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
Water infrastructure bill passes Congress
A bipartisan water infrastructure bill supported by the National Association of Realtors® is headed to President Trump's desk. “America's Water Infrastructure Act” (S. 3021) would authorize numerous port revitalization, flood control, drinking water and water storage projects. The bill was the result of weeks of negotiations after initial water infrastructure legislation stalled. Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who shepherded the legislation through Congress, celebrated the vote. “America's Water Infrastructure Act will cut Washington red tape, grow the nation's economy, and help keep communities safe. It will create jobs, reduce the deficit and give local stakeholders more control of projects,” committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. The legislation invests in the critical water infrastructure that American families in every state rely on, such as drinking water systems, dams, reservoirs, levees and ports.
Source: Nar.realtor; 10/11/2018
New graduation requirements in Pennsylvania
Governor Tom Wolf announced he will sign a bill headed to his desk that will change high school graduation requirements in the commonwealth. Rather than having to pass a trio of subject-area tests known as the Keystone Exams, current freshmen will be eligible to graduate if they check off one of several boxes. Those boxes include SAT or ACT scores above a state-set threshold; an industry certification; a full-time job offer; proof of military enrollment; and acceptance to a four-year college. Students will have to meet locally determined grade requirements in each of the subjects tested on the Keystone Exams: algebra I, biology and literature. Students can still pass those exams to get their diplomas or receive a composite score determined by Department of Education officials. Longtime opponents of the Keystone exams, who believe tests alone can’t sufficiently measure competency or world-readiness, are claiming victory. Click here for the full article.
Source: Keystone Crossroads; 10/16/2018
Deadline to apply for absentee ballot is Oct. 30
The last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot in Pennsylvania is Tuesday, Oct. 30. Any Realtors® who will be unable to get to the polls on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, should request an absentee ballot to make sure their vote is counted. Completed absentee ballots must be received by the county by Friday, Nov. 2. To apply for an absentee ballot, fill out the form on votespa.com.
Preliminary plans presented for Dublin Town Center
Robert Loughery, owner/developer of Dublin Town Center, recently presented preliminary plans for land development throughout Dublin Borough to the municipal council. Included in the plan is the renovation of the Dublin Service Station and Garage into a brew pub, called Station 23, which would include four or five food vendors similar to a food court. The existing 30,000-square-foot TEC Center would be renovated and renamed The Square, with Grand View Health occupying half of the building along with many other tenants. Also in the works are 73 townhomes to be constructed by Ryan Homes that will cost about $290,000. Loughery expects to submit land development plans as early as December. Council members were receptive to the proposed plans.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 10/16/2018
Three Bucks YMCAs are merging
Three regional YMCAs in Bucks County will become one in January, when the Upper Bucks YMCA in Quakertown joins the YMCA of Bucks County. According to Zane Moore, who will lead the YMCA of Bucks County, the Central and Lower Bucks Family YMCAs have already officially merged. Members of all locations will have immediate access to facilities and specialty programs at all branches. “Coming together allows us to operate more efficiently, so we can give more money away and serve more people,” Moore said. Moore unveiled a fundraising campaign to raise $20 million for programs for the needy, expansions in Doylestown and a “complete overhaul” of the Bristol Township branch.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/14/2018
New superintendent for New Hope-Solebury
The New Hope-Solebury School Board approved the appointment of Charles Lentz as the new superintendent. Lentz will start about mid-December once his obligations in his current job as assistant curriculum director in the Abington School District are completed. The Bucks County Intermediate Unit helped the school district in the search, which started with 34 applicants. Lentz succeeds Steve Yanni, who left New Hope-Solebury to become the new superintendent in the Upper Dublin School District.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/15/2018
Newtown Township to consider zoning ordinance for medical marijuana
Newtown Township supervisors agreed to advertise a proposed joint zoning ordinance which would specify where dispensaries, growers and processors of medical marijuana could be located. Newtown Township is part of a joint municipal zoning consortium with Upper Makefield and Wrightstown Townships, therefore any zoning ordinances regulating the location of these operations must be approved by all three municipalities, known as the “jointure.” Under the proposed Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance, a dispensary can only be set up in Upper Makefield Township in the VC-1 (Village Commercial) District. Newtown and Wrightstown do not have a VC-1 district. Dispensaries would only be permitted in Wrightstown, but Newtown could approve a grower/processing facility for its LI (Light Industrial) District, which is the current designated zoning for the Newtown Business Commons along the Newtown Bypass. If the proposed joint zoning ordinance is approved, these facilities would be allowed by conditional use, not by special exception. Once Upper Makefield and Wrightstown agree to advertise the joint zoning ordinance, Newtown will schedule public hearings. Newtown Township solicitor David Sander said, “We need to get this ordinance on the books to avoid a constitutional challenge.”
