Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Opportunity zones added to Realtors® Property Resource
Morrisville hears $100M redevelopment plan
Affordable homes subject of 2020 Citizen Planners meeting
Clifton Heights sues Upper Darby schools
Lower Pottsgrove schedules sneak peek at new township building plans
Why new houses in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) aren’t made of brick
Call for Action: Don’t let Congress raise taxes on middle-class homeowners
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is asking its members to urge their members of Congress to oppose any tax reform plan that would weaken tax incentives for owning a home. Under current proposals, Congress is threatening tax incentives for homeowners, such as the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local property tax deduction. These incentives are critical for a strong housing market that creates jobs and builds stable communities. By doubling the standard deduction and eliminating most other itemized deductions, the mortgage interest deduction would only be available to the top 5 percent of taxpayers, according to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The study, commissioned by NAR, also concluded that middle-income home-owning families would face average tax hikes of $815. Click here to take action.
Sewer and septic repair loan program expanded
The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) are expanding a program intended to help homeowners with repairs and connections to septic and sewer systems. The goals are to help homeowners deal with the unexpected expenses related to this work and to protect water quality in Pennsylvania. The Homeowner Septic Program previously covered repairs to residential septic systems and first-time connections to a public sewer. It now is being expanded to include loans for repairs to existing sewer line connections to homes. Click here (PDF) for more information.
Source: Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency; 10/17/2017
Sellersville drafting a building maintenance ordinance for rentals
The Sellersville Revitalization Committee is working on a project it hopes will “improve the aesthetics of the town while ensuring properties are up to high quality standards for the safety of the residents,” said Council President Robert Rudick. Still in the drafting stages, the ordinance could possibly address overall maintenance standards in rental residential buildings while requiring registration of rental tenants and allowing for inspection of rental properties. Rudick said the goal is to have a draft ordinance ready by December. Before voting, council is mandated to hold a public hearing during which residents could ask questions and comment on the proposed ordinance. Visit the Sellersville Borough website for more information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/12/2017
Central Bucks approves LERTA zone in Chalfont
The Central Bucks School Board unanimously approved a Pennsylvania Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA) tax break, allowing commercial property owners to apply for a five-year tax exemption on new construction in designated areas of Chalfont. The LERTA tax break is part of a borough initiative to spur economic development along Butler Avenue and Main Street. Property owners must apply for the LERTA exemption within 60 days of applying for a building permit for any additions to their property. The exemption only affects the tax assessed value of the improvements — if a property assessed at $100,000 has $50,000 in improvements completed, the tax exemption would only apply to that additional $50,000 in property value. This marks the first time a LERTA tax abatement has been approved by the Central Bucks School District, said Jeffrey Garton, school board solicitor.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/12/2017
Palisades will not close middle school
The Palisades School District is working on various school closing scenarios as it faces declining enrollment. The school board recently announced that the option to close the Palisades Middle School has been eliminated, leaving four other scenarios on the table, including maintaining things as they are. The closing options are detailed on the district website, within the agenda for the Oct. 4 board meeting. The next meeting of the district’s Building Use Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/12/2017
Perkasie council vacancy in Ward 3
Perkasie Borough Council unanimously accepted the resignation of Councilwoman Susanne Kravitz, who is moving out of the borough. Kravitz has been a council member since 2010. Perkasie Borough will now have 30 days to interview and appoint a Ward 3 resident to fill the vacancy. The council is seeking residents of the third ward interested in being considered for appointment to the Perkasie Borough Council. The term runs through Dec. 31, 2019. To be eligible for appointment, an applicant must be a registered voter residing in the third ward. Applications will be received until the Borough Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, at 7 p.m., at which time an appointment will be made. Click here for more information.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/17/2017
Landscapes3 public meeting planned
The Chester County Planning Commission will host a public meeting on Landscapes3, Chester County’s new comprehensive plan. The meeting will take place on Thursday, Oct. 26, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the West Whiteland Township Building. For additional information about the meeting, click here.
