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General News
Registration is open for PAR’s Public Policy Training

Bucks County
Falls Township offers DocuSign, updates forms

Chester County
Kennett township manager: Fired workers weren’t directly involved in scandal

Delaware County
County begins sending new assessment notices, announces 10-day review window

Montgomery County
Developer discusses 279-unit mixed-use building in Ardmore

Philadelphia County
Philly offers assistance program for first-time homebuyers

 

News Briefs Archive September 23, 2019

 

General News

PAR CEO talks flood insurance with state insurance commissioner
The National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) authority to renew and issue new policies is set to expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress acts to extend it. Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman recently talked with Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® CEO Mike McGee about flood insurance, how important it is for all homeowners to consider it, and what the state is doing to help homeowners find insurance. Watch the complete six-minute interview here. Altman said NFIP is about $25 billion in debt following the last several major storms, such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Congress has passed a law phasing out subsidies for high-risk properties, which is leading to higher NFIP premiums. As a result of fewer subsidies, private insurance companies are entering the market and offering more reasonable rates. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has created a one-stop flood insurance webpage for homeowners to see what options are available. The National Association of Realtors® has posted answers to frequently-asked-questions regarding the potential expiration of NFIP later this month.
Source: PAR JustListed; 9/13/2019

Bucks County

Former Falls code enforcement officer claims he was forced out
Thomas Bennett, the former chief code enforcement officer for Falls Township, claims he was forced out of his job because he refused to cave to pressure to approve an occupancy certificate for a home that posed safety risks. Township officials say Bennett had been misinterpreting state law despite their attempts to correct him, but he was not forced out. Bennett, who resigned from his position earlier this summer, spoke during the public comment portion of the Sept. 17 township supervisors meeting, describing a property with “numerous substantial” electrical problems, such as a lack of GFI-certified outlets, no carbon monoxide detector, and a six-inch opening at the bottom of a fence, with no locking mechanism, around a pool. Bennett said he was suspended for two-and-a-half days over his refusal to issue a certificate for the home and resigned after the suspension. Township solicitor Michael Clarke countered that Bennett was unaware of a change in the use and occupancy certificate laws and that he was wrongly interpreting the amended law, despite their attempts to inform him of the changes. Supervisors Chairman Robert Harvie denied that Bennett was forced out. The Pennsylvania Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act (MCOCA) establishes the procedures that municipalities must follow regarding property maintenance and code inspections upon the sale of residential property. MCOCA was amended by Act 133 in 2016 to address situations where the act was not being followed and real estate transactions were being held up or canceled for minor property maintenance violations. The amended law requires municipalities to issue temporary use and occupancy certificates or temporary access permits to homes with code violations found during the point-of-sale inspection.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/19/2019

Sellersville moves forward with Blighted Property Review Committee
Sellersville Borough Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that establishes a Blighted Property Review Committee. The committee will work in conjunction with a local redevelopment authority to compel owners of derelict properties to clean them up or enter into condemnation. Under Pennsylvania law, the committee is empowered to identify whether properties in the borough meet the legal definition of blight and recommend that the redevelopment authority get involved to correct the situation. Blight can include, but isn’t limited to, dilapidated buildings that are unsanitary, abandoned, unsafe, vermin-infested, or declared a public nuisance in accordance with local housing, building, plumbing, fire and related codes. The review committee will consist of the president of borough council, a second member from council, a member of the Sellersville Planning Commission, a member of the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority and an individual designated by the mayor of Sellersville.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/12/2019

Warrington sells sewer system for $16.4 million
Warrington Township approved the sale of the township sewer system to Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) for $16.4 million. BCWSA has agreed to a four-year rate lock at $6.15 per thousand gallons for the “standard retail wastewater” customer. Rates are expected to increase after four years, but Warrington customers will still be paying less over time than if the township kept the system, said BCWSA Chief Operating Officer John Butler. Authority officials confirmed that rates will level out after debt for some capital improvement projects is paid off within the next seven years. The sale included a stipulation that BCWSA will absorb the township employees that worked for the sewer system and make upgrades to pump stations in the township within two years. A copy of the purchase agreement and other information can be found at www.warringtontownship.org.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/16/2019

Federal court ruling could have implications for PennEast in Pennsylvania
A federal appeals court has blocked PennEast pipeline company from condemning state-owned land for its proposed 116-mile long line that would ship Marcellus Shale gas from northeast Pennsylvania to New Jersey. A ruling from a three-judge U.S. Third Circuit Court panel vacated an earlier decision by a federal judge in New Jersey who had ruled in favor of PennEast and granted the company access to condemn 42 properties preserved by the state for farmland or open space. PennEast, a proposed pipeline that would carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region of Central Pennsylvania through Northampton and a small portion of Bucks counties and into southern New Jersey, will affect 535 landowners in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection granted permits for the pipeline in 2017, but if the project doesn’t get approval from New Jersey, it may never come to fruition, said Timothy P. Duggan, who represents dozens of New Jersey landowners fighting the project. The court decision could affect the review of PennEast’s application before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection if the company is unable to acquire all of the property rights it needs to proceed. PennEast must also appear before the Delaware River Basin Commission for permission to construct a section of pipe under the Delaware River. PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said the company will review the court’s opinion in detail to determine their next steps but they “remain committed to moving forward” with the project.
Source: Morning Call; 9/11/2019