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 10/16/2018
Chester County Housing Authority earns ‘excellence’ award
The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) recently honored the Housing Authority of the County of Chester and Mission First Housing Group with the prestigious 2018 Award of Excellence in Design for the Whitehall Apartments. Mission First Housing Group renovated the historic Whitehall Inn and constructed a new addition to create 48 permanent supportive housing apartments for veterans in need — the Whitehall Apartments. Mission First developed The Whitehall in response to a local need for housing for at-risk veterans and a national effort to end veteran’s homelessness. The key project building block was a 15-year voucher contract from the Housing Authority of the County of Chester, which translates into $5 million in housing assistance. The Whitehall was built using Passive House design standards for energy efficiency, which will reduce utility usage by 80 percent over standard construction. “These agencies are leaders in the housing and community development industry,” said NAHRO President Carl S. Richie Jr. “Their innovative approaches improve the lives of their residents and revitalize their local communities, and I am proud to celebrate their achievements.” The Housing Authority of the County of Chester was one of only 19 winning agencies.
Source: Daily Local; 10/13/2018
Target bringing a small-format store to Chester County
Target is bringing one of its new small-format stores to Lancaster Avenue in Devon. The new store in Devon is one of Target’s two latest additions to the region, bringing the total number of its small-format stores in Greater Philadelphia to eight. The small-format stores are usually less than 100,000 square feet and are located in dense suburban locations or urban areas. The Devon store at 704 W. Lancaster Ave. covers 57,000 square feet. These new stores are the start of its suburban push, which Target hopes will significantly broaden its customer base. The company is planning to open a store in Ardmore later this year as well.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 10/11/2018
East Fallowfield to consider official map
East Fallowfield Township Supervisors will consider adopting an Official Map Ordinance. The township planning commission and an Official Map Task Force worked together on the map, which will show the locations of planned future public lands and transportation facilities, recreational parks, trails, sewer infrastructure and open space. The proposed map and an associated ordinance would allow the township to articulate its long-term goals for particular properties, such as turning a privately owned farm into a park or open space. “It’s a great planning tool,” said Township Manager Scott Swichar. “Unless the property owner agrees to dedicate or donate the mapped land to the municipality, the municipality must work with the property owner to purchase or acquire an easement to use the land,” said Swichar. “The Official Map would give East Fallowfield Township first dibs on acquiring a property for public use before a property owner decides to build or develop,” he said. The proposed Official Map can be viewed electronically on the township website (PDF). The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Tuesday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the East Fallowfield Township Building, 2264 Strasburg Road.
Source: Daily Local; 10/16/2018 and East Fallowfield Township Newsletter; Fall 2018
East Goshen park will get fishing pond, waterfront access
Senator Tom Killion announced a major state grant for the Hershey’s Mill Dam Park in East Goshen Township. Killion said $380,000 in funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been awarded to the township. Several enhancements will be made to the park, including the creation of a fishing pond, a waterfront access area, waterfalls, trails and a parking area. Killion said, “This grant will enable families to enjoy even more outdoor activities in our area, and these park improvements will help maintain the quality of life that has made our region such a wonderful place to live.”
Source: Daily Local; 10/15/2018
Water lines in Caln getting major upgrade
Pennsylvania American Water announced the start of construction to install a new water main in Caln Township to improve service reliability and prevent water outages. The project cost is approximately $525,000 and will replace outdated pipe dating back to the 1940s. The company will install nearly 3,500 feet of new eight-inch ductile iron along Reed Street between 17th and 13th avenues, and along 13th Avenue between Reed Street and West Chester Road. Crews expect to complete the water main installation, testing and disinfection, and connect customers’ service lines to the new main by early December, weather-permitting. Final street paving restoration is scheduled for next spring. For more information, contact Pennsylvania American Water’s customer service center at 1-800-565-7292.
