NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
National flood insurance is critical to PA  

Bucks County
County commissioners award open space grants    

Chester County
Chester County recognizes value of homeownership   

Delaware County
Hotel marks new era in Chester   

Montgomery County
North Penn budget includes 2 percent tax increase   

Philadelphia County
Council hears fears of ‘middle’ neighborhoods’ decline  
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

National flood insurance is critical to PA
Reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, also known as the NFIP, is one of the top priorities for the National Association of Realtors® this year. PAR President Kathy McQuilkin said the NFIP is particularly important to Pennsylvania homeowners. “Pennsylvania is 12th in the U.S. with the number of NFIP policies, however, we’re fifth in the nation in the number of flood claims filed. In fact, between 2006 and 2014, flood claims were filed in 66 of our 67 counties.” The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance began to look closely at flood insurance when the previous reauthorization raised rates and people found themselves in danger of losing their homes because they couldn’t afford flood insurance, according to David Buono, consumer liaison at the department. That’s when private insurance options started to enter the market in Pennsylvania and the department created a new website to help consumers find private flood insurance that may provide options in areas that are less prone to flooding.
Source: PARJustListed; 6/14/2017 

Suburban Realtors Alliance is moving to new office
The Suburban Realtors Alliance will move to a new office starting June 26. The new building will be located at 1 Country View Road, Suite 202, Malvern, PA, 19355. The new location will place Alliance staff closer to the Pennsylvania Turnpike slip ramp, allowing them to travel more quickly to the communities served by its three shareholder organizations. The Alliance’s phone number, fax number, website and employee email addresses will not change.

Bucks County

County commissioners award open space grants
Bucks County commissioners approved three open space grants totaling just over $685,000 to Trumbauersville, Springfield and Lower Makefield. The county’s open space program was designed to help municipalities acquire open space, but a secondary use of the funds allows for park improvements in municipalities where there is not much open space available to save. Trumbauersville will use $135,000 to improve the Trumbauersville Veterans Park with a pole barn for storage, 10 new parking spaces and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. The commissioners awarded a $281,120 Natural Areas Program grant to Springfield to help the Heritage Conservancy acquire 40.16 acres within the Cook’s Creek Watershed. Lower Makefield will use its $269,605 grant to buy an 8.45-acre property near Big Oak and Stony Hill roads.
Source: The Intelligencer; 6/13/2017

Council Rock school board will fill vacancy
A special Council Rock school board meeting to publicly interview candidates and then select a replacement for board member Bill Foster will be held July 13. Foster resigned at the June 14 meeting because he is moving out of the district. He represents Council Rock Region One, which is all of Newtown Borough and voting precincts 4, 5 and 6 in Newtown Township. Residents who live in Region One and are interested in replacing Foster should submit a letter of application and a resume via email by July 5 at 4 p.m. Emails can be sent to school district Superintendent Robert Fraser at rfraser@crsd.org and his assistant Marie Sides at msides@crsd.org. The person appointed by the board on July 13 will serve until the board reorganization meeting in early December, unless he or she is also elected on Nov. 7. The person elected in November will serve out the remainder of Foster's term, which would end at the board reorganization meeting in early December 2019. Visit the school district website for school board contact information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/21/2017 

Richland Township moves ahead with park
A new public park is moving ahead in Richland Township. Brayton Gardens II Park was planned in 2001 by a private developer, but it was delayed numerous times before the township took over the project. The playground will include swing sets, seesaws and 14 other popular children’s playground attractions, along with a basketball court, picnic tables and a frame-building type pavilion that includes lighting and electrical access. A trail in the original plan has been removed due to wetlands preservation concerns, but may be reconsidered at a later date. Richland will advertise for bidding within a timeline calling for completion by Dec. 21. The $450,000 cost is included in the township’s 2017 budget.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 6/15/2017 

Bedminster Municipal Authority has moved
Bedminster Municipal Authority has moved, and all water and sewer payments will now be collected at the sewer plant office at 442 Elephant Road, Perkasie, PA, 18944. Payments will no longer be accepted at the Township Building. For more information, including office hours, please visit www.bedminsterma.org.
Source: Bedminster Township; 6/16/2017

Chester County 

Chester County recognizes value of homeownership
On June 20, the Chester County Board of Commissioners issued a proclamation declaring June 2017 as National Homeownership Month and recognizing the importance of homeownership in Chester County. The proclamation calls homeownership “an American value and the cornerstone of our economy,” and notes that the county’s homeownership rate is around 75 percent, compared to a national average of 63.7 percent. Kathy McQuilkin, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® and a Chester County resident, thanked the commissioners for keeping the county a great place to live and work in real estate, and spoke about the economic and intangible values of homes for owners and communities. Suburban West Realtors® Kit Anstey, Bill McFalls and Dave Brant also attended the proclamation. Recorder of Deeds Rick Loughery used the occasion to announce that his office will begin offering ceremonial deeds to new homeowners. Video of the event can be viewed online

