NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Bill proposes state park entrance fees

Bucks County
Horsham water customers to receive PFAS reimbursement

Chester County
West Chester proposal would increase taxes by 32%

Delaware County
Nick’s House perseveres in long court battle

Montgomery County
Deed scam targets Montgomery County homeowners

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia’s COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program now matching up to $1,500

 

News Briefs

 

General News

Bill proposes state park entrance fees
State Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-122) introduced a bill that would allow the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to charge a park entrance fee or parking fee at any of its 121 state parks. During May, June and July, the state park system saw increases of more than 1 million visitors each month over the same periods last year, representing monthly visitation increases systemwide of as much as 36%, with some parks seeing increases of more than 50%. The surge in visitors comes at a time when park staffing is at its lowest levels since 1970 and the park system faces $1 billion in deferred maintenance. Several state parks have been forced to issue overcrowding alerts. The park system is supported through taxes — $135 million of the DCNR’s $250 million budget comes from the general fund. Department Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said such fees would harm visitation and equity aspects of the current park system, and could have an impact on the thriving outdoors economy. Pennsylvania is one of eight states that does not charge an entrance fee at its state parks.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/14/2020

Fair housing conference set for Oct. 7
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission will host a virtual Fair Housing Conference on Wednesday, Oct. 7, from noon to 2:30 p.m. The conference will feature guest speaker Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” The event is free and open to the public. You can access the conference via Zoom using Meeting ID 875 3944 3864 and password 321139.

Coronavirus: NAR offers FAQ for housing providers
Housing providers have special considerations when it comes to their residents. How they can protect them? What precautions should they take? How can they ensure the building is protected and sustainable? The National Association of Realtors® has published a FAQ (PDF)  with answers.
Source: Nar.realtor; 9/11/2020

Bucks County

Horsham water customers to receive PFAS reimbursement
Horsham Water and Sewer Authority is reimbursing customers who paid surcharges between 2016 and 2019 for water cleanup costs due to contamination by unregulated chemicals known as PFAS. The funding comes through a $1.43 million state grant program designed to reimburse residents after widespread drinking water contamination shuttered wells across the area. The contamination was traced to the use of firefighting foam at former and active military bases in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington. Local, state and federal officials have been working toward a settlement with the military to ultimately pay for remediation efforts, but residents were left paying the upfront costs. State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151) introduced a state law last year that created a way to repay residents using state tax dollars, followed by the federal government repaying the state. The grant will be administered by the local Military Installation Remediation and Infrastructure Authority created earlier this year. Click here for more information about the authority.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/15/2020

Proposed Springfield quarry hearings off to a slow start
Hearings for a proposed 196-acre quarry in Springfield Township are off to a slow start after a flood of neighbors and organizations sought party status opposing the project. The proposed quarry near Springfield Street, Mine Road and state Route 309 is in the township’s Planned Industrial zoning district, which allows a quarry with certain conditions set by the township’s board of supervisors. Party status allows anyone with “a direct, substantial and immediate interest” in the project to question and call witnesses, present evidence and appeal the outcome. Springfield’s planning commission began review of the project in June and did not recommend the project to the supervisors because it determined the application was “deficient” and “failed to meet the standards set forth in the township’s zoning ordinance.” The commission's recommendation against the proposal and other exhibits in the hearing are available on the township website. The hearing is scheduled to continue on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Springtown Community Fire Hall on Route 212. Current occupancy rules state no more than 50 people to be in the hall at a time, but the township is expected to continue streaming the meetings online through Zoom. The township posts instructions on how to register and attend meetings on its website and Facebook account.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/11/2020

Northampton to sell flood-damaged inn
Northampton Township officials voted to approve an agreement of sale with Costigan Construction to purchase the long-vacant Mill Race Inn at 183 Buck Road. Costigan has agreed to purchase the property for $235,000. The historical inn has been vacant since 1999 after being damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd. The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority, through a contract with the township, acquired the property through condemnation in 2015 after it was declared blighted under the state’s urban redevelopment law. The developer has plans to redevelop the inn into office space and also construct a 21-unit condominium building on two acres of the property. The proposed use is permitted by right under the township zoning ordinance.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/7/2020

