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 5, 2020

 

General News

NAR responds to NFIP extension, renews calls for long-term reform, reauthorization
Congress passed and the president signed a continuing resolution that funds the government to Dec. 11 and extends insurance writing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through Sept. 30, 2021. National Association of Realtors® (NAR) President Vince Malta thanked lawmakers for acting, but said the job is not done. “As the 116th Congress nears its end, the House and Senate are missing a golden, bipartisan opportunity to move meaningful NFIP reform legislation authored by Chairwoman Maxine Waters and Ranking Member Patrick McHenry, which addresses the program’s viability and affordability,” Malta said in a statement. “NAR urges Congress to make long-term reform a priority moving forward."
Source: NAR; 9/30/2020

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.

Labor Department proposes independent contractor rule
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking revising its interpretation of independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) with a streamlined economic reality test in an effort to promote certainty for stakeholders, reduce litigation and encourage innovation in the economy. In determining a worker’s status as an employee or independent contractor, the proposed rule examines a workers’ economic independence based on:

  • The nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work (i.e., setting your own schedule; selecting your own projects; ability to work for others), and
  • The worker’s opportunity for profit and losses based on worker’s investment (i.e., individual management of investment or capital expenditure on material to further work)

Worker classification is governed by state and federal law. Authoritative federal guidance on this matter may help mitigate the increasing threats on the ability to be classified as an independent contractor posed by new state laws and courts around the country. Improper classification of a worker could result in penalties or legal action at the federal or state level, in addition to litigation by workers seeking unpaid minimum wage or overtime benefits under the FLSA. Comments on the proposed rule are due by Oct. 26. Given the timing of this proposed rule and how long it may take to finalize, the rule could be subject to repeal under the Congressional Review Act. The National Association of Realtors® will submit comments and encourages state and local associations and members to also consider providing feedback. Read more here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 9/29/2020

Tell lawmakers: Pass meaningful rental assistance legislation
The National Association of Realtors®, through its Home Ownership Matters advocacy campaign, is encouraging all Americans to urge their members of Congress to pass meaningful rental assistance legislation to ensure the stability of the housing market. Without fast action, the new federal eviction moratorium issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could spell disaster for renters and housing providers alike. Renters will accrue back payments they will never be able to repay, and mom-and-pop landlords and other housing providers will be unable to meet basic financial obligations, jeopardizing their ability to provide housing. Sign a petition urging action at the Home Ownership Matters website.

COVID Best Practice: Limit face-to-face contact
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Realtors® are encouraged to limit in-person activities, and minimize attendance to only the most critical individuals, while maintaining social distancing in all in-person interactions. Choose times that minimize contact, such as viewing commercial properties outside of business hours. Visit the Suburban Realtors® Alliance coronavirus page for more best practices and links to other resources.


Bucks County

SRA tells Falls Township it must improve U&O process
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) recently communicated with Falls Township officials to reiterate concerns about major problems in the township’s use and occupancy process. In the email, SRA president/CEO Jamie Ridge shared the results of a survey of Realtors® who had recently completed a transaction in Falls. Of the 27 respondents, 93% said that the process of obtaining a use and occupancy certificate was difficult. More than half said township staff did not return calls and emails. “My deal fell through because the inspection period expired due to no one calling us back to schedule it,” one respondent wrote. Last year, SRA staff met with Falls Township officials in a bid to improve the situation, but Realtors® have continued to experience problems there. “As an organization that represents all Realtors® in Bucks County and the other counties surrounding Philadelphia, we are interested in continuing to work with Falls to improve the use and occupancy process in a way that is beneficial to both the township and real estate consumers, including current residents,” Ridge said. 

