford Public Library. Staff are available to help Chester County residents register to vote and/or apply for a mail-in ballot at the locations, as well as at the county’s main office at the Government Services Center, 601 Westtown Road, West Chester. Mail-in ballots can be dropped off at the Government Services Center 24/7. Most other ballot drop-off locations will not open until Tuesday, Oct. 13. For a full list of offices and locations, visit the county elections website.
Source: Chester County; 10/6/2020

Chester County plans tree seedling giveaways
COVID-19 forced the cancellation of Earth Day celebrations in April, but the county is planning seedling tree giveaways on Friday, Oct. 16, that will take place simultaneously from noon to 5 p.m. at Willowdale Veterinary Center in Kennett Square (adjacent to East Marlborough Township building) and at Warwick County Park near Pottstown. A second tree giveaway will be held Saturday, Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Exton Park. A variety of trees will be available, including a mix of maples, birches, redbuds, poplars, sycamores and oaks. The trees are available while supplies last with a limit of one per family.
Source: Daily Local; 10/7/2020

Delaware County

Chester Upland collects almost $4.5 million in delinquent real estate taxes
The tax auditing and collection firm eCollect Plus announced it has collected almost $4.5 million in delinquent real estate taxes for the Chester Upland School District over the past year. The total amount collected is $1.7 million more than what the district projected in delinquent real estate taxes for the year. Chester Upland retained the services of eCollect in a three-year contract and started its work last August. The company receives a 5% collection fee. In addition to exceeding the budgeted collection amount for the current year, the amount collected surpassed the $3.1 million collected in 2017-2018 and the $2.8 million in 2018-2019. Chester Upland has been in a financial recovery status since 2012. It is one of six school districts across Pennsylvania in this status. Local tax revenue accounts for 20% of Chester Upland School District’s budget, with real estate taxes being the primary source. “The school district faces financial hardships that require it to rely heavily on every stream of revenue meeting its mark,” district receiver Dr. Juan Baughn said. “We must regularly overcome funding challenges, and having partners that can exceed expectations goes a long way to supporting the entire district.”
Source: Daily Local; 10/7/2020

Developer scales back plans for former Wayne post office
Radnor officials have rescinded their past decision to oppose the planned renovation of the former mail facility in Wayne. At a recent meeting, George Broseman, an attorney for developer Wade McDevitt, outlined new, scaled-back plans to renovate the old mail-sorting building located behind the Wayne post office. The commissioners were not required to vote on the project, since it is scheduled to go before the township zoning board later this month — but the developer asked the commissioners not to oppose it, as they had previously voted to have their solicitor attend the zoning meeting in opposition to the project. Broseman said the original plans called for the addition of a second floor and converting the former mail-sorting facility into office use. The new proposal would cut the project almost in half by eliminating the second floor. They are still planning other aspects of the project, such as landscaping enhancements. Ward 5 Commissioner Moira Mulroney said she believes the revised plan addresses concerns that have been raised over the previous project.
Source: Main Line Media News; 10/6/2020

EPA continues testing of Norwood Landfill
Contractors for the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been taking soil and water samples as they try to determine whether contamination from the former Norwood Landfill, which was active in the 1950s and early ‘60s, could be the cause of an outbreak of cancer in the nearby Winona Homes development. “It is a follow-up to the previous investigation that was done out here, we’re doing non-residential sampling this week,” said EPA site assistant manager Joe Vitello, who worked with a crew from the environmental and geotechnical drilling firm East Coast Drilling Inc. on the location of the former landfill behind Norwood Park. “We’re doing samples where we believe the old Norwood town dump was and also samples down along Darby Creek, where the original complaints came from.” Prior investigations have not shown a threat or a link to the landfill and cancer complaints; however, the new testing is part of a further investigation to see if there is an ongoing release of chemicals. The EPA is also installing temporary groundwater-monitoring wells near the Winona Homes neighborhood. Residents who have been contacted by EPA about having soil sampled will receive an email or phone update once the sampling dates have been confirmed. Winona Homes neighborhood residents who are interested in having soil sampled, but who have not yet completed an access agreement, can contact Gina N. Soscia at 215-814-5538 or soscia.gina@epa.gov.  
Source: Daily Times; 10/1/2020

Morton Borough to consider amendments to use and occupancy
Morton Borough Council will consider an amendment to clarify when use and occupancy permits are required, including at the time of sale, transfer or change in ownership of any improved property. The borough already requires a point-of-sale inspection. A public hearing will take place Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. by videoconference. The link and instructions on how to participate will be posted on the borough website.
Source: Daily Times; 10/6/2020

