NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Will you need an absentee ballot this election?

Bucks County
Penndel seeks injunction against ‘nuisance’ home

Chester County
$1.5M grant will help pay for Phoenixville community center

Delaware County
Residents to receive mailers as countywide assessment continues

Montgomery County
Plymouth Township council considers sale of sewer system

Philadelphia County
City construction tax dead, Kenney promising funds for affordable housing
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

Will you need an absentee ballot this election?
The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6. Check your calendar — if you'll be out of town or are otherwise unable to get to your polling place, you need to apply for an absentee ballot to vote. Apply for an absentee ballot at www.votespa.com, and help make sure Realtors® are heard in this election.

Qualified Opportunity Zones designed to spur growth
The Qualified Opportunity Zones program (QOZ), created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018, was created with the goal to spur economic development and investment in underserved communities, designated as "Opportunity Zones," and it has great potential for real estate. NAR has put together a one-page QOZ reference sheet, which provides basic information about the program and links to the IRS FAQ page on it, as well as a list and a map of all the designated Opportunity Zones. All four counties within the SRA territory contain QOZs.
Source: Nar.realtor; 9/14/2018

Bucks County

Penndel seeks injunction against ‘nuisance’ home
Penndel Borough filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction from a county judge, mandating that Wells Fargo be required to cleanup a “nuisance” home it purchased in July. The injunction further requests that no one is allowed onto the property until the local code violations are corrected. The home, in the 400 block of Bellevue Avenue, was cited by the borough in early August as being unfit for human occupancy due to electrical system hazards. The code official later determined the home was still occupied after revisiting the property and finding trash and debris, high grass and weeds, and a drained swimming pool. Borough attorneys wrote that the home poses a “significant and serious” threat to residents. Wells Fargo will have 30 days to complete a cleanup if the injunction is issued, and if it is not completed, Penndel officials could have the property cleaned up and then bill the bank for the cost.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/17/2018

Tullytown approves rebate check for residents
Tullytown Borough Council voted 5-2 to continue, for at least one more year, to provide residents with an annual rebate check of $6,000. The rebate program dates back to when Tullytown would receive millions of dollars in host fees from the Waste Management landfill. Between 2011 and 2016 the landfill contributed between $3.4 million and $4.2 million — or 56 percent to 74 percent of the borough’s revenues. The landfill closed in May 2017, and the borough’s host fee revenue dropped to about $700,000. The rebate program will cost the borough $3.83 million, about 50 percent of its 2018 expenditures. The borough ended last year with a fund balance of $37.3 million but expenditures outpaced revenue by $5.9 million, which was covered by using the fund balance. That trend is expected to continue in 2018. Council members that voted for the 2018 rebate said that the money had already been allocated but they would consider reducing future rebates.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/17/2018

Northampton Township accepting applications for supervisor vacancy
The Northampton Township Board of Supervisors is accepting applications to fill a vacant position of township supervisor. Interested residents must submit a letter of interest and resume to the attention of the township manager at the township office, 55 Township Road, Richboro, PA, 18954, or via email to lrusso@nhtwp.org, no later than Monday, Sept. 24, at 4:30 p.m. Interviews will be held at the supervisors meeting on Thursday, Sept. 27, beginning at 6 p.m. Click here for the township website.
Source: Northampton Township; 9/13/2018

Upper Southampton Township to update codes
The Upper Southampton Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the Southampton Free Library, lower level meeting room, 947 Street Road, to consider the adoption of several ordinances. The draft ordinances considered would: adopt the 2018 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code; adopt the 2015 edition of the International Fire Prevention Code; and adopt the required inserts of the 2015 editions of the International Building, International Mechanical, International Fuel Gas, International Plumbing, International Fire, International Energy Conservation, International Existing Building, International Performance, International Urban-Wildland and International Residential codes. The full text of the ordinances may be examined at the office of the township manager, 939 Street Road, or on the township website at www.ustwp.org.
Source: Bucks Courier Times; 9/10/2018

Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection ready to help
The Borough of Doylestown recently noted that the Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection “is ready and willing to help Bucks County residents impacted by recent increases in their trash rates.” Waste-collection rates of at least one private hauler, Republic Services, increased dramatically earlier this year, reportedly due to an increase in international tariffs. County residents affected by the price increases can file a complaint on the County Office of Consumer Protection website.

