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 October 29, 2018

 

General News

Pennsylvania General Election on Nov. 6
The 2018 general election is fast approaching on Nov. 6. The Pennsylvania Realtors® Political Action Committee is actively engaging in numerous state legislative races. RPAC recently launched a new tool on the PAR website that highlights the candidates RPAC has endorsed for the general election. Check out the Election Guide and see the candidates RPAC is supporting in your legislative districts. For more information about voting or applying for an absentee ballot, please visit www.votespa.com. REMINDER: If you need to apply for an absentee ballot to vote in the general election, the deadline to apply is Oct. 30.

Federal Opportunity Zones could bring billions in real estate investment
The Investing in Opportunity Act led to the creation of some 8,700 Opportunity Zones across the nation that could potentially lead to billions of dollars in real estate investment and development and help revitalize some struggling urban and rural areas. The Qualified Opportunity Zones were created as a tool for promoting long-term investment in low-income communities. Through this program, investors are provided tax benefits for investing capital gains in low-income community census tracts, as well as certain tracts adjacent to low-income tracts. The new tax incentive is for private investors making private equity investments in funds that will then invest in businesses, real estate, and other ventures in low-income communities. The zones were designated by governors with input from local officials and ultimately approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. Pennsylvania had close to 1,200 eligible Census tracts, of which 300 were made into Opportunity Zones. The list of approved tracts, an interactive map, and additional information about the opportunity zone program can be found at DCED’s Qualified Opportunity Zones website. The Philadelphia zones are mainly along the waterfront, North Broad Street and in the University City area. Montgomery County zones include Pottstown and Norristown; Coatesville in Chester County; Croyden and Bristol Borough in Bucks County; and Chester City in Delaware County. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is still in the process of developing the Opportunity Zones program, and the IRS is expected to provide further information regarding opportunities for investment in zones in the coming months.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 10/19/2018

Bucks County

Bensalem school board to consider arts charter school application
The Bensalem Township School District Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on a proposed arts charter high school on Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Bensalem High School, 4319 Hulmeville Road. The school would be located at the 40,000-square-foot former TruMark Financial Credit Union headquarters at 1000 Northbrook Drive near the Neshaminy Mall. The charter applicant is TLC Arts, which has started four arts charter schools across the Lehigh Valley, including a high school in Bethlehem, a middle school in Salisbury, and elementary schools in Easton and Allentown. TLC Arts founder and CEO Thomas Lubben said he hopes to open the school for the 2019-2020 academic year. The school would offer majors in dance, figure skating, music, theater, and literary and visual arts. Students from the surrounding region that are interested in attending would have to pass an audition. The proposal could meet with some opposition from the Bensalem school board; the district will pay $14 million in charter school tuition this academic year. Under state charter school law, public school districts must pay the per-pupil cost as tuition for any students living within their borders who opt to attend charters. For more information about the proposed arts charter school, visit www.tlcbucks.org.
Source: The Intelligencer; 10/14/2018

Taxes steady in Upper Makefield preliminary budget
Upper Makefield Township officials are working out a preliminary township budget for 2019 that would maintain the current municipal property tax rate for 2019. If approved, the tax rate would remain at 7.6025 mills – with 0.75 for fire support and 6.8525 to cover voter-approved debt related to open space preservation/conservation. A mill is equal to $1 of every $1,000 in assessed property value. An Upper Makefield property assessed at $70,000 would owe $532 in municipal property taxes for 2019. Supervisors are looking to approve a final budget in December.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/18/2018

Veterans housing approved in Bensalem
Bensalem Township Council unanimously approved a proposal for a three-story apartment building with 41 residences off Mechanicsville Road. Developer Pennrose Properties will work with local veterans affairs officials and groups to identify prospective veteran residents before formally marketing the community, said Jacob Fisher, regional vice president for Pennrose. Fisher estimated there are about 12,000 residents above the age of 62 in Bensalem, with about 1,700 veterans. The community will be age-restricted to individuals 62 years and older, and the majority of the units will be held for occupants with annual incomes between $32,000 and $38,500, with monthly rent around $749 to $913. Pennrose will market the property broadly to remain in compliance with fair housing regulations while still ensuring veterans can occupy as many of the residences as possible.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/16/2018

Special budget meeting in Bridgeton Township
The Bridgeton Township Supervisors will hold a special meeting to prepare the proposed 2019 budget on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 1370 Bridgeton Hill Road, Upper Black Eddy, PA. Visit the township website for up-to-date meeting information.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/18/2018