Montgomery County

Norristown takes first look at 2021 budget
Norristown officials began the 2020 budget process during a recent virtual public hearing. The initial figures show a $2.5 million deficit — with financial uncertainty brought on by the pandemic clouding the current financial picture. The pandemic’s full impact on property tax revenue will not be clear until after Dec. 31, said municipal administrator Crandall Jones. Norristown extended relief to residents by waiving the lateness penalty on property tax bills. Another issue driving the deficit is a large increase in solid waste collection fees. The municipality has several options to cover the deficit, including using the fund balance, reducing expenses, raising taxes or taking a combination approach. Administrative and elected officials are encouraging the public to get involved during the budget process. Visit the Norristown website for more information.
Source: Times Herald; 10/5/2020

Lower Pottsgrove trash rates will double under five-year pact
Lower Pottsgrove Township is in the fourth year of a five-year contract with trash hauler J.P. Mascaro and Sons and got an early start on soliciting bids for a new contract. Despite offering bidders two options, a three-year contract with the option to add on two more years, or a five-year contract, the township received no bids from regional haulers other than Mascaro. As a result, the commissioners adopted a five-year, $1.2 million contract to continue with Mascaro. The new contract includes a large increase from 2021 to 2022, when the annual rate per house will increase from $150 to $239. In addition to the fee paid directly by residents, the township covers about one-third of the cost, meaning property tax rates might need to rise. Township Manager Ed Wagner said township officials were surprised by the increase and found that the major culprit is a 24% increase in the volume of trash collected since the pandemic kept more people at home, and also the shallowing out of the market for recycled materials since China stopped buying them.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/2/2020

Springfield Township schedules 2021 budget meetings
Springfield Township commissioners have set the following schedule to present and adopt the 2021 township budget. A budget workshop will be held Wednesday, Oct, 21, at 7 p.m., followed by a budget presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m., and then a public hearing and adoption vote slated for Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. All meetings will be held via the Zoom virtual meeting platform. Click here for more information.
Source: Springfield Township; 9/23/2020

Towamencin to study potential sewer system sale
Towamencin Township supervisors recently approved a study on whether to value and monetize — meaning sell to a private entity — the township’s sewer system. The unanimous approval of the study came at the behest of the township’s sewer committee who “believes it is the reasonable and prudent action to examine whether it's in the best interest of township taxpayers, or not, to monetize the sewer system." Supervisors Chairman Chuck Wilson said that a 2017 study presented concerns about whether the existing system would be able to meet future requirements without significant capital expenditure. That study was completed ahead of a diversion project that separated the sewer systems of Towamencin and Upper Gwynedd. 
Source: The Reporter; 9/25/2020

Philadelphia

City council approves bill allowing down zoning for Society Hill
Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to pass a measure that will allow down zoning of much of Society Hill. The bill, introduced in January by Councilmember Mark Squilla, includes new strict height restrictions for buildings, increased parking requirements, and the elimination of bonuses and exemptions in the name of historic preservation. Opponents of the bill said it will only serve to prevent any affordable, multi-family housing from being developed in the area, thereby preserving not just its historic character but also its largely white and wealthy residential makeup. Society Hill Civic Association president Larry Spector stressed that the bill aimed only to preserve the scale and historical character of the area, and took issue with it being classified as NIMBY-ist. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission had voted against the rezoning in the past. This was the second time the Society Hill carve-outs came before the council — Mayor Jim Kenney vetoed them at the end of 2019, describing them as “burdensome restrictions on development” that “may inhibit creation of new affordable housing units on blocks that are very transit-oriented, accessible to jobs and amenities, and designed for multiple units.” The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the council’s vote.
Source: Plan Philly; 10/1/2020

Could a land value tax make Philadelphia a more equitable city?
According to the Center for Property Tax Reform, in the midst of a financial meltdown brought on by the pandemic, Philadelphia has the opportunity to make real gains for social and economic justice by rethinking its approach to the real estate tax. A simple mathematical rejiggering of the tax code that involves flipping the proportion of an owner’s tax bill that comes from the value of their buildings — currently 76% — versus the land itself — right now, just 24% of the bill — to one that favors taxing land value could alleviate tax burdens for at-risk populations without reducing the overall revenue stream. The Plan Philly article includes links to a fully interactive map interface — the Tax Shift Explorer — that allows users to explore what a Land Value Tax would mean for Philadelphia as a whole, as well as each city council district, and even individual properties, all using real, current tax data as the baseline.
Source: PlanPhilly; 10/3/2020

 
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