County review of pension fees results in taxpayer savings
The Chester County Retirement Board recently concluded a review and negotiation of investment manager fees relating to the county’s pension fund. The review resulted in an estimated annual savings of more than $370,000. County Controller Norman MacQueen, secretary of the county Retirement Board said: “Financial growth in an investment fund should result in a lower fee structure. Knowing this, the Retirement Board asked our investment managers to review their agreements with the county, to see where reductions in fees could be made.” The role of the Chester County Retirement Board is to oversee the county’s pension fund investments to ensure they are performing well to provide income security for retired county employees. The board, comprised of the three county commissioners, the county controller and the county treasurer, meets regularly with contracted investment managers to review the performance of the pension fund, currently valued at over $400 million. “Chester County’s financial strength is a result of many years of sound fiscal management and an ongoing effort to be transparent and accountable to citizens,” said MacQueen.
Source: Daily Local; 10/15/2017
WCU returns $174K overpayment
West Chester University has returned $174,000 to West Chester Borough for an overpayment connected to their deal with the borough over parking garages, a controversy that has already seen the borough manager take a paid leave. The overpayment stems from a $611,000 borough check cut to the university, the amount of which was dictated by an ongoing parking garage agreement between the parties. The borough built, operates and maintains the New Street and Sharpless Street garages. The pair agreed that any profit, after expenses, would be pocketed by the university, with WCU making bond payments. The university repayment of $174,000 was made after it was discovered that the original $611,000 payment did not account for maintenance and other ongoing expenses over a three-year period.
Source: Daily Local; 10/12/2017
Sunset Farm owners ink deal with Natural Lands
The Natural Lands conservation organization announced the preservation of 28 acres of farmland, orchard and forest in the northwestern corner of New Garden Township. Owners Lynn Sinclair and John Morris placed the property — known as Sunset Farm — under conservation easement, ensuring it will remain open forever. A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement that remains in place in perpetuity. The easement on the Sinclair-Morris property encompasses 23 acres of the 28-acre tract of land. Under the terms of the easement, passive recreation, meadow management and sustainable agriculture are permitted. “Sunset Farm is among 23,617 acres — and counting — that Natural Lands has placed under conservation. Together, these meadows, woodlands, pastures and stream valleys contribute to our air and water quality, offer us trails to explore, and build the character of our communities.” A public trail easement, held by the township, runs from north to south along the western boundary of the property, providing one of the first, critical links of a New Garden Township Greenways Trail planned for the area.
Source: Daily Local; 10/15/2017
Kennett Township officials consider enhanced role for environmental advisers
The Kennett Township Board of Supervisors has agreed to look at new ways to interact with the township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC). Matt Sabo, chairperson of the EAC, said he had some attendees at the latest meeting of the council who had questions about the Sinclair Springs subdivision on Hillendale Road, and the transparency of the conditional use and land-development planning phases of the development’s approval. The supervisors were receptive to a suggestion that the EAC review the process used to approve projects like Sinclair Springs to see what went well and what could be improved. The supervisors said they would welcome ideas from the EAC on new procedures to communicate their suggestions.
Source: Daily Local; 10/16/2017
598 homes to be built in West Goshen
West Goshen Township has approved a project to construct 598 homes at the 433-acre Jerrehian property. The property stretches from Phoenixville Pike at the southeast and the Route 322 Bypass on the south, to near Pottstown Pike on the northwest and Greenhill Road to the North. The project will be called Woodlands at Greystone, and its developer is still seeking approval from the supervisors to establish a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID). Through the NID, future homeowners would assume responsibility for the bill for 30 years to pay off a bond issue financing almost $21 million in infrastructure improvements. The assessment would only be charged to residents of the community, and the NID would allow for the construction of public improvements within a year to 18-months rather than the usual seven years for such a project. The total acreage of the township’s public parkland would more than double as a result of this project. One hundred eighty-four acres of open space would be created, and the bulk of that would be dedicated to the township. Part of the NID proposal includes a $1 million payment to the township for future upkeep on the park area.
Source: Daily Local; 10/1/2017
Delco won’t hike property taxes in 2018
Though the budget process is ongoing, Delaware County Council announced there will be no tax increase in the county’s 2018 budget, which must be completed by Dec. 31. It will be the fourth consecutive year without a tax increase. “We’ve seen growth with the creation of 25,000 new jobs and 500 new business startups over the past few years,” Councilman Dave White said. “The rise in wages in Delaware County far outpaces the surrounding counties.”
