NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
New nationwide flood model says U.S. is unprepared

Bucks County
Neshaminy School District passes budget with tax increase

Chester County
County to help fund two affordable housing projects

Delaware County
Springfield schools increase taxes by 2.25%

Montgomery County
Lansdale to adopt comprehensive plan

Philadelphia County
Small Philadelphia landlords can apply for loans to offset missed rent due to pandemic

 

News Briefs Archive September 30, 2019

 

General News

Bill would provide shared responsibility among homeowners on private roadways
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® (PAR) has worked through the summer asking legislators to support House Bill 523, which would amend the Private Road Act, and anticipates movement on the bill in the coming weeks. Some Realtors® have seen a disruption in home sales, specifically with properties that contain or are bordered by a private road. Regulations for federally backed mortgages like Fannie Mae, VA, USDA and FHA loans require these properties to have an agreement for the maintenance of the private roadway, outlining responsibility of repairs, including what each owner’s share is, remedies for default and terms of the agreement. PAR has heard from members throughout the state who reported difficulties in closing a transaction because lenders have adopted this requirement. Because Pennsylvania doesn’t have statutory requirements for private roadways, many homebuyers are unable to purchase homes because lenders can’t issue federally backed mortgages. HB 523, introduced by state Rep. Gary Day (R-187), would amend the Private Road Act to provide for shared responsibility for basic maintenance among all homeowners along the roadway, unless any pre-written agreement states otherwise. PAR believes amending the Private Road Act would remove unnecessary obstacles from the home-buying process. If you have examples of how private roadway maintenance agreements have affected your clients, send them to PAR using the form here.
Source: PAR JustListed; 9/23/2019

Voter registration deadline is Oct. 7
Monday, Oct. 7, is the last day for Pennsylvania residents to register for the Nov. 5 general election. An online voter registration application is available here. Registered voters can now also request an absentee ballot online.

Bucks County

Warrington homestead tax exemption registration ends Oct. 31
Earlier this year, Warrington Township supervisors approved a resolution establishing its own Homestead Real Estate Tax Rebate Program that will reduce the assessed value of a property labeled as a homestead for property tax purposes. The township’s program will exempt up to half the median assessed home value as assessed by the county, with a dollar value set by supervisors as part of the annual budget process. The exemption is automatically applied to residents already receiving a similar break through the Central Bucks School District, but others will need to submit an application to the township before the Oct. 31 deadline to qualify for the upcoming tax year. The homestead label is not given to every homeowner, and the designation does not transfer when a home is sold. It is up to the individual homeowner to register as a homestead. Applications for the exemption can be found online at www.warringtontownship.org, at the township building at 852 Easton Road or at the tax collector’s office at 3400 Pickertown Road, Chalfont. For more information on the definition of “homestead,” see this SRA blog post: What Is a Homestead?
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/17/2019

Perkasie Borough rezones former lumber property for housing
Perkasie Borough Council voted 5-1 to approve an amendment that will rezone the former Shelly Lumber property from Industrial-2 (I-2) to Residential-3 (R-3). Developer ReAlliance wants to build 28 townhouses on two of the three parcels and redevelop an existing barn on a third property into 26 apartments, which it calls “residential conversion” units. The parcels are located between Market and Arch streets at 8th Street. Borough Manager Andrea Coaxum said the proposal was consistent with what is happening in the surrounding area and it made sense to provide housing within walking distance to Perkasie’s business and retail center. Coaxum said ReAlliance still needs to apply for zoning relief and would then have to go through the land development process. “We’re a long way from actually seeing any construction out of that,” she said.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/19/2019

Bucks, Montco picked for national PFAS study
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Bucks and Montgomery County communities impacted by toxic firefighting chemicals will be part of a nationwide study on the health effects of exposure to the chemicals. Area residents have pushed for blood testing and health studies of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) since the chemicals were found at nationally high levels in public drinking water supplies around the former Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, the active Horsham Air Guard Station and the former Naval Air Warfare Center Warminster. The study, led by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, will provide awards of $1 million each to various institutions that will look at exposures locally. The Pennsylvania Department of Health said it anticipates the state will receive $1 million a year over five years. Funding for the study was included in recent defense spending bills, with support from congressional lawmakers, including U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. The CDC released a draft of the study plans earlier this year that showed it will not assess whether the chemicals can cause cancer, and instead will be the first study to look at multiple types of PFAS at sites across the country. CDC officials have said the goal of the study is to better understand the relationship between PFAS exposures and health effects, and to help leaders in communities dealing with contaminated drinking water to protect public health. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available on their websites as a public resource — https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and https://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/24/2019