Parkesburg Borough adopts point of sale inspections
Parkesburg Borough Council has adopted a point of sale use and occupancy ordinance. The ordinance will require an inspection for code compliance with the International Property Maintenance Code. Sidewalks and zoning have been identified as areas of particular concern for the borough. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance submitted commentary to the borough during the meeting. As a result, borough council noted that they will bring the ordinance into compliance with the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act

Penn Township to impose impact fees
The Penn Township Board of Supervisors is continuing to work on completing the process for Act 209, the law which allows the township to collect traffic impact fees to defray the cost of improving the roads to meet the demands of growth. The supervisors adopted the provision back in February. Since then, any new use coming into the township is being assessed a transportation impact fee of $1,000 for each new car trip per day that it contributes to the traffic impact area. As an example, a new home might add two trips per day to the traffic impact area, which includes most of the township, while a restaurant, retail store or professional office could generate multiple trips per day. Adopting the ordinance was the first step in an 18-month process. The township is working on a Land Use Assumptions Report, which is scheduled for adoption at a public hearing on Sept. 6. That report analyzes a traffic impact area and calculates what the township would look like if all properties were developed. With that plan in hand, needed road improvements will be determined. A new traffic impact fee will be determined using this information to justify the final cost. At the center of the traffic improvement plan is the intersection of Route 796 and Baltimore Pike, where congestion is an ongoing problem and major changes are needed.
Source: Daily Local; 6/15/2017 

West Goshen supervisors could limit public comment at meetings
West Goshen supervisors are considering limiting public comment during board meetings. The proposed resolution will be posted online at the township’s website and the board will again consider it at the July meeting. The board has not yet fine-tuned the proposed resolution. According to the resolution, the public will be limited to five minutes at the podium unless the chairperson grants more time. Residents and taxpayers, only, would make comments on non-agenda items at the end of the meeting. Agenda items would be discussed by the public after a motion is made, and then seconded. The township might ask residents to submit a summary of comments about items not on the agenda at least 24 hours before a meeting “in order to allow members of the board as well as township staff adequate time to prepare to respond.” The proposed resolution also would require those making public comments to sign in prior to the meeting.
Source: Daily Local; 6/16/2017 

WalkWorks ChesCo aims for a billion steps
The Chester County Health Department is seeking participants for WalkWorks, a program launched by the Pennsylvania Department of Health that encourages people to walk more. The county has set a goal of one billion steps in 2017, and about 200 million had been logged by May 12. According to the county website, brisk walking reduces body fat, cholesterol and the risk of bone fracture. Residents who are interested in joining a walking group in Chester County, or who belong to a walking group or other organization that is looking for a place to walk and engage in regular physical activity, can e-mail walkworks@chesco.org or visit the county’s WalkWorks website. Individual participants can register to count their steps by downloading the Walker Tracker app to a smartphone or device.

Delaware County

Hotel marks new era in Chester
The Candlewood Suites Hotel in downtown Chester is officially a go. At a groundbreaking ceremony, Drake Nakaishi, the executive director of the Chester Economic Development Authority, was joined by Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, developer Sam Patel, members of Chester City Council and others with golden shovels in hand to establish the site of Chester’s newest hotel at Fourth and Welsh streets. Right next to City Hall on the Avenue of the States, the Candlewood Suites, an 89-room all-suite hotel is designed for extended-stay business travelers. “This has been a long-term project, and we’re thankful that we’re able to make this [happen] and bring some new revitalization into the city of Chester,” Nakaishi said. The cost to build the Candlewood Suites project is estimated to cost $6 million.
Source: Daily Times; 6/16/2017 

Taxes going up 3 percent in Wallingford-Swarthmore
Pension costs were much on the minds of the Wallingford Swarthmore School Board as they formulated the final 2017-18 budget, which includes a 3 percent tax increase. The $78.5 million spending plan calls for property owners to pay an additional 3 percent in school taxes starting July 1. For those with a property assessed at the district average of $179,000, the new rate will see them paying another $228 in taxes. The district has financial reserves of approximately $9.3 million and intends to tap up to $1.1 million of that in 2017-18 to address a deficit caused primarily by soaring pension costs. The state’s Act 1 school tax index limited a tax hike for the district to 2.5 percent. Wallingford-Swarthmore is going beyond that by using a 0.5-percent allowed exception to help with pension costs, thus bringing the total increase to 3 percent.
Source: Daily Times; 6/17/2017 

Marple Township gives approval for urgent care facility
The commissioners granted preliminary/final approval for an urgent care medical facility at 3045 West Chester Pike. The 0.37-acre parcel is the site of the former Jim Edward’s Gulf gas station. The 3,384-square-foot office will be operated by American Family Care, an Alabama-based concern with more than 200 facilities in 26 states. The company received the necessary zoning variances, such as allowing the facility in an area zoned Residential High Density, and the approval included several waivers. Removal of the underground tanks is being monitored by the township and state Department of Environmental Protection. American Family Care is also slated to open a center in Aston before the end of the year.
Source: Daily Times; 6/15/2017

