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General News
U.S. tax change proposals anger builders, Realtors, charities

Bucks County
Perkasie budget may be impacted by power fee increase

Chester County
Tri-county trail plan unveiled

Delaware County
Edgmont moves forward on land-development project

Montgomery County
Hatfield Township seeks feedback on Clemens Park plans

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia’s ‘profitability penalty’

 
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

U.S. tax change proposals anger builders, Realtors, charities
With U.S. Congress members focused during their August recess on finding ways to lower the corporate tax rate, industry groups and other sectors of society are gearing up to fight proposed changes to the personal income tax. While tax cuts for business have garnered the most headlines, lobbyists and lawmakers have conceded that rewriting the corporate tax code will be a long slog. Tackling personal tax rates will be easier, many argue. Looking for an easier legislative win ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, most lawmakers in the Republican majority want to cut individual incomes taxes. President Donald Trump has been pushing hard for tax changes this year. Still, proposed changes to the personal tax code have already stirred opposition from realtors, home builders, mortgage lenders and charities. These groups say proposed changes will hurt home sales and cut charitable contributions. The National Association of Realtors issued an "August Recess Talking Points" circular imploring members to remind lawmakers that "Homeowners must be treated fairly in tax reform" to avoid "another housing crash." The group cited a report it commissioned from PwC that estimated home values could quickly dive more than 10 percent if the tax plan becomes law.
Source: Reuters; 8/14/2017 

Pennsylvania law helps home sales close more quickly
A state law that went into effect in January gives home buyers and sellers in communities with point of sale inspection more wiggle room to negotiate who fixes what and when before a sale goes to settlement. Under Act 133 of 2016, municipalities must issue resale certificates after a required home inspection has been completed. Previously, municipalities that required home inspections often put the onus on the seller to get complete costly repairs before a certificate was issued, "inappropriately withholding or impeding certificates, leading to some real estate transactions being postponed or cancelled," the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® association stated. Under the new law, when a municipality inspects a property or orders the buyer or seller to have an inspection done, the parties involved know what repairs need to be done and can negotiate the process. The municipality can issue one of three types of use and occupancy permits: a regular permit, if all repairs are completed by settlement; a temporary permit, if the house can be lived in, allowing the buyers up to a year to complete needed repairs; or a "temporary access certificate," which allows a purchase to go through even if a property needs so many repairs that the buyer cannot live there, but can work to have the repairs completed in a year. The law allows for the time frame for repairs to be extended if needed. For sellers who already are benefiting from low housing inventories and high home prices, the new law has improved an already very favorable market. 
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/9/17

Bucks County

Perkasie budget may be impacted by power fee increase
Perkasie Borough supplies electricity for borough residents and businesses through an agreement with AMP Electric. PPL, which supplies the power under the agreement with AMP, is hiking its transmission costs for maintenance and infrastructure improvements over the next several years. Perkasie Borough Council announced the increase in monthly transmission costs for the borough to $20,000 a month and will add as much as $240,000 for the year to the 2018 budget and for years to come. Borough officials will determine how to handle the unexpected pricing for electricity, including whether to pass on the cost to borough consumers. Click here for more information about the Perkasie Electric Department.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 8/10/2017 

Sellersville passes Knox-Box ordinance
Sellersville Borough Council voted to approve an ordinance that mandates businesses install Knox-Boxes on the outside of their establishments. A Knox-Box is a small, wall-mounted safe that contain clearly labeled keys that will enable firefighters to get into a building and any locked areas designated by the fire chief. Under the ordinance, the businesses required to install Knox-Boxes include: all new commercial buildings; all existing commercial buildings undergoing construction improvements that require land development approval or certain zoning approval; all existing commercial buildings equipped with a fire suppression system; and all existing commercial buildings with an automated fire alarm system. A change in the ownership of a business or a change of tenant in a rented space would not, on their own, necessitate the installation of a Knox-Box, officials said. Knox-Boxes must be installed within six months of the effective date of the ordinance and failing to provide the rapid entry system could result in a summary offense and a fine of up to $1,000, plus court costs and attorney fees incurred by Sellersville. Violators could also be subject to imprisonment for up to 90 days. Supporters of the ordinance say Knox-Boxes prevent firefighters from having to undertake costly forced entry damage to a business during an emergency.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 8/10/2017 