Solebury forum on agriculture and sustainability set for Oct. 3
The Solebury Township Farm Committee is presenting a special forum called “Cultivating a Sustainable Community: Agriculture’s Role in Achieving Solebury Township’s Community Goals.” The forum will take place on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the township building, 3092 Sugan Road. This is the third in a series of forums focused on topics of special interest to Solebury residents, each designed to bring the community together to discuss a single issue in depth. A forum in March covered the Township's Land Preservation Program, and a June forum discussed recycling. To learn more about the program, download the flyer from the township website.
Source: Solebury Township; 9/18/2019

Chester County 

Ribbon cut for Paoli train station project
Mass transit officials, disability rights groups and local politicians celebrated a major milestone in the evolution of the Paoli train station. After many years of planning and two years of construction, Amtrak and SEPTA marked the completion of the Paoli Station Accessibility Improvements Project with a ribbon-cutting. The $48 million taxpayer-funded project upgraded the 66-year-old station with a new center train level platform, a multi-story pedestrian overpass, elevators, ramps and other improvements to make the station fully ADA-compliant and accessible to all users. More than 200,000 Amtrak passengers and approximately 740,000 SEPTA passengers pass through the station annually. The Paoli-Thorndale line is SEPTA’s most used regional rail line, with Paoli being the busiest station on the route and 78 trains passing through daily.
Source: Daily Times; 9/24/2019

Study: Roundabouts reduce crashes, fatalities in Chester County
New PennDOT data released this week show roundabouts — including two in Chester County — have been responsible for reducing motor vehicles fatalities, injuries and crashes. “We are glad to promote the use of roundabouts throughout the commonwealth,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Roundabouts save lives and reduce crash severity over standard stop or signal-controlled intersections.” Fatalities, injuries and crashes decreased overall at 19 roundabouts in the state at 16 locations after they were built. In addition to the 19 roundabouts meeting the selection criteria, 29 other roundabouts have been built on state routes and over 40 more are in the design phase. At roundabouts that were previously stop or signal-controlled, fatalities were reduced from two to zero, serious injuries were reduced by 90%, minor injuries were reduced by 79%, and the number of crashes decreased by 34%, from 138 to 91. “We’ve been getting nothing but rave reviews for the roundabout,” Pocopson Supervisor Georgia Brutscher said of the intersection at Route 52 and Wawaset Road. “All of the residents I talked to are thrilled with it. It moves traffic efficiently, and it calms traffic because you have to slow down to go into it.”
Source: Daily Local; 9/23/2019

Longwood Rotary, State Farm donate $20K to jump-start Habitat project in West Grove
The Longwood Rotary Club and State Farm each donated $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Chester County to help low-income residents secure housing in the West Grove area. The project in West Grove will provide 40 homes to working families. “This is just the beginning of the needs for housing in our community,” said Bob Curran, Longwood Rotary president. A 2018 assessment of community needs conducted by Longwood Rotary found a local need for workforce housing, education (specifically pre-K), transportation and job training. Longwood Rotary developed committees to further research each area of interest. West Grove Borough is the newest location for a workforce housing project in Southern Chester County. Habitat is scheduled to start construction later this year on eight sections with five homes each, and applications are currently being accepted. The organization also has projects in Coatesville and West Chester. Under the Habitat program, homeowners take budgeting classes, commit to 200 hours of sweat equity and take part in basic home-improvement classes. To learn more about the project, go to www.hfhcc.org.
Source: Daily Local; 9/23/2019

New voting machines unveiled in Chesco
Chester County’s Department of Voter Services has unveiled new voting equipment for this November’s election. The new machines were purchased by the county to comply with a state requirement that all voting equipment in the state’s 67 counties must be updated to protect against voter interference and outside hacking. “In Pennsylvania, all counties must move to voter-marked paper ballots by November 2020,” said Sandy Burke, county director of voter services. “Chester County has led the way in using the paper ballot system since 2006, so we are simply introducing upgraded versions of our election equipment instead of a completely different system.” The upgraded equipment is allowing the county to continue to use voter-marked paper ballots, but also to purchase new digital scanners for ballot tabulation at the precincts, upgrades to back-office servers and work stations, and improved ballot-marking capabilities for voters with disabilities. Watch informational videos on the new equipment here.
Source: Daily Local; 9/22/2019