Source: Daily Times; 10/13/2017
Upper Providence passes ordinance requiring registration of abandoned property
Upper Providence Township Council passed an ordinance requiring the registration of abandoned real estate. The ordinance specifically targets properties that are distressed or in foreclosure. The township intends to establish a registration program to monitor the properties and compel the appropriate parties to provide for the “maintenance and security of these abandoned and foreclosed properties.” Read the full text of the ordinance here.
Upper Darby plans tax hike in 2018
Upper Darby taxes will be increasing by 0.58 mills to accommodate contracted 3 percent hikes in salaries for police and fire personnel, and additional costs for pensions and healthcare in 2018. Mayor Thomas Micozzie presented the figures to Township Council at the regular meeting in October, calling for the real estate tax increase from 20.37 mills to 20.95 mills for the $76.8 million operating budget. A homeowner with a $108,000 average assessment paying $2,199 this year will pay an additional $63 next year for a total of $2,262. “The township’s essential public safety activities account for approximately 57 percent of the general fund budget increases, while contributions to the volunteer fire companies, library and health care costs represent other expenditure increases in the 2018 budget,” Micozzie said. “In an effort to minimize the impact on the residents of Upper Darby Township, this budget holds expenditures in the majority of the township departments.” Public hearings on the budget have been scheduled for after regular the council meetings on Nov. 8 and 15, both of which begin at 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 100 Garrett Road.
Source: Daily Times; 10/12/2017
Media weighs economic development
A study of the business environment in Media Borough that Borough Council commissioned earlier this year has delivered initial results. The study is part of an effortto produce an Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan to maintain and promote the economic health of the borough, and provide action steps over the next five to 10 years. The team was comprised of Econsult Solutions, Inc., JVM Studio of Philadelphia and The Riddle Company, a Washington, D.C.-based retail consulting practice. The team coordinator was Brittany Forman, a borough resident. Although the study considered the whole of the borough, which is less than 1 square mile with about 5,300 residents, the focus was on the business district of State Street and Baltimore Avenue. The team looked at economic development opportunities and alternatives. Among recommendations will be recruitment of diverse retail businesses (potentially with financial incentive from a source to be determined), and attention to transportation modes for pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles and the SEPTA trolley. The presentation is available on the borough website, and the plan will be added when it is available.
Source: Daily Times; 10/16/2017
Pottstown to advertise land bank ordinance
Pottstown Borough Council voted 6-1 to advertise an ordinance that will establish a land bank for the borough. Land banks are allowed under a state law adopted in 2012 and have very specific powers to take control of blighted properties, but cannot do so through eminent domain. The primary function of the land bank would be to connect blighted properties with developers willing to rehabilitate or redevelop them, along with pursuing the goals of the municipality to create more owner-occupied, market-rate housing. Other goals of the land bank would include eliminating blight, stabilizing neighborhoods, facilitating private investment and assembling large parcels for redevelopment. Pottstown’s Blighted Property Review Committee has 65 properties identified as blighted. Winifred Blanton, one of the state’s foremost experts on land banking, said in 2013 that blighted properties required $11 million in municipal services on top of $8 million to $10 million in lost tax revenue due to reduced property value. While increased blight has costs, diminishing blight has benefits such as crime reduction, improved health and higher tax revenue by increasing property value as much as 30 percent, Blanton said.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/16/2017
Coalition forms to promote city-suburban rail to King of Prussia
The King of Prussia Rail Coalition is a new group of business, civic and academic leaders that formed to back SEPTA’s proposed Norristown High Speed Line extension to King of Prussia. The coalition will promote the rail project as a crucial link between the region’s largest suburban employment center and Philadelphia’s urban core. The group includes officials with the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the King of Prussia District business association, and officials from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. The organization was formed ahead of scheduled sessions in November to present the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in King of Prussia and Norristown. Click here for more information about the statement and sessions. In 2016, a group of critics said that the planned rail line would pass too close to existing homes, among other concerns. King of Prussia Rail Coalition members say the benefits of the project would be enormous.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/17/2017
Residents oppose Ardmore Target
Residents in Ardmore have launched a Change.org petition to oppose the development of a new Target store at the corner of Lancaster and Ardmore avenues. Marie Kramer of Ardmore launched the petition, saying, “A Target on the intersection of Lancaster Ave. and Ardmore Ave. will only make traffic worse than it is already. The 32,000-square-feet of retail, 35 apartments and only 87 parking spots does not fit on that intersection.” Kramer also addressed overcrowding in the Lower Merion School District and the zoning classification for the lot on which Target is looking to build. Click here to view the petition.