Chester County 

County officials’ tackle affordable housing, urban centers
Housing choices for all residents is becoming an important topic of discussion in Chester County these days, and developers, municipal officials and experts recently shared ideas for how to tackle this issue during the county’s Urban Centers Forum. Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline noted that the county’s 15 boroughs and the City of Coatesville, known as urban centers, “are a key focus within the county and their success is critical to the county’s overall success.” Kichline said that continued revitalization of the urban centers is a core principal of Landscapes3, the update to the county comprehensive plan, which is moving forward toward adoption. A public hearing focused on Landscapes3 is scheduled for Nov. 29, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Uptown Performing Arts Center in West Chester. Commissioners’ Vice Chair Kathi Cozzone said there was significant discussion of various issues related to housing during the development of the revised comprehensive plan. “This forum will continue that discussion and assist the county in determining future actions and collaboration to provide appropriate housing options,” said Cozzone.
Source: Daily Local; 10/18/2018

Elverson to consider point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections
Elverson Borough will consider requiring the inspection of sanitary sewer laterals at the point of sale. Any sanitary sewer lateral connected to the treatment and collection system owned and operated by the Municipal Authority of the Borough of Elverson would be impacted. The ordinance will be considered for adoption on November 6 at 7 p.m. at Elverson Borough Hall (101 S. Chestnut St. Elverson, PA). The Alliance staff has reviewed a copy of the ordinance, and commentary will be submitted to the borough council.Source: Daily Local; 10/22/2018

Protecting community character in the Brandywine Valley
The Brandywine Conservancy is helping The Conservation Fund in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association to promote “Dollars and Sense of Protecting Community Character in the Brandywine Valley.” The event is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Pilot School in Wilmington. Ed McMahon, a leading national expert on community development will make the presentation. McMahon, of the Urban Land Institute, is a noted author, attorney, and lecturer with expertise in economic development, tourism promotion, and historic preservation and has worked with communities across the country and around the world. Attendees will learn about major tools that can be used to protect community character including education, voluntary initiatives, and other non-regulatory action as well as alternatives to conventional residential and commercial development. The evening’s program will also include an opportunity to meet and greet local government representatives, local and regional organizations, and community members interested in protecting and stewarding the Brandywine Valley's community character and natural, cultural, and historical assets to drive local economic development, tourism, and more. For more information and registration for the public event, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/mcmahonevent.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 10/16/2018

Kennett Square officials eliminate ‘free rides’ on sewage pump stations
The revision of an 18-year-old sewer-services agreement with Kennett Square means no more free ride on maintaining Kennett Township’s pump stations. Township Manager Lisa Moore told the township board of supervisors this week that the agreement with Kennett Square, which provides the township with its public sewer services, had not been updated since 2000 and no longer reflected the actual situation. Township staff worked on a new agreement with the borough’s manager and public works director. The most substantial change in the new agreement, Moore said, is that the borough asked the township to begin paying for the maintenance of pump stations in the township, which currently number eight. The borough said that for management, maintenance, general oversight and labor and equipment rental, each of the eight pump stations would require a fee of $5,500 a year from the township. “We’ve really been getting that service in essence for free” since 2000, Moore said. There is a cost savings for the township in paying the borough for the maintenance. The work requires a trained and licensed crew, which the borough has in place. Moore said the township would have to look into whether this agreement would translate into a rise in sewer fees for households because the current fees only cover what the township was already paying the borough. About 1,000 township residents use public sewer services.
Source: Daily Local; 10/22/2018

Delaware County

Delco to borrow $40M, including $10 million for open space
Delaware County Council approved the borrowing of $40 million, including $10 million that will be set aside to create the county's first fund specifically for open-space acquisition. Council approved directing Calhoun Baker Inc. to instruct the Delaware Valley Regional Finance Authority to issue $40 million of general obligation notes. "This will be the first time, I believe, in Delaware County where we have raised or specifically set aside funds ... in order to create an open-space fund," said County Council Chairman John McBlain. "It is my firm hope that this is a very good start ... that that $10 million can turn into $20 or $30 million for the continuing preservation and improvements to our open space parks and recreation." He said Delaware County had been reported as having 20.1 percent of its land preserved, compared to 13.6 percent for Philadelphia; 19.6 percent for Bucks; 13 percent for Montgomery; and 26 percent for Chester. In addition to the open-space allocation, the borrowing will distribute $4 million for the demolition of the Toal Building and the Orange Street garage, which is underway; $2.5 million for renovations to the Fifth and Penn streets building in Chester, which houses Adult Probation staff; $3.2 million for renovations to the state police crime lab; $12 million for the three-year overhaul of Building 8 at the Fair Acres Geriatric Center; $2.5 million for the county's SEPTA capital improvement contribution; $2 million for the remaining amount on the $6 million countywide reassessment contract; and $3.7 million for courthouse, government center, prison and juvenile detention renovations and the purchase of vehicles and IT equipment.
Source: Delco News Network; 10/19/2018