Source: Daily Local; 10/16/2018
West Chester to get $200k for John O. Green Park
West Chester Borough will receive a $200,000 grant to improve John O. Green Memorial Park located at South Matlack and East Miner streets in the borough’s East End. “John O. Green Park offers a safe place for children to play away from the street and a nice spot to cool down in the hot summer months for those who may not have easy access to a pool,” state Sen. Andy Dinniman said. “It may not be all that large, but it’s vital to our community and important to so many kids, families and parents in the borough’s East End. This grant funding will help ensure that we continue to maintain, improve and enhance so that it can continue to be enjoyed for years to come.” The grant funding, which comes through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnership Program (C2P2), will go toward the installation of stormwater management measures, ADA access, landscaping, project design and other related site improvements. It will also include stormwater management measures that will help the Chester Creek watershed. Currently, the half-acre park, named for a former borough police chief, includes a play area and a water feature that people from all over the borough use in the summer to keep their children cool. The source of funding for the C2P2 grant is the Keystone Fund, which is currently celebrating 25 years of supporting thousands of community improvements in Pennsylvania.
Source: Daily Local; 10/13/2018
Chester Stormwater Authority now responsible for inlets
As the Chester Stormwater Authority recently acquired 1,700 inlets from the city, residents told board members of work that needs to be done clearing trash so the water runs easier. On Sept. 26, the authority acquired 1,700 inlets from the city for $1. "So now the responsibility is on us," Livia Smith, chairwoman of the Chester Stormwater Authority, said. Smith explained that because the city didn't have the needed resources to tend to all the inlets, the authority will now do so, along with other supportive projects. “The inlets are a concern because they are one of the vehicles that control the flow of water,” she said.
Source: Daily Times; 10/11/2018
Environmental coalition forms to protest Don Guanella plans
The Save Marple Greenspace group has joined with other environmental groups to form a larger coalition as consideration continues on development plans for the Don Guanella property in Marple. The Whetstone Coalition — named after the Darby Creek tributary Whetstone Run — joins together Save Marple Greenspace with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Crum Creek Neighbors and the Darby Creek Valley Association to protect the natural resources on the 213-acre property from planned residential or commercial development overseen by Carlino Commercial Development. Whetstone is looking to pool its resources, which may include retaining an environmental and land use attorney. Environmental concerns have been a constant issue brought up by Save Marple Greenspace and other community members at public meetings. Because the plan would require removing a number of trees in the wooded area of proposal, there is concern that it would increase impervious surfaces and contribute to more flooding in the area, and storm water would overflow farther down the Darby Creek to other communities. There is also concern about public connection to sewer lines and how much the whole of the property would contribute to some already high capacity systems.
Source: Daily Times; 10/17/2018
Radnor residents decry bright Villanova University stadium lights
Radnor Township’s manager, community development official and solicitor promised to craft a new ordinance to deal with light pollution for the board of commissioners to consider. Ward 7 Commissioner Sean Farhy and several residents complained about light glaring into homes from the Villanova stadium. Farhy said that many residents of the Old Oaks section of the township have complained to him about the stadium lights. Robert Zienkowski, the township manager, mentioned preventing light from spilling outside a property borders is a standard for an ordinance. Zienkowski told the commissioners that officials will work on an ordinance and present at the commissioners meeting on Monday, Oct. 22.
Source: Daily Times; 10/17/2018
Beaver Valley land will soon be a national park
Beaver Valley, a 254-acre stretch of woods and fields in Concord Township, Delaware County, is slated to become part of the First State National Historic Park. The preservation, cinched last year, was made possible by grassroots fundraising by people who collectively raised $8 million to "Save the Valley." Then the nonprofit Mt. Cuba Center stepped in and donated an undisclosed sum to preserve Beaver Valley as open space by buying the development rights. The next step is to transfer ownership of the property to the National Park Service, which owns the adjacent First State National Historical Park. The park service took ownership of First State five years ago, after the Mt. Cuba Center, of Hockessin, Delaware, paid more than $20 million to buy the land and gave it to the federal agency. Blaine Phillips of the Conservation Fund has been consumed with finalizing the transfer of the land to the National Park Service, which is expected to assume ownership of the property sometime next year. David Blackburn, acting superintendent of First State National Historical Park, confirmed that the plan was on track. "There are so many development threat stories that don't end this way," Phillips said. "So many. And what I think is compelling to people is that this came out the right way. The land was protected, and it can be used as an example for other places and other threats."
