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Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
NAR responds to administration proposal to reform Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

Bucks County
Bensalem approves 106 more townhouses at Waterside community 

Chester County
Embreeville Redevelopment zoning hearing postponed 

Delaware County
SEPTA upgrades Secane station

Montgomery County
New Hanover Town Center project raising concern 

Philadelphia County
Center City developers benefit the most from city’s tax abatement 

 

News Briefs Archive Sept. 9, 2019

 

General News

Redistricting Reform Commission releases anti-gerrymandering proposal
A state commission formed by Gov. Tom Wolf has released a report calling for an overhaul of the process by which congressional district boundaries are determined. The recommendations by the Redistricting Reform Commission include: forming an 11-member bipartisan commission that would submit three maps to lawmakers to choose from; setting specific, nonpartisan criteria for how the lines should be drawn; and requiring all data be made public. The Redistricting Reform Commission members were appointed by Wolf last year after the state Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s congressional map and sparked a bitter political and legal fight. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 8/29/2019

Gov. Wolf announces ‘Lead-Free Pennsylvania’ initiative
Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his initiative to create a lead-free Pennsylvania by boosting local response efforts, training more lead-abatement professionals, and increasing access to blood testing for children in alignment with federal guidelines. The governor was joined at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Karabots Pediatric Center in West Philadelphia by hospital officials and medical staff, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, and legislators. “Pennsylvania has the sixth-highest percentage rate for children suffering from lead poisoning and this is only the number who have been formally diagnosed,” Gov. Wolf said. “This is not good for the future of Pennsylvania, so today I am calling for the legislature to pass universal lead testing this fall.” Currently, only about 30% of children in Pennsylvania have been tested for lead, and about 4.6% of those children had elevated blood lead levels. Click here for the press release.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/28/2019

Bucks County

Solebury schedules Sept. 24 meeting for Route 202 corridor discussion
The Solebury Township Board of Supervisors will hold its second of several community meetings seeking public input on how best to handle potential development along the Route 202 corridor. The supervisors are exploring a larger venue for the meeting after an overflow crowd at a previous meeting. Board members want to hear what residents would and would not like to see along 202, to understand concerns and to listen to suggestions on steps the board might take to ensure that the Route 202 corridor better fits the character of the township. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. Visit www.soleburytwp.org for up-to-date meeting location information.
Source: Solebury Township; 8/30/2019

Lead testing results raise questions in Bucks school districts
Recent water testing in the Central Bucks School District found high lead levels in some schools. The district posted the water test results on its website in August and alerted the school community through an email blast. Pennsylvania law doesn’t require school districts to test for lead. A law passed in 2018 gives districts a second option of only discussing lead at a public meeting — which may be sparsely attended by parents. While Central Bucks publicly posted the results and is now remediating all water sources with lead above 5 parts per billion, details for other districts are harder to come by. Beth Rementer, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said, “School districts are not required to report to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) if they choose the public meeting route and when they discuss it. Schools that find elevated lead levels as defined in the law must report the information to PDE, and PDE must post the results to its website.” Click here for the full article.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/25/2019

Pennridge Regional Police propose 2.6% budget hike
Pennridge Regional Police Commission members got a first look at the department’s draft 2020 budget. The proposal could increase the budget by 2.6%, according to Pennridge Regional Police Chief Rodney Blake. The department serves East Rockhill and West Rockhill townships. Any increase in costs to the townships will depend on how much, if any, money to cover the increase is taken from department reserve funds. The commission is still reviewing the numbers, and changes could still be made before the budget is finalized.
Source: The Reporter; 9/1/2019 

State Sen. Collett announces town hall
State Sen. Maria Collett (D-12) will hold a town hall meeting on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Horsham Township Library Meeting Room, 435 Babylon Road. The 12th District includes parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties. Click here for more information about the town hall and here for the district boundaries.

