NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

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

Bucks County
Bensalem approves 106 more townhouses at Waterside community 

Chester County
Embreeville Redevelopment zoning hearing postponed 

Delaware County
SEPTA upgrades Secane station

Montgomery County
New Hanover Town Center project raising concern 

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

 

News Briefs

 

General News

NAR responds to administration proposal to reform Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
The National Association of REALTORS® is offering answers to questions regarding the Trump administration's recent release of proposals to reform the housing finance system and end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Along with the administration’s proposal, NAR has offered its own blueprint for GSE reform that has been praised by industry experts. Read more about both proposals here: https://www.nar.realtor/fannie-mae-freddie-mac-gses/faqs-on-white-house-gse-reform-proposal

Pennsylvania launches online application for absentee ballots
Pennsylvania is launching a new option for voters to apply online for an absentee ballot starting with the November election. The mobile-friendly, online application site, at www.votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee, goes live on Monday, Sept. 16, the first day that registered voters may apply for absentee ballots for the Nov. 5 municipal election. Since online voter registration launched in Pennsylvania in 2015, more than 1.4 million voter registration applications or changes have been submitted online. In previous elections, absentee voters’ only choice was to complete a paper ballot application and mail or hand-deliver it to their county election office for processing. “Applying for an absentee ballot online will make the process faster and more accessible for thousands of voters,” Wolf said. For more information on voting by absentee ballots, visit www.votespa.com.
Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; 9/9/2019

Bucks County

Bensalem approves 106 more townhouses at Waterside community
Bensalem Township Council approved an amended development plan that will allow 106 townhomes to be built in the Waterside community along the Delaware River. The amended plan will allow the developer to consolidate 10 different phases into three. Sam Carlo, vice president of land for the developer, Lennar, said the townhomes and “stacked townhomes” will be priced from the low $300,000s to the mid $400,000s and will be built over the next two to three years. Developer Mignatti Companies of Huntington Valley built most of the first phase of the project before selling the remainder of the development to Lennar in July 2018.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/5/2019

Lower Makefield planners continue hearing on mixed-use overlay district
After a three-hour hearing, the Lower Makefield Planning Commission voted to continue the hearing on a proposed new ordinance for a “mixed-use overlay district” that could pave the way for a grocery store, retail space and apartments near Route 332. The commission made it clear to the hundreds of residents in attendance that, one way or another, the property will have an office, a warehouse or a Wegmans. Equus Capital Partners, Envision Land-Use and DeLuca Homes proposed the mixed-use overlay that would allow several uses, including: bed and breakfasts, commercial recreation facilities, community and day care centers, banks, offices, health or fitness clubs, hotels, retail, library or museums, medical offices, restaurant, service shops, artisan booths, and shopping centers. If approved, the overlay would allow for a 100,000-square-foot grocery store, 55,000 square feet of retail space, and nine three-story apartment buildings with amenities. The area is next to a commercial park in the township’s Office Research District and is separated by Interstate 295 from the Edgewood Village development, which is in the Historic Commercial District. Developers have estimated the plan could generate $1.1 million in net school tax revenue and $200,000 in net municipal tax revenue. The planning commission voted to continue the hearing to its Monday, Sept. 23, meeting. Officials said the developers have not filed any land development plans with the township.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/11/2019

Doylestown Township seeks input on rec center
Doylestown Township officials recently discussed why the township might pursue a community/recreation center and how the process for developing such a project could evolve. The township will host a public meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Doylestown Township Building, 425 Wells Road, to gather input from residents about what the township should have in such a facility. All township residents are encouraged to share their interests, ideas and what they would like to see included in such a facility.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/5/2019

Bucks County attracted more than 8 million visitors in 2018
Bucks County welcomed 8.15 million visitors in 2018, an increase of 1.6% from 2017, and reached a record-breaking $1.1 billion of total economic impact. Economic data also indicate an increase in per-visitor spending. Click here for more information.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 8/30/2019

Hilltown to adopt comprehensive plan update
Hilltown Township supervisors will consider for adoption an update to the township’s comprehensive plan at the regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. in the township building, 13 W. Creamery Road. A copy of the comprehensive plan update is available for review in the township offices during normal business hours.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/4/2019