Hilltown Township proposed 2020 budget available for review
The proposed 2020 Hilltown Township budget is available for public review during normal business hours at the municipal building, 13 W. Creamery Road, Hilltown. The board of supervisors will consider possible adoption of the final 2020 budget at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/16/2019

Chester County 

East Marlborough residents seek traffic calming
East Marlborough Township supervisors heard several public comments about traffic at their monthly meeting. In one case, citizens were reacting to the board’s decision last month to allow the Tri-M Group to expand its Gale Lane facility without going through a new conditional use hearing. The supervisors also discussed the traffic on West Locust Lane. Ruthie Kranz-Carl, who lives on the winding, shoulderless road, said she asked for traffic-calming measures about a year ago, and since then the township has done speed studies, met with groups of residents, stepped up enforcement and put out radar speed signs. Residents said they were concerned that proposed development at the western end of Kennett Square could mean more traffic would flow north on Mill Road and then up West Locust toward Route 82. Township Manager Laurie Prysock said the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Route 82, Cedarbrook Road and the Route 1 bypass might improve traffic flow in that area enough to take some pressure off West Locust. The supervisors approved spending up to $7,000 to have a traffic study done to identify possible new measures to slow traffic on the road.
Source: Daily Local; 9/15/2019

County officials approve resolution to form census committee
Chester County Commissioners approved a resolution calling for the formation of a countywide Census 2020 Complete Count Committee to encourage all residents’ participation in the U.S. Census survey. The committee will be comprised of government and community leaders from education, business, health care and other community organizations. “The ultimate goal of the countywide committee is to maximize Chester County’s participation in the 2020 Census,” said Commissioners Chairwoman Michelle Kichline. “Ensuring that every county resident gets counted is important, since many federally funded grant programs are population-based, and our state and federal legislative districts are population based.” Approximately 522,000 people live in Chester County, according to 2018 census data, up from the 2010 Census count of about 499,000 residents. The population is expected to increase 30% over the next 30 years. “Chester County is the fastest-growing county in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Commissioner Terence Farrell said. “An accurate count of residents will help us plan for future growth and ensure the continuation of important services for all residents, including senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and those in need of housing assistance.” Census Day is April 1, 2020. Every household will have the option to respond to the short survey online, by mail or by phone. By law, the Census Bureau must keep all responses confidential and is not permitted to share answers with any other government agency.
Source: Daily Local; 9/16/2019

Daily Local to feature series on municipal revitalization
The Daily Local News is launching a series that will feature some of the communities receiving county revitalization funds, examining how officials are using the money. The series begins on Sunday, Sept. 22, with a feature on Phoenixville, Atglen and Honey Brook. Chester County Commissioners recently approved $2.5 million in Community Revitalization Program funding for a number of boroughs and the City of Coatesville. In total, nearly $70 million has been invested in the county since 2002 in all urban areas.
Source: Daily Local; 9/18/2019

Easttown Planning Commission begins discussions on Devon Center zoning changes
At an Easttown Planning Commission meeting, consultant Lisa Thomas gave an overview of proposed zoning changes to the Devon Center District. Residents in attendance expressed disappointment that the plans didn’t prevent high-density building. The question of whether to include the Devon Horse Show in the new zoning also came up. The Devon Task Force had excluded the horse show grounds, leaving many residents pleased that its R-3 zoning would remain. However, Thomas said the planning commission would ultimately decide whether the horse show should be included in the new zoning. Read more about the discussion at the meeting here. The planning commission has scheduled a special meeting to continue the discussion on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 9/10/2019

Delaware County

DELCORA board OKs $276M merger deal with Aqua
The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) board of directors unanimously approved a $276.5 million merger with Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc., according to a spokesperson for the authority. The purchase price will be used to pay off outstanding debt and to invest in a rate-stabilization plan, according to a press release from DELCORA. The proposed asset purchase agreement and merger is now pending approval by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “Our number one goal throughout this process was to find a partner who could help us stabilize rates for our ratepayers in the face of large, looming capital costs,” said DELCORA Executive Director Robert Willert. “By partnering with Aqua Pennsylvania, DELCORA was able to develop a rate-stabilization plan with an experienced operator with knowledge of the local community while also preserving all DELCORA jobs.” The plan is expected to save the average retail customer $1,400 and help to offset almost $1.2 billion in new and ongoing capital costs to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Source: Daily Times; 9/18/2019

Corvias and Chester continue stormwater, beautification projects
The Chester Stormwater Authority and Corvias recently announced a $9.9 million award from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVEST) that will be used for infrastructure upgrades in the city. The project partners will use the funds to install approximately 9,500 feet of pipe, 65 catch basins and 200 manholes, as well as provide for associated roadway restoration. The Chester Stormwater Authority was formed in 2016 with a $1 million grant from PENNVEST, bringing together the Chester Water Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a private partner, Corvias, who inherits the risk of hiring contracts to do the infrastructure projects. At the authority’s launch, officials highlighted its plan to spend $50 million over the next 30 years to maintain more than 350 acres, focusing on stormwater management, while beautifying the city and encouraging economic development. So far, more than $24 million has been raised for the partnership, including a mix of long-term, low-interest loans and grants.
Source: Daily Times; 9/16/2019

East Lansdowne reminder for Realtors®
East Lansdowne’s code officer would like to remind Realtors® that the borough requires a use and occupancy inspection before a property is sold. The borough also requires a permit for “for sale” signs. Some recent listings in the borough have not complied with these requirements. To review East Lansdowne’s requirements, visit the municipal database on the Alliance website.