Chester County 

Oxford Area Sewer Authority sale likely to be scuttled
The sale of the Oxford Area Sewer Authority assets and debts to DELCORA appeared to be a done deal in May, but now it looks like the sale will not take place. Three representatives from DELCORA were at the Aug. 29 authority board meeting with an update of changes to their situation that are deal breakers. The authority began to seriously seek a buyer for the sewer system more than a year ago, as a way to get out from under its debt. Early on, the board voted to sell only to another municipal authority rather than a privately held company. DELCORA, which serves a number of Delaware County municipalities, fit that requirement. Now, DELCORA is talking with Aqua Pennsylvania about a potential merger that would absorb the DELCORA Authority into the for-profit Aqua. Although a deal is not firm, the possibility of DELCORA merging with Aqua effectively ends the sale of the Oxford system to DELCORA. The authority will continue to operate the sewer system as usual, and again try to find a way to pay over $1.2 million in delinquent payments on a $27 million USDA loan. The USDA has written to the authority asking for at least $600,000 of the past due amount by the end of this year and the remainder by June 2020, in addition to regular payments.
Source: Daily Local; 9/30/2019

Hankin to build $100 million project at Eagleview
The Hankin Group is building a $100 million senior-living facility in Eagleview, which will be a first for the mixed-use community in Exton. Called Eagleview Landing, the project will be developed in two phases and have a total of 284 units. The first phase, totaling $35 million, will consist of 62 personal-care and 45 memory-care units. The second phase will have independent-living units. Though a new type of housing for Eagleview, the addition of assisted living fits with the developer’s desire to follow the principles of new urbanism — a design movement focused on environmentally, walkable neighborhoods with a wide range of housing and job types — at the 800-acre community that has been a work in progress for three decades. Blue Harbor Senior Living, an Oregon-based operator of senior living facilities, will manage Eagleview Landing.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 8/23/2019 

East Marlborough to consider sidewalk maintenance ordinance
East Marlborough Township supervisors are considering a draft ordinance creating new sidewalk maintenance regulations. The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Monday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the East Marlborough Township Building, 721 Unionville Road, Kennett Square.
Source: Daily Local; 8/30/2019

West Nantmeal to consider property maintenance ordinance amendment
The West Nantmeal Township Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance amending the property maintenance and certificate of occupancy ordinance by adding a new section to require property owners to remove diseased or dangerous trees that obstruct the use of public roads. The ordinance will be considered at a public meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building located at 455 N. Manor Road, Elverson.
Source: Daily Local; 8/26/2019

West Chester schools to hold meeting on later school start times
The West Chester Area School District is holding an informational meeting on later school start times featuring internationally recognized adolescent sleep expert Dr. Wendy Troxel. The meeting comes ahead of the anticipated release of a report on school start times from the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission advisory committee, a bipartisan, bicamerial research agency. Chester County and southeastern Pennsylvania are at the forefront of a movement to institute later school start times for secondary schools, beginning with the Chadds Ford School District, which shifted the high school start time two years ago. The meeting will take place on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Rustin High School.
Source: Daily Local; 8/28/2019

Delaware County

Chester moves forward on riverfront redevelopment plan
Chester City Council passed a resolution approving $120,000 in funding from a state grant for the Riverfront Alliance of Delaware County’s (RADC) waterfront development master plan. The funding will go towards partial payment for the development of the plan, according to Lisa Gaffney, Chester Economic Development Authority (CEDA) deputy executive director and RADC executive director. Additional funding has come from RADC and CEDA, the Chester Redevelopment Authority, M&T Charitable Foundation, the City of Chester, Delaware County and the Philadelphia Union. The plan covers the area bounded by Route 291, the Delaware River, Highland Avenue and Norris Street, and is centered on Talen Energy Stadium — home of the Philadelphia Union — and the Wharf at Rivertown office building. The funding is part of a $182,000 grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development designed to shore up the city’s Act 47 exit strategy. Along with the master plan, it will also fund training for city finance employees and a feasibility study on possible fire department reductions. In addition to the area bounded by the RADC waterfront plan, city government is exploring development possibilities along the entirety of the waterfront as part of the exit strategy, according to the city’s chief financial officer, Nafis Nichols.
Source: Daily Times; 8/31/2019