Chester County 

Embreeville Redevelopment zoning hearing postponed
A West Bradford Township public zoning hearing regarding Embreeville Redevelopment LP’s requested zoning change has been continued to Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 1385 Campus Drive. The developer purchased a 225-acre property in 2013 with plans to transform it into a residential and commercial complex with acres of open land. That property, which houses the former Embreeville state hospital, is zoned as institutional and mixed use. In order to go forward with its plans to build 1,100 residential units and more than 50,000 square feet of commercial space, the developer would need to obtain the zoning for high density and receive approval from the township planning commission. Residents have expressed a preference that the area remain entirely as open space, or that developers build a retirement home that would have less of an impact on traffic. Residents have also expressed concerns about water, sewage processing, a strain on the school district and an overload of infrastructure. Developer Ken Hellings, in partnership with Conrad Muhly, the CEO of environmental remediation company Terra, created Embreeville Redevelopment LP and purchased the property for more than $1 million. In a 2013 memo, they said the development would be “compact” to “maximize open space and minimize land disturbance.” The zoning hearing board members last year declined the Embreeville developer’s challenges to the zoning ordinance, which claimed that the township does not allow for its fair share of future housing. The zoning members said then that the developer failed to establish a precise amount of land available for single or multi-family uses, and that the amount of land allocated for multi-family dwellings was too small to represent its fair share of housing.
Source: Daily Local; 9/5/2019

Luxury town center proposed around Berwyn’s beloved ice cream shop
Two local developers want to build a high-end, town-center-style apartment building on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn, a “boutique” complex with the ice-cream shop Handel’s at its core. David Della Porta, of Villanova-based Cornerstone Tracy, and Todd Pohlig, of Malvern-based Pohlig Custom Homes, have talked with Easttown Township officials about preliminary plans for the site and have presented ideas for a 120-unit complex to the town’s zoning hearing board in hopes it will sign off on a slightly larger project than the code allows. “This site, I’ll call it the gateway to the village,” Della Porta said. “We have a chance to really add something that could transform the village.” Their gateway plan: A four-story, 150,000-square-foot mixed-use development with Handel’s and one or two small retailers on the ground floor, luxury apartments above, and a public plaza in the center. The complex also would include a two-story, 228-spot parking garage. Della Porta declined to comment on how much they intend to spend on the project. Residents who oppose the project say the complex will increase traffic, put pressure on the police and fire departments, and increase enrollment in Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. They’ve started a loosely organized group called Save Easttown to protest the plan, which developers have called Berwyn Square.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/4/2019

County commissioners establish pipeline safety advisory board
Chester County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution establishing the Chester County Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, which will review any activity undertaken by pipeline operators. The board brings together emergency response experts, municipal officials, industry representatives and members of the general public who live along a pipeline right-of-way, to review, discuss and make recommendations on how best to ensure citizen safety. “Prior to the Aug. 5 explosion that occurred at Energy Transfer’s Boot Road facility, we had taken a number of steps to address issues resulting from the Mariner East pipeline, including intervening in the ‘Safety 7’ Public Utility Commission matter and filing a land rights lawsuit against Energy Transfer in the County Court of Common Pleas,” said Commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline. Among the new board’s specific goals are: identifying areas of best practice in pipeline safety; reviewing and recommending local and county policies and procedures regarding emergency response and planning for pipelines; providing recommendations to increase transparency and public engagement in pipeline issues; reviewing proposed statutory, legislative, regulatory and contractual changes affecting pipeline siting, design, construction and safety; and reviewing pipeline incidents that may occur in order to recommend ways to improve local and county response, interaction and involvement. All positions on the board will be voluntary.
Source: Daily Local; 8/29/2019

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust opens preserve
French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust has announced the official public opening of the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve will take place on Saturday, Sept. 14, from noon to 3 p.m. The preserve is rich with biodiversity and local historic significance, including the Warwick Furnace Ruins. Named for an adjoining property landowner and donor, the 108-acre preserve includes a hiking trail and a revitalized forest area, and is a zero-waste site. French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust has been protecting and preserving land in northern Chester County for over half a century. It is a nonprofit organization guided by a small board and staff who value open space and aim to connect nature and community.
Source: Daily Local; 9/7/2019