Developer proposes three new 55-plus communities in Bristol Township
Developer John McGrath recently introduced plans for three 55-plus housing communities in Bristol Township. The plans encompass three former school sites within established neighborhoods in Levittown — the former John Fitch Elementary on Greenbrook Drive, Abraham Lincoln Elementary on Plumtree Place and George Washington Elementary on Crabtree Drive. McGrath aims to create communities that cater to “a lifestyle” and fill a need for senior housing. He will present development plans to the township in a few weeks that could possibly include hundreds of houses and apartments. Pricing is estimated to begin at $260,000 for the homes, with rentals at approximately $1,500 per month. McGrath Homes is no stranger to age-restricted communities, having built the Flowers Mill development in Middletown 23 years ago, a new concept at the time.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/28/2020

Upscale apartments proposed in Northampton
Developer Fieldstone Associates shared a plan to build 180 upscale apartments and a small amount of commercial/retail on 12 acres of township-owned land in the Richboro section of Northampton. Fieldstone proposes to lease the land — located off Township Road near Upper Holland Road — from the township. The proposed project would consist of six apartment buildings, three and four stories high, and 3,400 square feet of commercial/retail space. The complex would be “walkable” and include a clubhouse with a game room, meeting space, and other amenities including an outdoor pool and grilling stations. It is estimated that the one- and two-bedroom apartments would range from 850 to 1,400 square feet, with monthly rent ranging from $1,700 to $2,250. No vote was taken, and the supervisors emphasized the proposed plan would have to gain approvals over the next few months before it can move forward.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/24/2020

New Britain to adopt comprehensive plan
New Britain Borough Council will hold a hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m. to consider adoption of a new comprehensive plan. The link for the remote meeting, as well as additional information related to participating, is available on the borough website. The New Britain Borough 2020 Comprehensive Plan sets forth the policies and principles of the borough, identifies the borough’s short- and long-range goals, and makes recommendations to guide municipal action. The comprehensive plan contains sections on community vision, community character, economic development, natural resources, traffic and walkability, and implementation strategy. The full text of the draft plan is on the borough website.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/22/2020

1st District Congressional candidates forum set for Oct. 12
The League of Women Voters of Bucks County and the Bucks County Chambers of Commerce will co-host a candidates forum for the 1st Congressional District with Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Democratic challenger Christina Finello. The forum will be livestreamed on the League of Women Voters of Bucks County’s Facebook page on Monday, Oct. 12, from 8 to 9 a.m. The forum is a public, nonpartisan event to inform voters about the background and views of the candidates on important issues. Click here to submit a question for the forum by the Oct. 2 deadline.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/24/2020

Chester County 

Chesco sets ballot drop-off locations
The Chester County Board of Elections approved measures to ensure the eligible ballots of all voters are counted, including the placement of 11 secure drop-off locations and two satellite election offices. The drop boxes will open Tuesday, Oct. 13, for residents to securely return their completed mail-in or absentee ballots. The locations include 10 libraries in the county, plus the Chester County Government Services Center on Westtown Road in West Chester. Two other libraries — Henrietta Hankin Library in Chester Springs and Oxford Public Library — will serve as satellite election offices to the main Voter Services Office in West Chester. Voters will be able to formally request and receive mail-in ballots at the satellites, as well as submit their completed mail-in ballots there. The county’s comprehensive election portal has an interactive map that allows voters to enter their address to find the sites closest to them. Chester County’s polling places will be set up to ensure the maximum level of personal protection against COVID-19, with mapped-out, six-foot social distancing, plexiglass shields, hand sanitizer and handwashing facilities, provision of masks, gloves and sanitation kits for all poll workers, regular cleaning of pens and voting stations, and specialized disinfectant for scanning machines.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 9/29/2020

Tredyffrin Township Building to reopen
Administrative staff will return to the renovated Tredyffrin Township Building on DuPortail Road the week of Oct. 13, after a year in their temporary location on Cassatt Road. A virtual tour showcasing the renovations will soon be available on the township website. The renovations included new flooring, paint, HVAC improvements, office space and conference room reconfiguration. The building will be open to the public on Tuesday, Oct. 13, with social distancing and COVID guidelines in place. Anyone who can conduct township business by phone or email is encouraged to do so. Township meetings will continue to be held virtually via the Zoom platform.
Source: Tredyffrin Township; 9/24/2020

Phoenixville to consider stormwater management amendments
Phoenixville Borough Council will consider an ordinance to amend the stormwater management ordinance. The new section will prohibit roof drains and sump pumps. The borough’s website has a section for proposed ordinances, but the stormwater management ordinance has not been added yet. The draft ordinance will be considered at a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. at Phoenixville Borough Hall, 351 Bridge St.
Source: Mercury; 9/28/2020