DCCC pays $3M for old Prendie building
The Drexel Hill property that includes the former Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School building fetched $3 million in a sale to the Delaware County Community College (DCCC) by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. College President Dr. L. Joy Gates Black disclosed the price of the sale during a press conference Tuesday morning at the Marple campus following a Friday announcement that the college and archdiocese had signed an agreement of sale for the 8.5-acre property, which includes the 100-year-old Prendie building. The college plans to turn the property into a full-service campus at a total estimated cost of $55 million. DCCC will demolish a number of smaller buildings on the property to accommodate parking and build a new academic wing on the 180,000-square-foot former Prendie school building. Thirty classrooms for general academics, science labs, and early childhood and career technical education will be part of the new campus. Black said the campus will include science programs for health professions, health studies (pre-nursing), early childhood education, culinary arts, electro-mechanical technologies, nurse aides, “and other degrees and certificates that lead directly into the workforce.” The college expects a partnership with the YMCA of Eastern Delaware County to create an Early Childhood Education Learning Center. The campus will include a “community empowerment center” to connect people with county resources and community education and programs. The historic, iconic front façade of the school that looks out over Garrett Road will not change.
Source: Daily Local; 9/18/2019

Montgomery County

Collegeville to consider commercial property fire inspection program
Collegeville Borough Council will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Borough Hall, 491 E. Main St., at 7 p.m. to consider and possibly enact a draft ordinance to adopt the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code. The proposed ordinance would also add a commercial property fire inspection program. A copy of the ordinance is available at Collegeville Borough Hall during regular business hours. The Alliance has requested a copy of the proposed ordinance.
Source: Times Herald; 9/13/2019

Major renovation in store for MCCC West
A $4.2 million renovation has been approved for the first floor of the South Hall building of Montgomery County Community College’s (MCCC) West Campus. The Pennsylvania Department of Education will cover $2.9 million of the project cost. The project will re-organize the first floor to integrate student services, programs, clubs, and space for high school students and community partners, said Victoria Bastecki-Perez, interim president and provost of the college. “This substantial investment in our own community college will offset construction costs and renovations, serving to allow greater investment in our students’ education,” said state Rep. Liz Hanbridge (D-61).
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/16/2019

Lower Moreland posts Ward 4 commissioner vacancy
Ferdinand Gonzales has submitted his resignation from the Ward 4 seat of the Lower Moreland Township Board of Commissioners, effective Oct. 1. State law requires that the board appoint a resident of Ward 4 within 30 days to serve out the remainder of Gonzales’ term, which runs through December 2021. Ward 4 residents who have lived in Lower Moreland for at least one year as of Oct. 15 and who are registered to vote can apply. Discussions with interested applicants may take place at commissioners’ meetings on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 5:30 p.m. and on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. The commissioners will select a candidate at the Oct. 15 meeting. Interested residents can contact the township manager, Christopher Hoffman, at choffman@lowermoreland.org, with letters of interest, resumes or to request a pre-interview meeting to better understand the role of commissioner.
Source: Lower Moreland Township; 9/16/2019

Shade trees available for Jenkintown residents
Jenkintown Borough has a limited number of shade trees available at no cost to residents. To request a tree, email JenkintownShadeTree@gmail.com and a representative from the shade tree commission will determine what type of tree is appropriate. If approved for a tree, the planting will take place in early November. Click here for more information.
Source: Jenkintown Borough; 9/13/2019

Philadelphia

Basic tenant rights in Philadelphia, explained
Curbed Philadelphia has updated its list of basic tenant rights for Philadelphia renters. Some of the items on the list are: two electrical outlets in every “habitable” room; a flush toilet in a room with a door; a kitchen sink; and functional doors and windows. The article was first published in April 2013 and has been updated with the most recent information. It also outlines steps to follow if a tenant’s rights are not being met. Click here for the article and the full list.
Source: Curbed Philadelphia; 9/16/2019

Germantown residents search for consensus on what to ask of developer
Residents of Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood can all agree on one thing: They want the redevelopment of Germantown High School to benefit them. Now, however, they must agree on what to ask for. Several dozen residents attended a meeting at Janes Memorial United Methodist Church to hear the latest news about the $50 million redevelopment of the now-shuttered Germantown High and nearby Fulton Elementary School. The meeting was billed as an update from a coalition of residents who have been formulating an early version of the community benefits agreement (CBA). CBAs have increasingly been used in recent years as a bargaining tool by neighborhood groups, offering support for large development projects in exchange for assurances of benefits to communities. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/18/2019



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