Doylestown Township approves unpopular sewer project
Doylestown Township supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that will extend public sewer to 252 homeowners near Pebble Ridge and Woodridge roads. The vote came after over an hour of public comment from residents opposing the project. The cost for the work, estimated at $8.6 million, will be passed to the owners of the affected homes. The township is applying for a low-interest loan through the state’s Pennvest program to fund the initial cost of the construction, but it will be the homeowners who pay it back. Each homeowner will have to pay an estimated $34,000 for the extension, whether their on-lot septic system is failing or not. All failing septic systems will be required to connect to the system, which could cost an additional $14,000. The township says the work is necessary to comply with state Department of Environmental Protection regulations because a significant amount of malfunctioning septic systems in the area have been found to be leaking pollutants, including human waste, into nearby waterways.
Source: The Intelligencer; 8/16/2017

New Britain opposes state bills amending construction codes
New Britain Borough officials voted unanimously in favor of a resolution opposing two bills in the General Assembly that aim to amend the state’s uniform construction code. State Senate Bill 663 and House Bill 1469 would require some local governments to hire up to three businesses for building and code enforcement, which New Britain officials fear would lead to “cut-rate fee schedules” and encourage collusion among zoning inspectors and builders. As the code is written now, a municipality hires just one inspector that a builder must use. Officials in Plumstead and Springfield townships have expressed similar opposition to the proposed legislation. The Senate bill was unanimously voted out of the Appropriations Committee in June, and the House bill was approved in a 107-87 vote on June 29 and is currently in the Senate’s Labor and Industry Committee.
Source: The Intelligencer; 8/11/17

Chester County 

Tri-county trail plan unveiled
The Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee recently held a public meeting to review a planning study that examined nonmotorized transportation options connecting parks, neighborhoods and business hubs to the Schuylkill River Trail. The final study outlines a plan for expanding existing public trail systems via four primary trail corridors anticipated to travel through portions of Montgomery County municipalities (Pottstown Borough, West Pottsgrove Township, Upper Pottsgrove Township, Lower Pottsgrove Township, Douglass Township and New Hanover Township); Berks County (Douglass Township); and Chester County municipalities (North Coventry Township and East Coventry Township). The study aimed to consolidate municipal and county planning efforts into a unified regional trail plan addressing major obstacles to providing equitable transportation alternatives, opportunities for healthy lifestyles and economic vitality. The results of this study will help guide communities in determining the most feasible locations for these trails, outline a concise implementation plan to integrate local trail networks and provide a marketing vehicle to obtain implementation grants. The collective cost of the year-long plan to expand the trails was estimated at between $9 million and $13 million. Michael Lane, the regional recreation director, outlined the plans that include four or five primary trail systems, each of which would be completed in segments as funding becomes available, and said it may be 10 to 20 years before the trails outlined in the study are built. A 30-day public comment period continues through Sept. 2. Comments can be sent in writing to Pottstown Regional Planning Committee, 140 College Dr., Pottstown, PA 19464. Click here for more about the trail plan.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 8/8/2017 & Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee; 6/30/2017 

Five-acre parcel sold at Exton Square Mall
The owner of the Exton Square Mall, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), announced it has agreed to sell five acres of the property to a developer of multi-family dwellings. The sale of the Exton property is one of three the Philadelphia-based mall operator announced that is expected to bring the company about $75 million. The company did not break out the price it is receiving in each sale. The 4.9-acre land parcel is under agreement of sale with a multifamily developer. Closing is expected to occur once entitlements are obtained by the buyer, according to PREIT.
Source: Daily Local; 8/10/2017 