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/16/2018
Pottstown preliminary budget calls for 12 percent tax increase
Pottstown Borough Council got a first look at the starting preliminary budget for 2019 that, if adopted without changes, would increase property taxes by 11.97 percent. According to Borough Manager Justin Keller, the main reasons for the tax increase are: a $779,000 hike in police and non-uniform pension obligations; a $1 million increase for post-retirement health care; a $360,000 assessment challenge reimbursement; contractual pay increases; and the absence of $263,000 in tax revenue after the Pottstown Hospital was taken off the tax rolls. Keller and Finance Director Janice Lee said that even though taxes have increased (12 percent last year), revenue has dropped faster due to an unending stream of property value assessment losses. The total budget deficit in this early stage of the budget season sits at $1,029,674. A tax millage increase from the current rate of 11.58 mills to a possible 12.966 mills would translate to an additional $118 for a property assessed at $85,000. Keller reported that “it’s not all doom and gloom” — overall property values on Pottstown are up 11 percent and properties for sale are spending less time on the market. Additionally, the assessment challenges seem to be leveling off. The preliminary budget is likely to change as council moves closer to adoption in December.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/5/2018
Springfield Township School District breaks ground on new school
The Springfield Township School District held an official groundbreaking ceremony to mark the construction of a new elementary school at 300 Montgomery Ave. in Erdenheim. District Superintendent Dr. Nancy Hacker thanked the individuals who contributed to the vision of the new school, from feasibility to planning/design, and securing the necessary permits and approvals to begin construction. Dr. Karen Taratuski, president of the board of school directors, welcomed more than 200 community residents, parents, children and school district staff, and highlighted the future school as a place where students will have opportunities for 21st-century learning and skill development. All of the children present, many of whom will attend the new school, had the opportunity to move dirt while wearing a bright yellow hard hat provided by D’Huy Engineering. The school is projected to be completed in the spring of 2020.
Source: Springfield Sun; 10/16/2018
Housing and Wawa plans advance in Lower Salford
Although they are two separate developments, plans for a Wawa and 78 new homes along Sumneytown Pike (Route 63) between Clemens Road and an extension to Quarry Road received preliminary approvals from Lower Salford supervisors. Both developments are parts of what was initially a larger plan. The current plan for “Mainland Pointe” includes 18 single-family detached homes, five apartment buildings with 12 apartments each for a total of 60 apartments, and some commercial pads, said developer Bryan Hunsberger. The Wawa will be at the intersection of Route 63 and the planned Quarry Road extension and will include a new traffic light. Residents on Buckingham Circle raised concerns about the connector street between Buckingham and the new development becoming a cut-through to Route 63 or the Wawa — a concern shared by the township, said Supervisors Chairman Doug Gifford. The connector is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Township Manager Joe Czajkowski and some supervisors plan to come up with ways to alleviate cut-through traffic in the area. Construction of the Wawa may begin in the near future. Mainland Pointe is expected to take two to three years.
Source: The Reporter; 10/6/2018
Jenkintown Borough announces budget schedule
Jenkintown Borough has announced its annual budget workshops and adoption process schedule. The first workshop was held on Oct. 17. The remaining two workshops will be held Tuesday, Oct. 30, with a focus on street lighting, fire protection and fire apparatus budgets, and Monday, Nov. 19, for library, sewer, solid waste, street tax, debt service, capital projects, liquid fuels, police pension and non-uniform pension budgets. Both workshops begin at 6 p.m. at 700 Summit Ave. The budget will be presented to council for consideration to approve for advertisement on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. with the budget available for public inspection Friday, Nov. 30. Council will consider the budget for adoption on Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m. All meetings are open to the public and all interested parties are invited to attend. Visit www.jenkintownboro.com for updated information.