Tinicum to review zoning for new events venue
Some Tinicum Township residents are concerned about a proposal for a new wedding and events venue in their neighborhood. The applicant has requested a list of 14 variances from the township’s zoning ordinance for the property at 31 Creamery Road. Residents opposed to the project said the need for 14 variances suggests it is not the right property for the purpose. However, Supervisor Chair Jim Helms noted that “the area is zoned commercial, and the township may have to approve it at some level,” due to a 1971 state law mandating that municipalities offer a variety of zoning categories besides residential. Solicitor Stephen Harris noted that the presence of residences in the commercial zone had themselves required variances. The hearing was continued to Thursday, Sept. 24, at 6:45 p.m. and will be held remotely. Visit the township website for more information on meeting attendance.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/10/2020

Chester County 

West Chester proposal would increase taxes by 32%
West Chester Borough Finance Director Barb Lionti presented a proposed 2021 budget to the Finance and Revenue Committee with a 32% property tax increase to offset revenue losses associated with the ongoing global pandemic. The borough is facing a combined $2.2 million deficit in the general fund and sewer fund, and the proposed budget would keep the same level of services. The current millage rate is 6.96 mills, and the proposed budget would raise it to 9.21 mills. A mill equals one dollar for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Lionti estimated that the average borough property is assessed at $136,360, meaning a current average tax bill of $949. If the rate increases to the full 9.21 mills, the average property owner would pay $1,256, or $307 more per year. While the borough has not raised property taxes since 2012, it has increased the Earned Income Tax and enacted a Stormwater Protection Fee. Borough Manager Mike Perrone said that parking revenue was traditionally used to balance the budget. Payments at the meters were suspended for months during the pandemic. Perrone also noted that the borough includes trash removal in the budget, while some other neighboring township residents pay $300 to $400 per year for private removal. The borough is required to present a proposed balanced budget during September in order to advertise in a timely fashion. That proposed budget would likely change before council votes on a final 2021 budget by Dec. 31.
Source: Daily Times; 9/10/2020

Sunoco ordered to move pipeline
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ordered Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners to alter its planned pipeline route and further assess, investigate and restore resources impacted by Mariner East 2 pipeline installation in Upper Uwchlan Township. In August, Sunoco spilled over 8,000 gallons of drilling fluid — an industrial waste — and created a 15-foot wide by 8-foot deep subsidence — a sinkhole — adversely impacting wetlands, two tributaries to Marsh Creek Lake, and the lake itself, in Marsh Creek State Park. “These incidents are yet another instance where Sunoco has blatantly disregarded the citizens and resources of Chester County with careless actions while installing the Mariner East 2 Pipeline,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “The department is holding Sunoco responsible for its unlawful actions and demanding a proper cleanup.” The administrative order, issued Friday, re-affirms DEP’s regulatory oversight. DEP officials have maintained a consistent presence at the site since the spill on Aug. 10 to oversee all clean up and restoration activities. On Aug. 20, the DEP issued a notice of violation and requested that Sunoco provide plans to address the impacts of the drilling fluid spill and subsidence events. DEP has not yet received all the information it requested.
Source: Daily Local; 9/12/2020

Interactive tool to trace property unveiled
Chester County Archives and Records Services has unveiled the 1777 Chester County Property Atlas, an interactive map that shows who owned properties in 1777, and if those owners or occupants reported any losses caused by British troops during the Philadelphia Campaign of the Revolutionary War. The project is ongoing, and additional township maps will be added as research is completed. The Chester County Archives and Records Services was established in 1982 and is administered by Chester County Historical Society in partnership with the county government. The service invites researchers to share their land ownership and ancestral stories on its facebook page.
Source: Daily Local; 9/13/2020