Chichester budget raises taxes
The Chichester School Board unanimously adopted a 2017-18 final operating budget totaling $72.9 million and reflecting a 1 percent tax increase. Millage was set at 39.8561. A homeowner with a property assessed at $175,000 can expect to pay about $6,974 in real estate taxes, an annual increase of $691. Business Manager Anthony Testa said due to a budget shortfall, it was necessary for the district to pull $1.8 million from the reserve fund. He added that salary and benefit costs represent 70 percent of the total budget, adding that the Pa. State Employees Retirement System (PSERS) pension costs, after state reimbursement, totals $4.8 million; an increase of about $500,000. In addition, the cost of cyber and charter school tuition is budgeted at $1.8 million, and debt financing is just below $7.5 million.
Source: Daily Times; 6/17/2017

Montgomery County

North Penn budget includes 2 percent tax increase
The North Penn School Board recently passed the 2017-18 budget with a 2 percent tax increase. The $252.2 million budget raises the millage rate to 24.671 mills, with one mill equal to $1 in tax for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. School real estate taxes will increase about $71 for a resident with a home assessed at the district median of $147,965. The total school tax bill for the same home will be $3,650. The district will use $4.5 million of its $19 million in uncommitted savings to balance the budget, a move called “unsustainable” by school Director Edward Diasio. North Penn is the largest school district in Montgomery County and the seventh-largest in the state. The school board also agreed to contracts with its superintendent, administrators and support staff. The teachers’ contract expires this month.
Source: The Intelligencer; 6/21/2017 

Litigation holds up seminary sale in Lower Merion
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been trying to sell or lease more than 40 acres of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary campus in Lower Merion for more than four years. A fight over a real estate deal involving Main Line Health and a New Jersey developer of senior-care facilities has the sale of the property tied up in litigation. A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter found that enough evidence existed for a trial to decide whether the health system breached a fiduciary duty to developer William Burris when it decided in 2015 to pursue the seminary property itself, cutting Burris out of a deal he brought to Main Line Health in 2014. The central issue is whether Main Line Health and Burris had a partnership or were at least jointly promoting a proposal to build a nursing home or some other facility for seniors on the seminary property. The litigation could drag out the sale of the seminary property for years.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/15/2017 

Pottstown to consider allowing fire pits
Pottstown Borough Council voted unanimously to advertise an ordinance that will rescind a previous ordinance that bans outdoor fire pits or “chimeneas” in the borough. The proposed change was brought before council by Pottstown’s new fire chief, Michael Lessar Jr. Lessar’s proposal outlined the reasons the current ordinance is unnecessary, vague and confusing, and an inconvenience to firefighters. Repealing Ordinance 2084, which regulates open burning, will permit backyard fires to be governed by the International Fire Code. The International Fire Code allows the use of commercially sold portable fireplaces, if they are placed 15 feet from structures and combustible surfaces. Backyard burning of trash and leaves will still be prohibited. The ordinance will not be officially repealed until it has been advertised and adopted by the council.
Source: The Mercury; 6/14/2017 

Methacton School District conducts community survey
The Methacton School District is asking one adult per household within the district to complete a survey related to the district’s communication efforts. The survey is will be online until July 10.
Source: Worcester Township; 6/20/2017

Philadelphia

Council hears fears of ‘middle’ neighborhoods’ decline
Philadelphia Councilwoman Cherelle Parker held a marathon hearing on “Middle Neighborhoods,” the kind of stable, working- to middle-class areas that kept Philadelphia afloat in the worst years of the urban crisis. Middle neighborhoods are neither the poorest nor the wealthiest neighborhoods in a city, typically experiencing neither precipitous decline nor rapid appreciation. Parker’s district in the upper north and northwest section of the city is almost entirely comprised of such neighborhoods. Census figures suggest that these neighborhoods began to decline starting around 2010. A Philadelphia Inquirer analysis of Census data found that Overbrook suffered the largest drop in median income between 2000 and 2010, plummeting more than $14,000. The hearing featured testimony from economic development expert Paul Brophy, Congressman Dwight Evans, and 11 other experts in neighborhood development, home preservation and city government. Brophy was quick to say he didn’t think the problem could be solved by government, but rather, “We need people in these neighborhoods to care about these neighborhoods and to see their assets, rather than only seeing liabilities. We need intergovernmental effort from banks, foundations and the people of the neighborhood.” Although a few such policies were kicked around, the hearing focused more on the challenges than on any one solution. Visit Plan Philly for more information.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 6/20/2017 

Water Department launches low-income assistance program
The Kenney administration announced that the Philadelphia Water Department will launch a low-income assistance program that offers payments starting at $12 per month and debt forgiveness after two years of on-time payments. Under the new model, payments will be tied to a household’s income, not water usage. Households with an income under 150 percent of the federal poverty level, as well as those struggling with hardship, such as the loss of a job or being a victim of domestic violence, qualify for the program. Officials hope that the expanded assistance program could lead to higher overall collections. Roughly 40 percent of payers are behind on their water bills, for a total delinquency of about $262 million, according to the water department. “This is the most progressive collection strategy for water in the country,” said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who in 2015 led the effort to pass enabling legislation for the program through City Council. “If we want to maintain our high home-ownership rate, this is one of those things that is hugely important.”
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/19/2017


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