Chester County 

$1.5M grant will help pay for Phoenixville community center
Borough Manager E. Jean Krack informed Phoenixville Borough Council that a $1.5 million state grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program was approved to help pay for a community center the borough is aiming to build adjacent to Friendship Field. The property at 501 Franklin Ave., site of the old Friendship Fire Company, was originally slated to be a three-story “work-force housing” development with 72 units — a project to which local residents strenuously objected. As an alternative, borough officials, who were planning a new borough hall on Bridge Street, offered a different site, 140 Church St., the location of the previous borough hall. The swap became official in June 2014. In July, the final site plan was approved to what is now an “affordable” senior housing project called Barclay Gardens at the old borough hall site, a five-story building with 125 units for those 55 and older. Residents there will pay a one-time $295,000 entry fee and rent of $500 to $600 per month.
Source: The Mercury; 9/13/2018

Phoenixville council backs effort to bring back passenger rail
Phoenixville Borough Council voted unanimously to support the efforts of Mayor Peter Urscheler’s task force to return passenger rail service to Phoenixville. The vote came after consultant Thomas Frawley presented his findings on the feasibility of a “demonstration project” of three trains each morning and three trains each evening for a start-up cost of about $15 million. First presented to the task force on July 26 and subsequently to the council’s infrastructure committee, Frawley concluded there are “no technological obstacles to a demonstration project or permanent [rail] service” returning to Phoenixville, Schuylkill Township and King of Prussia. In addition to the $15 million start-up, annual maintenance would be about $2.7 million, said Frawley, a number that does not include leasing space for the stations — which would be basic platforms — and “rolling stock,” or passenger cars. “I wish you luck where others have failed before you, as I would dearly love to see train service return to Phoenixville,” said Council President James Kovaleski.
Source: Daily Local; 9/15/2018

Westtown Township, Toll Brothers await decision on Crebilly Farm dispute
The fate of Crebilly Farm is partly in the hands of a judge. Traffic and road improvements were the main topics of discussion during a hearing concerning an appeal by Toll Brothers in the bid to build 319 homes at Crebilly Farm in Westtown. Common Pleas Judge Mark L. Tunnell made no immediate decision on whether to overturn the unanimous December 2017 township Board of Supervisor’s decision to deny a conditional use application. Toll Brothers plans to preserve 193 acres at the 322-acre Robinson Family site, the largest slice of open space along Route 202 and between King of Prussia and Wilmington. The farm is located at the corner of routes 926 and 202. Greg Adelman, of the Blue Bell law firm Kaplin, Stewart, Meloff, Reiter and Stein, represented Toll and said it was not the Horsham-based builder’s job to construct a collector road that might relieve congestion on Route 202. The township has suggested Toll build four right-hand turn lanes at the busy intersection.
Source: Daily Times; 9/18/2018

Ground broken for $5 million Southern Chester County Regional Police complex
Representatives of the Southern Chester County Regional Police broke ground on the force’s future headquarters at New Garden Park, 8934 Gap Newport Pike in New Garden Township. Chief Gerald Simpson, who heads the regional force, said its members deserved a modern headquarters that would allow them to “serve the community at a very high level.” Simpson said the 11,000-square-foot headquarters included design features like fieldstone walls and a wooden trussed-beam entrance to reflect the county’s historic architecture. The headquarters, which has an estimated cost of $4.5 million to $5 million, was designed by Sean Goodrick of Tevebaugh Architecture. The groundbreaking for the new headquarters comes not quite two years after the force itself was inaugurated in January 2017. It came about through the merger of the full-time New Garden Township Police Department and the West Grove Borough Police Department, then a part-time force. According to the state Department of Community & Economic Development, the regional policing approach is growing in popularity among municipalities where revenues are not sufficient to fund a full range of police services. Currently, the department says, there are more than 35 regional police departments in the state that provide service to more than 125 municipalities. According to a report released earlier this year, the regional force has seen lowered crime rates and lowered costs in its first year.
Source: Southern Chester County Weeklies; 9/14/2018