Delaware County

SEPTA upgrades Secane station
SEPTA officials joined federal and state lawmakers to cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Secane Train Station, a $19.2 million investment to provide better accessibility for all passengers. Located on the Media/Elwyn regional rail line, SEPTA rider census data from 2017 listed 564 people boarding and 499 people getting off at Secane per weekday. The renovation, which began in 2015, includes an underpass for passengers to switch boarding platforms, accessible ramps, raised boarding platforms, 90 parking spots and a new pedestrian walkway on Providence Road. The station upgrade was made possible with Act 89 funds, the state law that provides money for public transit infrastructure projects. Before Act 89, the Media/Elwyn line faced potential shutdown because of needed repairs. The Secane renovation is the latest to occur in Upper Darby, a major hub of activity for bus, train and trolley routes. In 2013, the Primos Train Station, which follows Secane heading toward Philadelphia, was renovated. Act 89 dollars are helping to contribute to a $31 million project to build a 431-space parking garage at 69th Street Transportation Center. That project is expected to go to bid next month. The transportation center’s west terminal underwent a $19.6 million renovation that was completed in winter 2016.
Source: Daily Times; 9/6/2019

DELCORA, Aqua meet the public to discuss merger plans
Dozens of people attended two information sessions hosted by the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) to learn about the implications of a potential acquisition by Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater. The authority is in a due diligence period, which has been extended to Oct. 1, to get a sense of potential costs to ratepayers if a sale to Aqua is completed. The 500,000-customer authority had been looking at ways to comply with a 2000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate that would require fixes for combined stormwater and sewage water lines that experience problems, such as overflows during heavy rains. DELCORA officials have maintained that the costs facing the authority over the next 20 years, including compliance and other investments, would be approximately $1.2 billion. Part of that cost is what DELCORA would owe Philadelphia for sharing part of its system. In 2013, DELCORA was told its cost would be $178 million. Four years later, it was told the cost had risen to $605 million. Among the concerns brought by the community was the impact of a merger on rates.
Source: Daily Times; 9/5/2019

Borough of Lansdowne to consider EIT
The Borough of Lansdowne will consider an ordinance to establish an earned income tax (EIT) at the rate of 0.5% starting in 2020. The borough said the EIT would diversify the tax base of the borough and allow for lower property taxes for residents. The public is invited to attend and provide comments at a borough meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. at Lansdowne Borough Hall, 11 E. Baltimore Ave.
Source: Daily Times; 9/6/2019

Ridley, Clifton look ahead as Kmarts prepare to close
After decades in business, Delaware County’s last two Kmart stores — at MacDade Mall in the Holmes section of Ridley Township and on East Baltimore Avenue in Clifton Heights — will close by mid-December. Losing a big-name retailer will mean the loss of property and mercantile tax revenues for the municipalities, but community leaders are looking for a silver lining. “It’s sad to see that era end, and we’re eager at the opportunity to try to redevelop the property [with] a new tenant or owner to continue to make that a viable commercial property,” said Clifton Heights Mayor Joe Lombardo. Business has been a key part of Clifton’s history, including Kent Mills along the Darby Creek and as the original manufacturer of the Slinky Toy. Lombardo said recently that the borough is going through a redevelopment renaissance over the past year. Another way to drum up investment in the borough is through its federal Opportunity Zone designation, which provides tax benefits to investors to spur economic activity. Ridley also has extended business interests ranging from the Boeing plant to a slew of major retailers and small businesses stretching along MacDade Boulevard from the township borders with Glenolden to Chester City.  
Source: Delaware County News Network; 9/8/3019

Montgomery County

New Hanover Town Center project raising concern
A proposed project on 209 acres at the site of the old New Hanover Airport could add more than 700 homes and 171,000 square feet of commercial space along Swamp Pike in New Hanover. Residents packed a recent meeting because there was an agenda item to discuss the project, but the matter was pulled from the agenda at the request of the developer. The project received preliminary plan approval in 2005, but then a larger, very different plan was submitted in 2017. That plan has been changed at least five times, said Township Manager Jamie Gwynn. Discussion about the project occurred at the meeting anyway, as developers have cleared a wide swath of trees and ground, said engineer David Leh, and the project does not yet have final site approval from the township. Leh said the township inspected the work and a violation notice was issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The Montgomery County Conservation District also got involved and ordered measures be taken to mitigate erosion damage from the clearing. Township Solicitor Andrew Bellwoar told the supervisors that he warned the developers, “Any work done there is at developer’s risk, and if the final site plan approved differs in terms of the storm basins they are now installing, they will have to re-do it.” Click here for more information.
Source:  evan-brandt.blogspot.com; 9/6/2019