DELCORA, Aqua meet the public to discuss merger plans
The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) and Aqua will hold a second open house to inform the public of the potential merger of the two entities. “A format like this gives people the opportunity to enter into a conversation on every topic, whether it’s environmental, employees or customer service,” Marc Lucca, president of Aqua Pennsylvania, said. “Hopefully, when people leave, they’ll have a more complete understanding of the process and a feeling that they’re part of the process.” On July 16, DELCORA entered an exclusive six-week due diligence period with Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater to consider a merger or acquisition. That has been extended until Oct. 1, so DELCORA could get a better idea of costs to the ratepayers if a sale to Aqua is completed. An open house informational meeting was held Sept. 4, and a second meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 11, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of Chester Community Charter School’s East Campus, 214 E. Fifth St. in Chester. Learn more here.
Source: Daily Times; 9/4/2019

Zoning board hears arguments over too-tall house in Radnor
The Radnor Township Zoning Hearing Board delayed making a decision regarding a duplex that was built on Garrett Avenue and is too high for the Garrett Hill zoning rules. The board agreed to rule at its Thursday, Sept. 19, meeting if the township and developer had not reached a settlement by then. The developer, David Brosso, testified that he relied on his architect to design a building within the township’s code and a company hired by the township to review buildings plans signed off on the design, so Radnor Township issued a building permit in October 2018. Residents of Garrett Hill, which has a special zoning overlay to keep the character of the district, noticed the house had a dormer that appeared much taller that others on the street and contacted Township Manager Robert Zienkowski in February. Zoning Officer Kevin Kochanski then contacted Brosso to say there was a problem. However, it was not until June that Kochanski issued an order to stop the work. Roofs in the Garrett Hill area are measured differently than the rest of Radnor, consequently the house is 5-feet 4-inches taller than permitted.
Source: Daily Times; 9/2/2019

New Springfield High School is on the rise
Springfield School District’s new high school, expected to open in September 2020, will have be a state-of-the-art facility to advance the district’s three pillars: academics, athletics and the arts. The path to creating the school has taken 10 years, with five well-attended town hall meetings. After consideration of multiple locations, the board chose the portion of district-owned property on South Rolling Road at the SEPTA rail line. During the 2018-2019 school year, construction began on the school, which will measure just under 250,000 square feet. The existing stadium and main gym were demolished, and the steel structure has been largely completed. The building is expected to be “under roof” as soon as conditions warrant. Residents, taxpayers and other interested parties can continue to see updates at the district website,  www.ssdcougars.org. School board member Kevin Keenan said those who want more information and involvement are welcome to attend meetings of the facilities committee, which are held at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.
Source: Springfield Press; 9/2/2019

Media Borough installs new parking kiosks in courthouse district
Media Borough has begun the installation of kiosks within the courthouse district to replace the current outdated meters. The locations include: the Front Street parking lot, Front Street from Olive Street to Orange street, Veteran’s Square, and a portion of Olive and Orange streets. As the kiosks are installed, signage will be posted to clearly state the kiosks’ locations and payment methods. These kiosks will utilize pay-by-license plate. That means in order to park, you will need to type the vehicle’s license plate and select the amount of parking time. In addition, the kiosks will provide the capability for vehicle owners to pay by debit/credit card to park. Media Borough has also launched Passport Parking, an easy-to-use mobile app that can be used to pay for parking. The app will provide drivers a mobile payment option for parking spots throughout the borough. Drivers can download the free app from the App Store and Google Play, or manage their parking online at www.passportparking.com.  
Source: Delaware County; 8/19/2019