Delaware County

Residents to receive mailers as countywide assessment continues
Seventeen years since its last comprehensive reassessment, Delaware County has delved into the process again, but this time with new technology and a new approach. The county is using street-level and aerial photography to document the 200,000 houses within its borders. Property owners may receive a site visit and will receive a questionnaire in the mail about their property. The mailer will include instructions to describe parts of the property, such as the number of bathrooms and bedrooms. It won’t be until 2020 when property owners will receive the new value of the change — and when the processes to appeal those valuations will begin. Properties will be assessed at 100 percent of their determined worth when the new values are implemented in 2021. This year, the assessment is based on 61.1 percent of the property’s value, and in 2019 the assessment is expected to be 58.1 percent of the value. Data collection has been ongoing in Upper Darby, Aldan, Clifton Heights, East Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Millbourne, Collingdale and Darby Township. This month, it is beginning in Yeadon, Colwyn, Sharon Hill, Folcroft, Glenolden, Norwood, Prospect Park, Tinicum, Eddystone, Ridley Park, Ridley Township, Rutledge, Morton, Swarthmore and Springfield. Delaware County has set up a website for the reassessment and a Reassessment Hotline at 610-891-5695, where property owners can leave messages to be returned by assessment staff.
Source: Daily Times; 9/16/2018

Pa. grant money to fund capital projects in Springfield, Upper Darby
Millions of dollars in state grants have been awarded to construction projects in Springfield and Upper Darby. State Rep. Alex Charlton (R-165), of Springfield, announced a $1 million grant for a new Springfield Municipal and Public Safety Building, and state Rep. Jamie Santora (R-163), of Upper Darby, and state Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-26), of Springfield, jointly announced $1 million for the redevelopment of the Drexeline Shopping Center in Drexel Hill. Grants were awarded by the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program through the state Office of the Budget. The Drexeline Shopping Center project will revamp the area with a mixed-use development that will include a Wawa convenience store, a 130-unit residential complex, a multi-level grocery store and a 70,000-square-foot office development. A price tag of approximately $120 million has been attached to update the decades old shopping center.
Source: Daily Times; 9/13/2018

Upper Darby looks to collect delinquent sewer, trash fees
Upper Darby Township officials are looking to expedite collection of millions in delinquent trash and sewer fees that have been accumulating for almost two decades. The King of Prussia-based law firm Portnoff Law Associates Ltd. has been hired to assist in collecting approximately $5 million in township-imposed fees that are billed annually to more than 30,000 property owners for access to the public services. According to the township chief administrative officer, Tom Judge Jr., delinquencies go as far back as 2000. In the next few weeks, property owners who are delinquent will receive a letter in the mail listing the amount due, and they will have 30 days to pay the amount or establish a payment plan with the township. After 30 days, the account will turn over to collections, and at that point the owner will be hit with an assortment of legal fees and costs associated with the collection of those accounts. Since residents with delinquent accounts will pay legal fees, the township is not putting out any money to acquire Portnoff’s services and the firm will not receive a commission per account collected. For the current year, property owners pay approximately $350 in fees for sewer and trash. The fees collected go toward their respective budgets to maintain the services. Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie said collection rates of the fees have not been as high as the real estate taxes. Micozzie noted there is a problem with rental properties and who foots the bill. Township ordinance dictates that the fees are the responsibility of the property owner. Micozzie said there may be agreements written into a lease that a renter will pay the fees. Delinquency notices will be in the mail in the coming weeks. Property owners who are delinquent are asked to contact the township’s treasurer’s office as soon as possible.
Source: Daily Times; 9/13/2018

Officials to meet to discuss Woodburne Mansion
Local historians and consultants are reaching out to former state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie for help in their continued efforts to save a century-old home in Darby Borough. Woodburne Mansion was built in 1906 and has 55 rooms. The mansion has fallen into disrepair since it closed down as a nursing home facility in 2005. The mansion is on a portion of property owned by the county that was purchased in 2016 for open park space. Estimates to renovate the 55-room mansion go as high as $18 million. John Haigis, chair of the Darby Historical Commission, said previously he would like the building to be incorporated into the park, where it would serve as a trailhead for the Darby Creek walking trail.
Source: Daily Times; 9/18/2018

Montgomery County

Plymouth Township council considers sale of sewer system
Plymouth Township Council recently voted to seek a Request for Qualifications of potential sewer system bidders. According to Council Chairman Martin Higgins, this step will help them determine if there are willing buyers and how much they might want to bid for the township’s sewer system. If there is interest, council could then decide to put the system out to bid. Plymouth officials decided to investigate the sewer system sale option after being faced with an aging township building in need of improvements and a dwindling capital improvement fund. Township officials may also consider a tax increase to pay for improvements. Council members stressed that the decision will not be made quickly or lightly and that they want to hear from residents. “We want what’s best for the residents of this township,” said Councilwoman Karen Bramblett. “We’re going to be very cautious.”
Source: The Reporter; 9/17/2018