Upper Providence preparing for sewer extension
Upper Providence Township will undertake a $1.5 million sewer extension next spring that will provide access to public sewer to about two dozen homeowners in an 18-year-old neighborhood. The cost of the sewer hook-up to residents will be just under $14,000, but unlike many other sewer extension projects, there is no obligation to connect. According to the legal notice, the roughly $14,000 connection cost includes a $10,000 “benefit assessment” as well as the township’s tap-in fee of about $1,270 and the $2,670 fee imposed by the Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority. The $10,000 assessment will remain unchanged no matter how long a homeowner waits to hook into the system, said Bortnichak. The project is anticipated to begin in late spring of 2020.
Source: The Phoenix; 9/8/2019

Lower Providence schedules events to talk budget, development
Lower Providence Township is planning two special public events in late September. The board of supervisors will hold a workshop meeting to discuss the 2020 budget on Monday, Sept. 23, at 4:30 p.m. at the township administration building, 100 Parkland Drive, Eagleville. The supervisors will then hold a public open house to provide information on current and future township projects and development on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at Arcola Intermediate School, 4001 Eagleville Road, Eagleville.
Source: Times Herald; 9/10/2019

Penn State Extension to host public spotted lanternfly seminar
Penn State Extension has notified Jenkintown Borough of an upcoming spotted lanternfly seminar, titled “Why are we concerned and what residents should do.” The seminar is open to the public and will be held Monday, Sept. 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Upper Dublin High School, 800 Loch Alsh Avenue, Fort Washington. Click here to view a full informational brochure provided by Penn State Extension.
Source: Jenkintown Borough; 9/9/2019

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

Philadelphia

Center City developers benefit the most from city’s tax abatement
Economist Kevin Gillen, a Building Industry Association of Philadelphia board member, recently said that while the most “visible” tax-abated property in Philadelphia may be a new townhome in a working-class, rowhome neighborhood, “the reality is that most of the abated properties are heavily concentrated in and around Center City. And they’re mostly commercial or multifamily.” About 1,700 structures, mostly concentrated in the city’s commercial core, will account for $6.39 billion in abated tax value next year, with most of these properties being apartment buildings, hotels or large commercial or industrial properties. The 13,900 other buildings that receive the abatement, made up of mostly rowhouses or single-family homes, add up to $5.19 billion in abated tax value. A 2018 report by City Controller Rebecca Rhyhart found that over the life of the abatement program, its tax benefits have gone mostly to commercial developers. Click here for the full story.
Source: Whyy.org; 9/5/2019

Callowhill neighbors group concedes defeat in the creation of a business improvement district
The Callowhill Neighborhood Association, which worked with business leaders for over a year to create a business improvement district, conceded Thursday that it had failed to secure enough support. As proposed, the Callowhill BID would have collected from all property owners within its borders an assessment — some called it a tax — to clean streets, fight illegal dumping and add lighting at night. Some residents saw the proposal as a way to provide support for a real estate holding firm that has invested heavily in the Callowhill and Spring Garden areas in the past four years, and to provide maintenance for the Rail Park, which opened more than a year ago on the Reading Co. viaduct that crisscrosses the neighborhood. Under the plan, there would have been a surcharge above property taxes: a 0.12% assessment on commercial properties and a 0.06% assessment on residential properties. Property owners who opposed paying an additional assessment had to submit letters to both the Chief Clerk at Philadelphia City Council and the Callowhill BID. The opposition had to comprise at least one-third of commercial property owners or one-third of the assessed property value for the plan to be defeated. As of Aug. 30, 99 out of 214 property owners opposed the formation of the BID.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/6/2019

Independence National Park gets GoFundMe campaign for maintenance work
When a recent Philadelphia Magazine article by David Murrell on the physical decline of Independence National Park came out, Susan Madrak, a Southwest Philadelphia native and blogger, took it as a personal affront. As Murrell pointed out in his story, the city owns Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but the federal government is on the hook for taking care of it — and over decades, they have deferred $51 million worth of repairs. On a given day, some 10 buildings out of the park’s 35 are closed to the public because there are not enough workers to staff them. Madrak launched a GoFundMe crowdsourcing campaign to raise money for the nation’s most historic landmark. “Greatness walked here," she wrote. "American ideals were formed here. Now the Hall needs our help. Even $1 will help.” Madrak set a goal of $1 million — “a good beginning to fix the most urgent problems” — and set up the GoFundMe to donate directly to the Independence Historical Trust, which handles fundraising for the park. Thomas Caramanico, the executive director of the trust, said he was thrilled by the crowdfunding effort.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/10/2019



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