Ridley Park considers an earned-income tax
An earned-income tax may be on the horizon for residents of Ridley Park Borough. Borough Council voted at its October meeting to have Solicitor Ernie Angelos prepare a draft ordinance for the establishment of an EIT for presentation at council’s Nov. 7 workshop meeting. The solicitor said the ordinance would have to be advertised once a week for three weeks after the draft is accepted by council, leading Councilman Mike Gale to make a motion to have a public meeting within 14 days of the initial publication of the EIT ordinance. Council agreed to the motion. No date has been set for the public meeting.  An EIT would apply to residents of the community and to none-residents who work in the borough. An EIT applies only to earned income. “After five years of no tax increase, it’s going to be either a property tax increase or an EIT,” council President Jim Glenn said.  Glenn estimated that an EIT could bring in between $800,000 and $1 million in revenue. He said 18 municipalities in Delaware County have EITs, and noted that borough residents who work in a municipality that has an EIT would not pay the tax twice. Where a person lives takes precedence over where they work in paying an EIT.
Source: Daily Times; 10/24/2018

Radnor proposes budget holding taxes steady for 2019
Radnor Township officials presented on Monday a 2019 budget that shows $34.5 million in revenue but also a $340,000 deficit. However, Township Manager Robert Zienkowski and William White, finance director, said a real estate tax increase will not be needed to close the gap. There will be a 10 percent sewer rent increase the board of commissioners had voted for in 2017 for each year for three years starting in 2018. While the sewer fee is going up, there is still a lot of work needed on the aging township sanitary sewer system, and the township will need to decide how to fund the fixes needed for that infrastructure, White said. At a previous meeting, township commissioners nixed the idea of selling the sewer system to an outside entity. The stormwater fee will also remain unchanged. There will be hearings on Oct. 29 and Nov. 19 to iron out details before the scheduled budget adoption on Dec. 10. Zienkowski also spoke about a study that is underway of the township’s street trees. Quite a few of the trees are in poor condition and need to be removed or trimmed, which will be an expensive proposition. In addition, he said that there are sidewalks that need to be repaired.
Source: Suburban Main Line Times; 10/24/2018

Protecting community character in the Brandywine Valley
The Brandywine Conservancy is helping The Conservation Fund in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association to promote “Dollars and Sense of Protecting Community Character in the Brandywine Valley.” The event is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Pilot School in Wilmington. Ed McMahon, a leading national expert on community development will make the presentation. McMahon, of the Urban Land Institute, is a noted author, attorney, and lecturer with expertise in economic development, tourism promotion, and historic preservation and has worked with communities across the country and around the world. Attendees will learn about major tools that can be used to protect community character including education, voluntary initiatives, and other non-regulatory action as well as alternatives to conventional residential and commercial development. The evening’s program will also include an opportunity to meet and greet local government representatives, local and regional organizations, and community members interested in protecting and stewarding the Brandywine Valley's community character and natural, cultural, and historical assets to drive local economic development, tourism, and more. For more information and registration for the public event, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/mcmahonevent.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 10/16/2018

Montgomery County

Souderton eyes 4.9 percent tax hike for 2019
Souderton Borough officials took a first look at a preliminary budget for 2019 that includes a 4.9 percent tax increase. The proposed 0.27-mill increase includes an additional 0.20 mills for the general fund, 0.03 mills for the library, and 0.04 for fire protection. It amounts to a $40.50 increase in the property tax of a home assessed at $150,000. A draft version of the budget included a 3.4 percent tax increase, but council President Brian Goshow pointed out that would only cover borough operations and not begin rebuilding the borough’s reserve fund. Council members agreed that it is time to build up some reserves and following some discussion, the consensus was to propose a 5.78 mill tax rate and place the extra money into reserves. The budget will officially be proposed in November.
Source: The Reporter; 10/24/2018