North Coventry trail and park improvements on track
North Coventry Township supervisors continue to push ahead with plans for open space and trails. At a recent meeting, the supervisors approved a design contract with the McMann Associates engineering firm to undertake the first two phases of a trail plan to connect Kenilworth Park with the extension of the Schuylkill River Trail, which will soon be extended from Parker Ford to Pottstown. The connection will cross Route 724 and will require studies of wetlands, property ownership and easements. The approved contract for the first two phases of the project is $37,500. The project is estimated to cost from $150,000 to $200,000, said Township Manager Erica Batdorf, and a Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation grant will cover part of the cost. The board also voted to apply for an annual PECO Green Region grant to cut another $10,000 off the township's bottom line. Another trail connection was impacted by the approval of a "friendly condemnation" on two vacant lots off Chestnut Hill Road totaling about six acres. Open Space Committee Chairman Chris Washburn said the parcels will allow for a trail extension to Coventry Woods Park, which will keep hikers off Chestnut Hill Road along a particularly steep passage. The cost for the property is roughly $150,000, and part of that cost has already been covered by a grant from Chester County.
Source: Daily Local; 9/30/2020

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

Delaware County

Delco Council holds special meeting to discuss CARES Act funding
Delaware County Council held a special meeting to discuss potential uses for the remainder of the $98.9 million in Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding that the county received. A total of $56 million has been spent or committed, leaving $43 million available. Funding was allocated for PPE and sanitation, public health services and outreach, financial assistance to business owners, nonprofit organizations and schools, equipment, and services to allow for the continuity of government during the pandemic, and other uses to meet the needs of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the CARES Act, the qualifying goods and services employing these funds must be received by Dec. 30. A recording of the meeting is available on the county website.
Source: Delaware County; 9/29/2020

Upper Chichester seeks to appoint tax collector
The Upper Chichester Township Board of Commissioners is seeking applicants for the position of appointed tax collector. By law, the tax collector must be a registered voter in Upper Chichester Township, not hold an elected office, and not be a current employee of Upper Chichester Township. The appointed individual will have 60 days to complete the basic training and obtain state certification. Residents interested in applying can submit resumes by Oct. 12 to: Attn: Township Manager, Re: Tax Collector Position, P.O. Box 2187, Boothwyn, PA 19061.
Source: Upper Chichester Township; 9/25/2020

Officials hold census events in Delco to boost count
U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-5) and state Sen. Tim Kearney (D-26) did a full-on press — complete with caravans — to encourage people to fill out their U.S. Census forms. According to recent data, 190,000 people haven’t been counted yet in Delaware County, and more than 700,000 in Philadelphia County. “Each congressional district is about 750,000 people,” Scanlon said. “We could have an extra congressional district instead of one less — and that’s not even until we get to the millions and millions and millions of dollars that it brings to the region.” Census officials have said that each person equates to $2,000 in federal and state funding for the next 10 years in services like hunger relief, education, transportation and infrastructure, health care and more. The census results will have long-term impacts, including where and how much of a COVID-19 vaccine will be dispersed when it becomes available. Because of the pandemic, the deadline was extended to the end of October. The response rate was 72.3% in Delaware County as of Sept. 26. More information can be found on the 2020 U.S. Census website
Source: Daily Times; 9/26/2020

Newtown lays out budget timeline
In March 2019, Newtown Township supervisors appointed 10 individuals to the strategic planning advisory committee, which was tasked with gathering information to develop a plan for the next five years. The strategic plan will be the blueprint for the 2021 budget as well as future budgets. The objectives laid out by the strategic plan are to: ease traffic congestion, support environmental initiatives, encourage smart growth, make township government more accessible, and strengthen community culture. The township has conducted budget workshops, reviewing past and current spending plans in detail to help residents understand where tax dollars are being spent. In October, there will be two budget presentations made to the board of supervisors on Mondays, Oct.12 and 26. View the meeting schedule on the township website. The 2021 budget is expected to be adopted on Monday, Nov. 23, and the supervisors will consider passage of a fee schedule and real estate tax ordinance on Monday, Dec. 14.
Source: Newtown Township; Fall 2020