Police consolidation a hot topic in Bridgeport
Bridgeport Borough residents recently filled Council Hall to voice their opinions on a possible consolidation of the borough police department with Upper Merion’s force. Many residents, along with Mayor Mark Barbee, oppose the idea, which is still in the exploratory process. Barbee asked members of council what made them believe that consolidation is necessary or the best course of action. Council President John Pizza said, “The initial reason for this is financial.” Pizza cited lagging riverfront redevelopment and the tax hardship on borough seniors as the main reason for entering into the exploratory process. Residents that spoke in opposition to the idea cited increased response times, an anticipated loss of rapport between the community and hometown officers, and a repudiation of the claim that the move is needed to alleviate disproportionately high taxes.
Source: Times Herald; 9/13/2018

Two buildings set to be razed in Conshohocken
To make way for a new mixed-use project at Fayette Street and West Elm Street in Conshocken, two buildings will be torn down. The 37,000-square-foot buildings at 100 W. Elm St. and 1 W. First Ave. will be empty of tenants by Oct. 31, and demolition of the structures is expected to happen before the end of the year. The Sora West project, a $300 million development at the site that includes a new 427,000-square-foot headquarters for AmerisourceBergen, a new hotel and retail space, is being completed by Keystone Property Group.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 9/7/2018

Upper Salford to appeal cell tower decision
The Upper Salford Township Board of Supervisors decided 2-1 to appeal a recent decision by the township’s zoning hearing board to allow a 105-foot-tall cell phone tower on the grounds of the firehouse. The appeal now moves the case to Montgomery County Court. In its decision, the zoning hearing board rejected the arguments by Verizon Wireless that the township’s zoning ordinances violated the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 but agreed with arguments that the township’s zoning ordinance unduly restricts cell towers because the zoning puts cell towers in the limited industrial zoning district, which is low-lying land and north of a ridge. The zoning board’s decision concluded that the firehouse property, which is on the ridge, is the most appropriate place for the cellular tower. Township Solicitor Stephen Imms explained that the zoning board concluded the township’s ordinance results in de facto exclusion of cell towers. “That’s a legal term meaning that while the township provides for it, the standards which the township imposes and the location it’s elected for that use are not amenable for the use itself.” Residents opposed to the tower placement asked the board of supervisors to appeal the decision. Supervisor Richard Sacks, the only dissenting vote, said some members of the community support the plan “because they want to see better cell service through the area.”
Source: Souderton Independent; 9/18/2018

Philadelphia

City construction tax dead, Kenney promising funds for affordable housing
Negotiations between Philadelphia City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney on new affordable housing funding concluded with an agreement to officially kill the 1 percent construction tax passed by the council in the spring in exchange for a promise that Kenney will earmark as much as $71 million over five years for building and preserving homes. The deal means that Kenney will not have to use his veto power to stop the controversial proposed tax on construction, because Council President Darrell Clarke and his allies on the council will withdraw it. The veto would have been his first, and the move against the affordable housing funding scheme may have alienated voters hungry to see the mayor respond to a growing affordability crisis. In a show of joint intention, a transfer ordinance to move more than $19.1 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund was introduced (and additional $1.9 million is projected from the inclusionary zoning bonuses in the first year). “I am pleased to have reached a resolution with all of our colleagues in city council on a proposal that significantly increases funding for affordable housing without imposing a new tax on construction,” Kenney said in a statement. “All of us share the same goal — ensuring that residents have access to housing options no matter what their financial situation. This new revenue will be a reliable way to achieve that goal.”
Source: Plan Philly; 9/13/2018

Controversial anti-squatting law passes in Philadelphia
A controversial city law aimed at the quick removal of squatters has become law in Philadelphia. The measure will allow a homeowner to schedule a civil hearing in Common Pleas Court after they file an affidavit saying they’re the rightful owner of the property and that the squatter has no legal right to live there. The affidavit is also filed with the Philadelphia Police Department, so it can begin its own investigation. If the judge sides with the homeowner, he or she can order the trespasser to leave and impose a fine of up to $300 a day and potentially 90 days in jail. Anyone who abuses the law is subject to the same penalties. The law allows for a homeowner to file for an emergency hearing within five days of filing an affidavit. Housing advocates are concerned that could easily lead to landlords circumventing the legal eviction process. After hearing similar concerns, City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker introduced a measure aimed at narrowing and clarifying the new law so that rightful homeowners won’t be prosecuted, and victims of domestic violence, sexual harassment or stalking would not be deemed criminal and defiant trespassers.
Source: WHYY; 9/17/2018


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