Lower Merion releases updated zoning code draft
Lower Merion Township will unveil a draft updated zoning code designed to implement recommendations of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. The draft code was to be made available to the public on October 24, 2018 online at www.LowerMerion.org/rezoning, in printed form at all township libraries, and upon request at the Township Administration Building. The draft zoning code will be previewed during two public presentations to the Building & Planning Committee of the Board of Commissioners. The first presentation, scheduled for November 7, at 6 p.m., will focus on the structure and substance of the new Zoning Code. A second presentation, scheduled for November 28, at 6 p.m., will provide initial feedback on the new code and its consistency with the township’s comprehensive plan. Check the official township calendar at www.LowerMerion.org for updates.
Source: Lower Merion Township; 10/17/2018

Norristown Council recognizes code department
Norristown Municipal Council honored members of the code enforcement team with a special proclamation at a recent work session. Council President Sonya Sanders read a proclamation declaring October 20, 2018, Building Code Enforcement Appreciation Day. Sanders credited Norristown Code Enforcement Manager Amrinder Singh and his team with continuing to increase inspections of building development, rehabs, and transfers and registration of foreclosed and abandoned homes and rental properties throughout the municipality. Using feedback from citizens, Sanders said the code department has furthered the goal of preventing neighborhood deterioration and blight while enhancing community safety. Singh accepted the proclamation along with staff from the code enforcement department.
Source: Times Herald; 10/24/2018

Narberth regulates plastic bags, single-use straws
Narberth Borough became the first community in the state of Pennsylvania to regulate plastic shopping bags from stores and single-use plastic straws at restaurants. Mayor Andrea Deutsch said, “We’re proud to have enacted the first ordinance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regulating the use of single-use plastic bags used by retailers and eliminating the use of straws by commercial food establishments except in the case of where they are reasonably needed to accommodate a person with a disability.” The new ordinance will go into effect in six months. Borough Council member Rob Greevey pointed to Narberth’s long history of environmental commitment. “We were a transit-oriented development before that term was even coined,” said Greevey, who also mentioned that this spring will be the 30th anniversary of NarbEarth Day in the community. He continued, “This is a moment when we recognize that municipalities need to step up when the national government and, in some cases, states are unable to, and Narberth is able to take that step.”
Source: Main Line Times; 10/24/2018

Philadelphia

Philadelphia renter spike higher than other big cities
Philadelphia has seen an increase in rental housing well above the national average and greater than most of the nation’s other large cities, over the last decade. The data, released by APM Research Lab and Marketplace, shows the percent of rented households in Philadelphia increased by more than 6 points between 2006 and 2016, to 47.9 percent – the third largest among the nation’s 10 most populous cities. The national increase was 4.2 percent. According to Kevin Gillen, senior research fellow at Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, the Great Recession led “to a shift from owning to renting, or at least delayed ownership for many households.” Gillen said rent increases in Philadelphia have recently curtailed as a large number of new rental units have come online and some have transitioned to homeownership, but that hasn’t resulted in significant rent declines. Click here for a map depicting the increase in renter housing in various cities.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 10/16/2018

New proposal for Italian Market improvement district introduced
A group of South Philadelphia residents fear for the future of the Italian Market and they think that only a business improvement district (BID) can save it — even though a similar campaign failed narrowly in 2016. “Two years later, we’ve had three butchers shops close, there’s even less foot traffic than in 2016, more businesses are considering closing or moving,” said Vern Anastasio, one of the principal organizers of the new BID campaign. “They can’t give the properties away because no one wants to buy them. And things are getting worse.”  On Monday night, Anastasio and his allies officially rolled out a proposal for the “South Philly Market Improvement District” at a meeting of the Bella Vista Neighbors Association. Business improvement districts (BIDs) levy a small assessment on business property owners within the district boundaries. The revenue collected goes to pay for additional services managed by the BID, usually related to security and cleaning. As proposed, the district would be bounded by Federal, Fitzwater, 8th and 10th streets, with some additional areas of Washington and Christian streets. Though residential property owners will not be asked to pay into the BID, they will benefit from clean-up efforts and improved infrastructure, including lighting, according to the BID organizers. The proposed BID’s principal aim would be to fight blight in the historic food market and the surrounding blocks, a destination for weekend tourists as well as savvy local shoppers unafraid to dodge the occasional trash barrel fire while perusing produce. A projected $75,000 would be spent on fighting blight in the first year, with roughly $63,000 on cleaning services.  The blight-fighting funds would be directed to 15 vacant properties on the 9th Street corridor, including some of the market’s iconic curbside stands, and 15 properties on the surrounding blocks. “These would be real funds offered to a property owner or a stand owner to activate those spaces with no additional funds required from them,” said Anastasio. “Turning those empty curb spaces into parklets, pop-up shops, food trucks, turning boarded up or vacant properties into art installations, or whatever.”
Source: Plan Philly; 10/23/2018


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