Montgomery County

Pottstown School District most underfunded in the county
Pennsylvania adopted a fair funding formula in 2016 meant to ensure the distribution of education resources is determined by demonstrable need. However, only a small portion of the state’s education budget each year is distributed using the fair funding formula guidelines. Were the state’s fair funding formula in place, Pottstown School District would have an additional $13.6 million available to improve education and lower its burdensome property tax rate. Instead, Pottstown received an additional $1 million in this year’s state budget. Measured on a per-student basis, the absence of the fair funding formula’s full application means Pottstown has the biggest funding shortfall in Montgomery County and ranks sixth in the state for inequitable funding. Read the full article by Evan Brandt of the Pottstown Mercury.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 8/31/2019

Realtors® needed for volunteering event in the park
Realtors® are invited to an outdoor volunteering opportunity at Village Center Park in Lower Frederick Township on Friday, Sept. 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The township is making improvements to the park ahead of its centennial celebration at the end of the month, and volunteers are needed to prune plants, pick weeds, pour concrete, paint tables and signs, and more. The National Association of Realtors® has selected the project to receive a Placemaking Grant, and Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® field operations manager Chuck Liedike, who also serves as a Lower Frederick Township supervisor, is coordinating the volunteer event. Members do not need to stay all morning if their schedules do not permit. Contact Erin Smist (esmist@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com) to RSVP or for more information. 

State Sen. Collett announces town hall
State Sen. Maria Collett (D-12) will hold a town hall meeting on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Horsham Township Library Meeting Room, 435 Babylon Road. The 12th District includes parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties. Click here for more information about the town hall and here for the district boundaries. 

Hatfield Township approves ‘Do Not Knock’ list
Hatfield Township commissioners recently approved an update to the township’s solicitation ordinance. The change allows homeowners to opt out of door-to-door visits from certain commercial companies. Solicitation permits are currently issued by the township police department to private companies, and anyone applying for a permit must pass a background check and take a picture for a photo ID that any resident can ask them to present. Residents can now opt into a “Do Not Knock” list that will prohibit certain companies from approaching those residences. Religious, political, nonprofit and fundraisers are exempt from the new regulation.
Source: The Reporter; 8/28/2019

Norristown to offer ‘Citizens’ Leadership Academy’
The Municipality of Norristown will offer its seventh Citizens’ Leadership Academy to provide residents and business owners the chance to learn more about how the municipality is run. The free, eight-week program is designed to help residents develop skills as community leaders and gain an understanding of how local government operates. The fall session will be held on Thursdays, Sept. 26 through Nov. 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building, 235 E. Airy St. Class sizes are limited. Click here for application information.
Source: Times Herald; 8/30/2019

Philadelphia

Muslims in Philadelphia face more housing disadvantages than non-Muslims, report says
In a new report drawn from a case study of Philadelphia, Muslims were found to face more housing inequality, or “residential disadvantages,” than non-Muslims. The report — published in the journal Demography and titled “Muslim-Non-Muslim Locational Attainment in Philadelphia: A New Fault Line in Residential Inequality?” — concluded that, “Muslims live in neighborhoods that have significantly lower shares of whites and greater representations of blacks." Samantha Friedman, a co-author and an associate professor of sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, noted that, "Predominantly white neighborhoods offer the best access to educational opportunities, economic opportunities, and they have better environmental quality.” The report also found that “among blacks, Muslims are significantly less likely than non-Muslims to reside in suburbs.” Friedman said Philadelphia was chosen because its Muslim population of about 1% mirrors trends in metropolitan areas across the country. However, it is unique among American cities in that the majority of its Muslim residents are African American, whereas nationally, blacks are only 20% of the faith. Philadelphia was also selected for the study because the metropolitan region ranks fourth in the country in the number of mosques. “We find that Muslims experience greater residential disadvantage than non-Muslims in Philadelphia," the report said. “Moreover, black Muslims face a double disadvantage due to both their race and their religion.” Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/4/2019



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