Montgomery County

Norristown to consider sale of sewer system
Norristown Council has two proposed ordinances slated for consideration that will approve the sale of the municipality’s wastewater system to Aqua Pennsylvania. Proposed Ordinance No. 2020-14 requires the Norristown Municipal Waste Authority to convey the sewer system — including all monies, funds and property, real, personal and mixed, and all contracts related thereto — to the municipality. It also authorizes the municipality’s assumption of authority obligations, and confirms that the municipality’s use of authority funds will be in accordance with the Municipal Authorities Act. The second proposed ordinance, No. 2020-15, repeals Ordinance 2020-11 in its entirety, approves the sale of all the assets, properties and rights of the municipality’s sewer system to the purchaser Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc., authorizes the execution of an asset purchase agreement between the municipality and Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc., and removes the Norristown Municipal Waste Authority as a party to the asset purchase agreement. Both ordinances will be considered on Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Norristown Municipal Hall, 235 E. Airy St. A full text copy of the ordinances is available for inspection and copying at Municipal Hall. Visit the Norristown website for information regarding the public hearing.
Source: Times Herald; 9/28/2020

Towamencin budget better than expected in wake of coronavirus
Towamencin Township supervisors reviewed various aspects of the township’s 2020 and 2021 budgets during a recent meeting and got a bit of good news. The impact of COVID-19 on the township’s financials has been less than expected, said Supervisor Dan Littley. The township’s earned income tax and local services tax revenue is about $184,000 over 2019 levels, while real estate transfer taxes are below 2019 levels by roughly $120,800. Littley said, "Overall, at this point, no major concerns were noted with the township's present standing." A series of online meetings to discuss the 2021 budget in detail will be held on Wednesdays, Oct. 7 and 21 and Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. Board Chairman Chuck Wilson noted that the 2021 budget is tentatively scheduled for release on Wednesday, Nov. 11, with formal adoption on Wednesday, Dec. 9. For more information, visit the Towamencin Township website.
Source: The Reporter; 9/29/2020

Whitpain to hear land development proposal
The Whitpain Township Board of Supervisors will hear an informal presentation regarding a potential land development proposal for property on the south side of the intersection of Skippack Pike and Meehan Boulevard, in front of Whitpain Hills. The presentation will be given by representatives of Rouse Chamberlain Associates. The supervisors welcome the public to attend the virtual meeting and note that the meeting is for information purposes only, as no formal applications have been submitted for review. The presentation will be held during the board’s work session meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 5 p.m. Click here for more information.
Source: Whitpain Township; 9/24/2020

Norristown budget hearings underway
Norristown Municipality has announced that public hearings for the general operating budget for 2021 will begin in early October. The first public hearings on the budget were held on Oct. 1, and another is set for Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 6:30 p.m. Click here for information about participating in the hearings.
Source: Norristown Municipality; 9/23/2020

Montgomery County approves ballot drop boxes
Montgomery County Commissioners, serving as the Montgomery County Board of Elections, approved a proposal to place 10 secure ballot drop boxes across the county for the Nov. 3 general election. Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence voted in favor of the drop boxes, with Commissioner Joe Gale dissenting. Click here to view the secure drop box locations. The Board of Elections also authorized the relocation of nearly 50 polling places for in-person voting. The changes impacted 47 precincts in Abington, Ambler, Cheltenham, East Norriton, Franconia, Hatboro, Jenkintown, Lansdale, Lower Merion, Lower Providence, Lower Salford, Norristown, Plymouth, Pottstown, Souderton, Springfield, Upper Gwynedd, Upper Merion, Upper Providence and West Norriton. Impacted voters will receive a written notice of any changes to polling places. Click here for the Montgomery County Voter Services website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/24/2020

Philadelphia

City begins phased opening of satellite voting offices
City elections officials approved a plan to open 15 new satellite elections offices where voters can request, receive, fill out and submit a mail ballot in one stop. People can also visit the offices to register to vote, to request a mail ballot to take home and submit later, or to drop off a completed mail ballot. Click here to see the office locations and open dates.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/23/2020

 
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