Phoenixville in midst of economic boom
Phoenixville is the focus of the first article in a series by the Daily Local News examining how municipalities are spending Chester County Community Revitalization Program (CRP) funding. Like many of Chester County’s urban centers, Phoenixville has experienced a boom of revitalization in recent years. New restaurants, breweries, wineries, pubs and shops are everywhere. This year, county commissioners approved $2.5 million in CRP grants, including $402,000 to help upgrade the wastewater treatment plant with cutting-edge hydrothermal carbonization technology, which will increase sustainability and create alternative fuels. “I’ve always been fascinated that the county commissioners had the foresight to look at investment in the county through capitalization of the urban centers,” said Phoenixville Borough Manager E. Jean Krack. In the past, the borough has utilized CRP funds for basic infrastructure improvements that have had “a tremendous impact,” said Krack, referring to streetscape improvements, street construction, water system improvements, curbs and sidewalks, streetlight installation, sanitary sewer interceptor replacement, and water plan improvements. Phoenixville has seen a 33% change in its taxable assessment since 2002 because of the CRP investment — from $590 million in 2002 to $786 million in 2018. In addition to these infrastructure improvements, affordable housing projects are adding to the borough’s strength.
Source: Daily Local; 9/22/2019

Delaware County

Lansdowne passes Earned Income Tax
Lansdowne Borough Council passed an ordinance establishing an earned income tax (EIT) at the rate of one-half of one percent (0.5%). The new tax will go into effect in 2020 and is expected to generate approximately $350,000 annually. Borough officials have said the EIT will diversify the tax base of the borough and allow the borough to lower property taxes for its residents.
Source: Daily Times; 9/22/2019

Lansdowne Borough to publish meeting agendas earlier
Lansdowne Borough Council unanimously passed an action item to publish draft versions of agendas days before council meetings, as opposed to the day of the meeting. Council meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month, and the recently passed action would make draft versions of the agendas available the Friday before each meeting, “or as reasonably possible” days before the meeting. Borough Manager Craig Totaro said an agenda could be posted on the borough website before a meeting, and the reason why it was not done so previously is because there was no directive to do so.
Source: Daily Times; 9/22/2019

Ridley Park warns residents of door-to-door scammers
Ridely Park Council President Jim Glenn warned residents at council’s September meeting that door-to-door salespeople representing themselves as being with PECO are in no way associated with the utility company. “PECO representatives are not knocking on doors,” Glenn said, adding that he is a PECO employee but was speaking as a member of council. Adding to Glenn’s advice was Police Chief Robert Frazier, who said residents who get a scam phone call should feel free to report it to police, and police will let them know if they should go further with the complaint. Glenn also recommended that a section be added to the permit requirements for block parties requiring residents who plan to erect tents to call 811 — the state’s safe-digging resource — first before driving stakes in the ground to anchor the tents.
Source: Daily Times; 9/22/2019

PennDOT plans open house on Route 322 Conchester project
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will hold an open house with information on an upcoming project to improve the U.S. Route 322 (Conchester Highway) bridge over CSX and the adjacent Bethel Road Interchange in Upper Chichester Township. The event will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 1, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Upper Chichester Community Center, 1950 Market St. in Boothwyn. PennDOT will present preliminary design plans and detour route information, and attendees will have the opportunity to circulate among the subject displays to gather information and discuss the project with the design team. The bridge and interchange improvement project will be constructed as the second of three phases of the Conchester Highway Corridor Improvement Program, which is currently under construction. PennDOT is working to improve travel and enhance safety on Conchester Highway between Baltimore Pike and Market Street in Concord, Bethel and Upper Chichester townships by widening nearly seven miles of the highway from two to four lanes and improving the existing four-lane section. Fifteen intersections and two interchanges along the project corridor also are being improved.
Source: Daily Times; 9/22/2019

Massive 135-foot community mural celebrating diversity unveiled in Upper Darby
A massive mural depicting the cultural and historical significance of Upper Darby has been officially unveiled. The 135-foot long mural called Discover Upper Darby was painted on the side of the building located at 39 S. 69th. St. over the past month and was officially welcomed into the community ahead of the township’s third annual International Festival on Saturday, Sept. 28. The mural starts with the very early days of Upper Darby as farmland and home to the Swedish Log Cabin. The visual timeline fast forwards to include the Upper Darby Summer Stage program, the Tower Theater (with the spire intact), the 69th Street Transportation Center and the Art Deco McClatchy Building. Dotted throughout the mural are 60 international greetings to represent the varied populace in the township of 82,000 residents, where more than 70 dialects are spoken. Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie said 95 different countries are represented among the populace. The mural was supported by a $4,000 grant from AARP and through a number of local organizations. Design was led by Upper Darby art teacher Christina Roberts and painted by dozens of volunteers.
Source: Daily Times; 9/21/2019