Source: Jenkintown Borough; 10/8/2018
Lower Gwynedd to consider brush, weeds and grass ordinance
At the public meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lower Gwynedd Township Building, 1130 North Bethlehem Pike, Spring House, supervisors will consider a proposed ordinance entitled “Brush, Weeds and Grass Ordinance.” The purpose of the ordinance is to ensure that brush, weeds and grass are satisfactorily maintained within Lower Gwynedd Township. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available at the township office during normal business hours, the Montgomery County Law Library and the offices of The Reporter.
Source: The Reporter; 10/15/2018
Philly maps 10-year course toward building, preserving 100k housing units
The details of Philadelphia’s new housing plan — which could create or preserve 100,000 housing units in the next 10 years — were recently released and have received a largely warm welcome from City Council members and housing industry insiders. Many observers note that the plan is ambitious, including some controversial policy proposals, while avoiding comment on several large roadblocks facing the city’s housing policy. The administration is adamant that it is not an affordable housing plan, but recent research shows the staggering scale of need in the city, with four out of five low-income households receiving no housing assistance. And the plan is clear-eyed on the likelihood that Philadelphia will receive no additional support from the city or the state anytime soon. “I think this is an ambitious housing plan,” said Councilwoman Helen Gym. “Housing is the most urgent issue in this city. It’s so important to realize that in a city with the highest poverty rate of any major American city, the housing crisis is not just a symptom but a cause of poverty.” The proposal includes a rubric of differing policies for strong market areas, middle neighborhoods and divested communities. In divested neighborhoods, where incomes are low and investment scarce, it proposes additional dollars for housing repair, a beefed-up eviction prevention plan, and shallow rent subsidies to help Philadelphia’s poorest residents. For the city’s middle neighborhoods, the plan advocates shoring up such areas with home repair programs for those who are already there and offering assistance with closing costs to help new families get a stake in the neighborhood. One notable component is a proposal to reduce or eliminate the real estate transfer tax, which has increased several times in recent years. The proposed reduction would help first-time homeowners under a particular income.
Source: PlanPhilly; 10/10/2018
Kenney walks back $500M Rebuild promise
The glowing “First 1,000 Days” report released Oct. 1 by Mayor Jim Kenney contained 15 mentions of Rebuild, the most expensive and highest profile initiative of Kenney’s first term. But unlike past mentions of the heralded program, these didn’t include the $500 million price tag that the administration has used consistently since it introduced the program in 2016. “Through the Administration’s signature infrastructure initiative Rebuild, we’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our neighborhoods by renovating our aging recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, and libraries,” the report reads. The subtle adjustment to “hundreds of millions” may seem innocuous, but it portends an intentional shift that could result in fewer dollars reaching neighborhoods hungry for functional, decent places to play and learn. After an arduous legislative process to pass Rebuild in 2017, City Council vested the administration with up to $300 million in borrowing power for the program. That $300 million, financed with revenue from Kenney’s tax on sugary beverages, leveraged grant dollars from William Penn Foundation and other foundations to reach the $500 million figure. The admission that less money could be spent on the mayor’s pet public work initiative comes after months of speculation. In March, Rebuild executive director Nicole Westerman said it was “too early” to say whether downward projections for the revenue raised by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax City would impact the bottom line of Rebuild. With the realities of lower-than-anticipated beverage tax revenues and upwardly bound interest rates sinking in, city officials are chasing new funding sources.
Source: Plan Philly; 10/9/2018
Schuylkill Center unveils new River Trail Gateway
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education recently unveiled its new connection to the Schuylkill River Trail. The River Trail Gateway merges two trail systems and provides a second entrance to the Schuylkill Center. The River Trail connector includes: signage identifying the Schuylkill Center; a bike rack for visitors to use while exploring the trails at the center; a welcoming kiosk with trail maps and information about the center’s educational programming; an overlook of Smith Run, a first-order stream that runs through the center’s property; and a gathering space for public events. The Schuylkill River Trail is part of a larger 800-mile network of multi-use trails in the Philadelphia regional called the Circuit Trails. Click here for more information about the Schuylkill Center.
Source: Roxborough Review; 10/16/2018