East Vincent continues to discuss senior housing plan
In August, Jon Benson of Artisan Construction told East Vincent supervisors he should be allowed to write a zoning overlay for his senior housing project because it would have little impact on roads, and would be a financial boon for the township and Owen J. Roberts School District. The project would add 212 age-restricted homes on 66 acres of farmland off Stony Run Road. A more recent hearing brought a presentation from a group of residents opposed to the rezoning proposal, called East Vincent Advocacy Group, who marshaled a broad array of experts, including a lawyer, professional land planner, financial analyst and water quality expert, all of whom poked holes in Artisan’s plans and assertions. The hearing remains open and the supervisors will again discuss the matter, and possibly vote, at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m.
Source: Daily Local; 9/11/2020

Delaware County

Nick’s House perseveres in long court battle
A residence accommodating cancer patients and caregivers while they receive treatment has prevailed in a protracted legal battle over a Fair Housing Act (FHA) accommodation granted by Swarthmore Borough in 2016. “Nick’s House continues to be a source of comfort and unconditional love for families of all ages, circumstances and cancers,” said Cheryl Colleluori, president of the Ridley-based HEADstrong Foundation that owns and manages the property. The foundation has operated a smaller facility since 2010 in Ridley Township, and in 2016 it sought an expansion into a seven-bedroom home at 200 S. Chester Road in Swarthmore. HEADstrong requested an FHA accommodation relaxing certain criteria for what constitutes a “single-family dwelling” in the borough, which the borough’s Accommodation Request Review Board approved in September 2016. The borough code of ordinances permits “single-family dwellings,” in the district, defined as “a building designed and occupied exclusively as a residence for one family on one lot” and a single family as “not more than three unrelated persons occupying a dwelling unit, living together.” HEADstrong asked for and received the accommodation to house up to seven unrelated people and their caregivers — for a total of up to 14 — as long as certain other conditions were met. A dozen neighbors of the property appealed the decision to council, which unanimously upheld the accommodation in December 2016. The neighbors sued, and Commonwealth Court’s Aug. 11 opinion essentially found that Swarthmore had met its burden under the ordinance and affirmed the borough’s decision. The appellants had 30 days to petition the state Supreme Court following the decision, but did not do so by Sept. 11, bringing the case to rest.
Source: Daily Times; 9/16/2020

Upper Providence gives OK to Clark’s Manor group home
Upper Providence Township Council approved a conditional use application for Clark’s Manor, a group home for adults with various forms of mental illness. The September legislative meeting action brought to a close nearly eight months of activity on the project, starting with a planning commission meeting during the winter. Charles Widger purchased the large stone home with plans to create a group home modeled after Wild Acre, a program run in the Boston suburbs where his son, Clark, has resided for several years. In his testimony, Widger indicated bringing his son back near the family was the driving force. Much attention was paid to traffic and road conditions, with residents who opposed the project citing numerous accidents in the vicinity over the course of several years. The applicant’s plans, however, include repositioning the entrance to the 3.5-acre Clark’s Manor parcel to align with Springton Lake Road and create improved site distances. Both project engineer Matt Houtmann and traffic engineer Frank Tavani had confidence the work would improve conditions.
Source: Daily Times; 9/15/2020

Chester Stormwater Authority unveils Eyre Park trail
A section of Chester City once ravaged by flooding has become a rejuvenated park area with modern stormwater management and a multi-purpose trail. At the opening ceremony for Eyre Park, located next to Chester High School, Deputy Mayor William Morgan lauded the transformation of “an area overgrown with weeds and debris” into a walking and running area for residents. The Stormwater Authority of Chester has been working with Corvias, a private company, to improve infrastructure throughout the city, with funding assistance from PENNVEST. In addition to the completion of the trail and bioretention basin, Corvias has removed 500 tons of debris from the city’s inlets, about 27,500 gallons of standing water have been removed, and more than 1,200 catch basins have been cleaned and repaired.
Source: Daily Times; 9/14/2020