Kennett Square officials planning to sell land to Kennett Library
Kennett Square officials plan to sell borough property to the Kennett Library at a below market price, paving the way for construction of a new state-of-the art library, which could begin as early as late next year. The Weinstein lot in Kennett Square may soon be the site of the new Kennett Library. The borough plans to sell the Weinstein lot, a 22,000-square-foot parcel on State Street off South Willow Street, to the library for $386,000. The lot was recently appraised at $550,000. Because the borough is selling municipal land to the library, it does not need to go through public auction. “The borough certainly came through for us by providing a reasonable price well below the appraised market value and with favorable terms and a timetable to suit our overall project,” said Tom Swett, president of the library’s board of directors, “Our trustees are already reviewing the proposal with counsel and are preparing to formally accept the borough’s offer.” Earlier this year, the library and the borough explored the possibility of building a joint facility on the Weinstein lot, but experts determined the challenges of combining the two organizations on one parcel outweighed the advantages and recommended the library pursue building on its own. If both sides agree, the borough could sign off on the deal on Sept. 5.
Source: Daily Local; 8/14/2017 

Kennett Square residents getting tiered trash collection
Kennett Square Borough Council agreed to adopt a tiered trash collection system that could save residents money by switching to smaller bins, which are called toters. Residents will have the opportunity to switch from the current 96-gallon toters to a 65 or 40-gallon toter.  The cost for keeping a 96-gallon toter will be $2 more per quarter. Those who go to a 65-gallon toter will pay $8 less per quarter and those who opt for a 40-gallon toter will pay $18 less per quarter. Currently, residents pay $67 per quarter for trash and recycling collection. Joe Scalise, borough manager, said it costs the borough $135 per year, per stop for every toter no matter the size. He said if the borough caps 300 users at the 65-gallon toter, and 300 users for the 40-gallon toter, there would be no price differential. Scalise said it will cost the borough approximately $25,000 to purchase the 600 toters. Residents can trial test the toters to see what is best for them, and Scalise said he wants to see what the demand is for the service to get final numbers on the toters. The suggestion for a tiered trash system came from a public comment session earlier this year.
Source: Daily Local; 8/14/2017 

West Whiteland makes changes to zoning
The West Whiteland Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider the enactment of changes to the township zoning code. The changes will amend the regulations for home occupations and revise the definitions of the terms of “family” and “home occupation.” The hearing will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Whiteland Township Building, 101 Commerce Dr., Exton.
Source: Daily Local; 8/14/2017

Delaware County

Edgmont moves forward on land-development project
Edgemont Township’s Board of Supervisors held public a public hearing on a large land-development project, which is located at the former Edgmont Country Club site on West Chester Pike, adjacent to Willistown Township, Chester County. The owners and applicant, Ridgewood Real Estate Partners, provided three and a half hours of testimony of the engineering and site-specific details for a Planned Residential Development (PRD) with 167 residential dwellings. Items before supervisors will include a zoning map amendment, zoning text amendment and approval of the PRD itself. The site is just shy of 200 acres, including about 6 acres in Willistown. Attorney Howard Brown said the golf course and country club, built in 1960, filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and was acquired in March 2016 by Ridgewood, which specializes in this type of project/conversion. “We have retained an abundant amount of open space, given nods to the historic references and taken great care to protect and preserve environmental resources,” said Brown. The plan is for 73 detached homes and 94 attached homes in small clusters surrounded by about 90 acres of open space. Exhaustive testimony was given by architect/land planner, David Minno, and engineer Neil Camens. Issues included the open space with regard to environmental features; storm water management; flood plains; and site access. Supervisors agreed to a second special meeting scheduled for Aug. 28 (tentatively 5:30 p.m.).
Source: Daily Times; 8/13/2017 

Realtors paint and sand at Lansdowne Landing
Realtors joined other community members on Friday, Aug. 11, to make Lansdowne Borough a little brighter. A group of volunteers spent the day making improvements to Lansdowne Landing, a new community gathering place in the borough's downtown. The Realtors sanded and sealed wooden furniture, and helped decorate and erect a series of tall metal poles that will support lights that will illuminate the colorful space during evening hours. Among the Realtors who volunteered were Tom Lowy (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Wayne) and Lansdowne residents Susan O'Hagan (Weichert Realtors, Media) and Mike Carpenter (Keller Williams Main Line), who brought his daughter, Isabella. Their on-the-ground efforts complement a $4,000 placemaking grant from the National Association of Realtors that the Suburban West Association of Realtors helped secure for the Lansdowne Landing project. 