Montgomery County

County schedules new voting system demo
Montgomery County Voter Services will host an open house with the new voter-verified paper ballot voting system on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 9 a.m. to noon in College Hall on the Central Campus of the Montgomery County Community College, 340 Morris Road, Blue Bell. The new system replaces the electronic push-button voting machines that were at the end of their usable life and did not meet the state mandate for a verifiable paper trail by the 2020 presidential election. More information on the new voting system is available at www.montcopa.org/votingsystem.
Source: Montgomery County Commissioners; 9/18/2019

Realtors® help Lower Frederick prepare for centennial celebration
Members of the Realtor® community helped to clean up Village Center Park in Lower Frederick on Sept. 20, pulling weeds and cleaning up the area around the fountain. The volunteer hours are a follow-up to the placemaking grant the township received from National Association of Realtors® earlier this year. The township is making improvements to the park ahead of its centennial celebration on Saturday, Sept. 28. The festivities, which will be held with Upper Frederick, include a trolley tour through the countryside, food trucks, a beer garden, a chili cook-off, pony rides, a rock wall and more. Visit the township website for information.

Pottstown Authority lowers rates for fire sprinklers
A group of residents from the new development of Spring Valley Farms appeared at a Pottstown Borough Authority meeting in June to bring attention to the high rates they were being charged for their fire sprinkler systems. The residents complained that the quarterly bill for fire sprinklers was not disclosed to them when they bought their homes and also that the rates were too high. Borough Authority Manager Justin Keller compared the authority’s rates to surrounding areas rates and found that they were on the high side. Although the authority could not help in the dispute with the home seller, they could do something about the rates. Keller reported to the residents that the finance department took their complaints to heart and will lower the rates for a three-quarter-inch line from $21.40 per quarter to $20 per quarter, a one-inch sprinkler line from $40.58 per quarter to $25 per quarter, a 1.5-inch sprinkler line from $77 per quarter to $30 per quarter, and a two-inch line from $86.63 per quarter to $40 per quarter.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/23/2019

Bucks, Montco picked for national PFAS study
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Bucks and Montgomery County communities impacted by toxic firefighting chemicals will be part of a nationwide study on the health effects of exposure to the chemicals. Area residents have pushed for blood testing and health studies of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) since the chemicals were found at nationally high levels in public drinking water supplies around the former Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, the active Horsham Air Guard Station and the former Naval Air Warfare Center Warminster. The study, led by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, will provide awards of $1 million each to various institutions that will look at exposures locally. The Pennsylvania Department of Health said it anticipates the state will receive $1 million a year over five years. Funding for the study was included in recent defense spending bills, with support from congressional lawmakers, including U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. The CDC released a draft of the study plans earlier this year that showed it will not assess whether the chemicals can cause cancer, and instead will be the first study to look at multiple types of PFAS at sites across the country. CDC officials have said the goal of the study is to better understand the relationship between PFAS exposures and health effects, and to help leaders in communities dealing with contaminated drinking water to protect public health. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available on their websites as a public resource — https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and https://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/24/2019

Planning commission vacancy in Collegeville
Collegeville Borough Council is seeking residents to fill a vacancy on the planning commission, an advisory board that is responsible for reviewing land development plans as well as zoning and land development ordinances. The only requirements for the position are that the member be a Collegeville Borough resident and a registered voter. Applicants can send resumes or letters of interest to Geoff Thompson, borough manager, at gthompson@borough.collegeville-pa.gov.
Source: Collegeville Borough; 9/2019

Philadelphia

Philadelphia Realty Transfer Tax update
Effective immediately, the Philadelphia Realty Transfer Tax will be calculated based on the sale price when a deed is recorded — not based on the assessed value as determined by Office of Property Assessment (OPA), which was previously the case. The Philadelphia Department of Revenue still reserves the right to audit any transaction that it believes to be fraudulent. The City of Philadelphia Law Department will send out notices of the change to title companies. Any questions should be directed to title companies and underwriters. The advocacy efforts of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors® and Councilman Allan Domb helped create a speedy resolution to this issue.
Source: GPAR; 9/24/2019

Landlords, safety advocates continue battle over lead abatement bill
A recent development in the 18-month battle between child-safety advocates and landlords over a lead abatement bill had Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown amending the legislation to increase the amount of time between lead safety recertifications from three to four years. The amendment made the legislation more palatable to property owners. The proposed bill also includes provisions to prevent landlords from making tenants pay for lead tests. Councilman Allan Domb has concerns that the bill would not apply to unlicensed rental units. “I just want to make sure we aren’t penalizing those who are doing the right thing,” he said. According to the Philadelphia Department of Health, 62% of children living in rental housing as of 2017 had been exposed to lead.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/19/2019



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