Montgomery County

Deed scam targets Montgomery County homeowners
Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds Jeanne Sorg warned homeowners of a misleading solicitation mailer being sent to homeowners in the county. The solicitation offers homeowners a “copy of their Property Assessment Profile” and a “Complimentary Grant Deed or other record of title” for a service fee of $95. Sorg said county residents can search their property data from home using the Recorder of Deeds Public Access System. Residents can also contact the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds office at 610-278-3289 for assistance. Property assessment records can also be searched for free from the Board of Assessment’s Property Records Page. Additionally, Sorg encouraged all Montgomery County homeowners to register for FraudSleuth, a free service that alerts them if a document is recorded against their name or parcel number. Homeowners can learn more about FraudSleuth on the Recorder of Deeds website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/11/2020

Upper Providence to consider anti-discrimination ordinance
Upper Providence Township supervisors have scheduled a hearing to consider a proposed ordinance that would create the Upper Providence Township Human Relations Commission and prohibit discrimination in housing, commercial property, employment and public accommodations on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, age, religious creed, ancestry, sex, national origin, handicap or disability, use of guide or support animals, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The public hearing will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 1286 Black Road, Phoenixville. Residents can attend via virtual connection using directions posted in the Township Events section of the township website. A complete copy of the proposed ordinance is available for review at the township building during business hours.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/2/2020

Hatboro to consider bamboo ordinance
Hatboro Borough Council will consider a proposed ordinance establishing regulations for the planting, cultivating, growing, control and/or removal of bamboo. A public hearing will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at Hatboro Borough Hall, 414 S. York Road, and also via Zoom and Facebook Live. The proposed ordinance includes penalties for violations of regulations to prevent the spread of running bamboo onto neighboring property. A full copy of the proposed ordinance will be available for the public to view on the borough website.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/4/2020

East Greenville mayor to resign
East Greenville Mayor Keith Gerhart announced he is moving out of the borough and plans to submit a letter of resignation to council when his current residence is sold. Once Gerhart resigns, council can appoint any resident of the borough to complete the term, which expires at the end of 2021.
Source: Town & Country; 9/9/2020

Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program now matching up to $1,500
The City of Philadelphia has made a significant change to the amount of rental assistance funding available for Phase 2 of the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Now, rent can be paid up to $1,500.  "Our goal throughout the pandemic has been — and continues to be — to keep people in their homes," said Mayor Jim Kenney. "Whether it’s through our rental assistance program, COVID emergency housing sites, or our eviction-diversion program, maintaining housing for our most vulnerable residents is critical. This additional CARES Act funding for rental assistance allows us to serve landlords and families struggling to make ends meet." This funding increase will automatically apply to tenants that have already applied for Phase 2 funding, as well as all new applicants. Visit the city’s rental assistance website for more information. Applications are being accepted until Wednesday, Sept. 30.
Source: Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation; 9/16/2020

Philadelphia postpones property reassessment due to coronavirus
City officials announced that Philadelphia will not reassess properties next year due to operational limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, most property owners will keep their current assessments and maintain the same property tax bill, if the city’s tax rate remains the same. Properties that have new construction, expiring abatements, renovations, subdivisions or consolidations — or errors in prior assessments — will still be reassessed. Those property owners will receive notice of their assessments by March 31, and their new values will take effect for taxes in 2022.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/9/2020

City bans evictions until Sept. 23
Philadelphia Judge Patrick F. Dugan issued an order that bans residential evictions in the city until Sept. 23. The order also limits the number of eviction notices the city’s landlord-tenant officer can serve until Sept. 21. While officers are serving those notices that an eviction is coming, they must also serve notices explaining the new nationwide moratorium on many evictions for nonpayment of rent, and give tenants the form they must fill out in order to be protected under the federal ban. Housing advocates had been asking for more time to allow renters facing eviction to meet the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide moratorium. That ban took effect four days after Pennsylvania’s statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium ended.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/9/2020

 
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