Aston, Parkside back independent CWA
Aston Township Commissioners and Parkside Borough Council have adopted similar resolutions supporting the May decision of the Chester Water Authority to reject a $250 million buyout offer made by Aqua America. In Aston, commissioners Vice President Mike Higgins read the resolution which requests CWA not sell its assets or customers to a for-profit company. “We request that the CWA board continue to protect our township residents and businesses by putting the interests of the taxpayers first when making decisions about the authority’s operations and future,” read Higgins. Last week, residents packed the Rocco A. Abessinio building on the campus of Neumann University to learn additional details about the offer. In a press release, Aqua stated its plans to invest $450 million in infrastructure upgrades. Residents seemed unhappy with the discrepancy of rates between the CWA and Aqua. CWA rates currently range between $35.15 to $41.70 as compared to $65.20 for Aqua. Currently, CWA services 42,000 customers and a population of more than 200,000 people in the city of Chester and parts of Delaware and Chester counties.
Source: Daily Times; 8/11/2017 

Radnor and Haverford to draft joint comprehensive plan
The Radnor Board of Commissioners approved appointing a steering committee to draft a joint Comprehensive Plan with Haverford Township. There was some back and forth about the benefit of partnering with another township, with Booker and Commissioner Don Curley opposing it as they were reluctant to give up local control. Radnor’s current Comprehensive Land Use Plan was approved by the Board of Commissioners in 2003. Resident Roberta Winters praised the BOC for moving forward with the Comprehensive Plan, which she said, is long overdue.
Source: Suburban Main Line Times; 8/16/2017

Montgomery County

Hatfield Township seeks feedback on Clemens Park plans
Hatfield Township commissioners and the public saw the first draft of a newly developed Clemens Park master plan during the July 26 meeting. Hatfield recently acquired a five-acre property adjacent to the park and a steering committee has been working to discuss ways the township can incorporate the added space into the existing 12-acre Clemens Park. The full public presentation is viewable on the township’s website, www.HatfieldTownship.org, under the “Meeting Videos” page, and also on the township’s YouTube channel. The first draft of the plan is under a 60-day public review period, and the planning documents and a survey are available on the township website. Feedback can be submitted to township staff or commissioners. Visit the township website for the most up-to-date meeting information.
Source: The Reporter; 8/3/2017 

Tri-county trail plan unveiled
The Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee recently held a public meeting to review a planning study that examined nonmotorized transportation options connecting parks, neighborhoods and business hubs to the Schuylkill River Trail. The final study outlines a plan for expanding existing public trail systems via four primary trail corridors anticipated to travel through portions of Montgomery County municipalities (Pottstown Borough, West Pottsgrove Township, Upper Pottsgrove Township, Lower Pottsgrove Township, Douglass Township and New Hanover Township); Berks County (Douglass Township); and Chester County municipalities (North Coventry Township and East Coventry Township). The study aimed to consolidate municipal and county planning efforts into a unified regional trail plan addressing major obstacles to providing equitable transportation alternatives, opportunities for healthy lifestyles and economic vitality. The results of this study will help guide communities in determining the most feasible locations for these trails, outline a concise implementation plan to integrate local trail networks and provide a marketing vehicle to obtain implementation grants. The collective cost of the year-long plan to expand the trails was estimated at between $9 million and $13 million. Michael Lane, the regional recreation director, outlined the plans that include four or five primary trail systems, each of which would be completed in segments as funding becomes available, and said it may be 10 to 20 years before the trails outlined in the study are built. A 30-day public comment period continues through Sept. 2. Comments can be sent in writing to Pottstown Regional Planning Committee, 140 College Dr., Pottstown, PA 19464. Click here for more about the trail plan.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 8/8/2017 & Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee; 6/30/2017 