Source: Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood, PA Patch; 10/17/2017
Perkiomen Township voters will decide fate of open space
Perkiomen Township voters will be asked to decide the fate of 17 acres of open space on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7. According to the ballot posted by the Montgomery County Board of Elections, township voters will be asked: “Do you favor the sale of 17.13 acres of Township Open Space Land to the highest bidder for development in accordance with the provisions of the Elderly Residential zoning district with the sale proceeds going to replenish the Township Open Space account and the Township’s General Fund?” Perkiomen Township purchased the land in 2011 for open space purposes using $500,000 drawn from the township’s open space tax. “The township now believes that this land is not optimal for open space purposes and therefore desires to sell this tract to the highest bidder to be developed as elderly residential housing units consistent with its current zoning,” according to the county. The plan has been approved by the township supervisors as well as the Planning Commission, but the Open Space Lands Act requires the township to hold a referendum to determine if the voters approve of the sale on these terms.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/16/2017
Lower Merion to consider medical marijuana ordinance
Lower Merion Township officials recently voted to advertise a public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 15, to discuss a medical marijuana ordinance. As the ordinance is currently written, medical marijuana grower facilities are permitted in the M Zoning District (the old industrial area along Righters Ferry Road once used for manufacturing). Medical marijuana dispensaries would be permitted in the Rock Hill Overlay District and in the City Avenue Regional Center District. An academic clinical research center would also be permitted in the Medical Center District. There is a 1,000-foot separation requirement between medical marijuana uses and any schools, day care centers and religious facilities. Other restrictions under consideration include no drive-through service at dispensaries, no outdoor seating, no outdoor vending machines, no home delivery service and the prohibition of administering or consuming medical marijuana on the premises. Last year, Pennsylvania adopted Act 16, which authorizes the growing, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana to patients with qualifying medical conditions. Visit the Lower Merion Township website for more information.
Source: Main Line Times; 10/12/2017
Over-supply of apartments has city rents trending lower
With nearly 6,000 new apartment units slated to be completed in Philadelphia, there is stiff competition driving city rents lower. “We have a lot of units chasing relatively fewer renters,” said economist Kevin Gillen of Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. New apartment construction is outpacing the city’s population growth, creating a dynamic that is giving renters an edge in leasing negotiations. According to Zillow, median rents in Philadelphia are down for the first time in seven years. Greg Willet, top economist for real estate research firm RealPage, said that although the greater Center City area is witnessing a 3 percent drop in apartment occupancy compared with last year, there is still a 94 percent occupancy rate, which is “still reasonably healthy.” Philadelphia real estate broker Mike McCann is encouraged — even though the city’s population increases are lower than the national average, there are still significant year-over-year gains, reversing decades of suburban flight.
Source: WHYY.org; 10/17/2017
Coalition forms to promote city-suburban rail to King of Prussia
The King of Prussia Rail Coalition is a new group of business, civic and academic leaders formed to back SEPTA’s proposed Norristown High Speed Line extension to King of Prussia. The coalition will promote the rail project as a crucial link between the region’s largest suburban employment center and Philadelphia’s urban core. The group includes officials with the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the King of Prussia District business association, and officials with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. The organization was formed ahead of scheduled sessions in November to present the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in King of Prussia and Norristown. Click here for more information about the statement and sessions. In 2016, a group of critics said that the planned rail line would pass too close to existing homes, among other concerns. King of Prussia Rail Coalition members say the benefits of the project would be enormous.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/17/2017
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