Conshohocken conducting borough-wide survey 
The Borough of Conshohocken will be conducting a Borough-wide survey that will be sent to randomly selected households in Conshohocken. Those receiving the survey should have already gotten a yellow postcard notifying them that the survey will be arriving within a few days. Survey packets were mailed out on Aug. 11 and 18. Residents who have not received a survey through mail can still complete one by going online and accessing it on the Conshohocken Borough website. Online access to the survey will open on Friday, Sept. 8, and close Friday, Oct. 6. If you should have any questions, contact the borough at 610-828-1092. Click here for more information. 

Six-story Suburban Square building approval delayed
Lower Merion Township officials have delayed approval for Kimco Realty’s planned construction of a six-story building at Suburban Square in Ardmore. Kimco, which owns Suburban Square, plans to demolish several buildings along Coulter Avenue, including an existing Urban Outfitters store, to be replaced by the new 59,000-square-foot mixed-use building. The proposed building would feature 158 apartments above retail space on the ground floor and two levels of underground parking. Residents in the area have expressed concern about the size of the project. “This site is bigger than a football field. A football field is 57,600 square feet. This is 58,795 so it’s a very large site, and its 63 feet tall,” said Ken Aaron, an attorney representing the North Ardmore Civic Association. The township’s Mixed-Use Special Transit ordinance allows the developers to exceed normal height limitations because part of the new building would be within 1,000 feet of the Ardmore Regional Rail station. Township commissioners asked the developer about possible plans to reduce the size of the project. The topic will be raised again at the meeting of the Building and Planning Committee on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
Source: Main Line Times; 8/6/2017

Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s ‘profitability penalty’
Local political and economic experts say the city’s tax structure puts a substantial burden on the exact sectors that are expected to drive Philadelphia’s future and point to a lack of urgency in reforming the city’s Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT). “At a minimum, we should be focusing on the net income portion of the BIRT,” said Alison Perelman, the executive Director of Philadelphia 3.0, a nonprofit focused on political reform. The net income tax applies to just under a third of the city’s registered businesses. Those enterprises pay 6.35 percent of their taxable net income, or the profits made that are attributable to activities within Philadelphia. A Pew Charitable Trusts analysis issued in August 2016 shows that out of the nation’s 30 largest cities, Philadelphia is just one of six to impose this type of tax. It is the only city where businesses incur both net income and gross receipts taxes. According to Perelman and other business group leaders, lessening the BIRT’s impact is not only a way to generate more funds, it will also lead to a healthier job growth rate.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 7/28/2017 

In Callowhill, a race to claim the last undeveloped scrap of Center City
Callowhill, sometimes called Chinatown North or Spring Arts, is one of the last remaining undeveloped areas in or near Center City. Competing visions are vying to determine what the neighborhood becomes. Callowhill is different from other changing neighborhoods because it doesn’t have a large swath of established residents. Instead, developers have scooped up dozens of parcels to bring in people to live and do business. For their part, Chinese community leaders see the area as an important extension of Chinatown. “Chinatown North or the Callowhill neighborhood has historically been a place for recent immigrant folks looking for proximity to services,” said Alix Mariko Webb, executive director of Asian Americans United. “It’s increasingly going to be difficult for that to be in the future, because so much of the properties have been bought up.” One key concern is housing affordability.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 8/10/2017 

Drone footage shows the Rail Park progress
Construction on the Rail Park is shaping up quite nicely, according to new drone images and videos that captured the train line-turned-future-park from above. Since breaking ground in late 2016, construction on the first phase of the Rail Park has moved along ahead of schedule, thanks to all the warm weather Philly has experienced since the spring. According to the last June update from Center City District, which is managing the quarter-mile project, the contractor is well along the way to installing all the support structures on the edges of the viaduct that will enable the surface area to be expanded with boardwalks and viewing platforms. In addition, preparations for landscaping, led by Lawn and Garden Landscaping LLC, are underway. The first phase is expected to open in early 2018.
Source: Curbed Philadelphia; 8/14/2017



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