NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
House, Senate vote to end governor’s pandemic disaster declaration but keep regulatory waivers

Bucks County
New Hope-Solebury School District eyes tax increase

Chester County
West Goshen to consider resale ordinance

Delaware County
Assistance for mortgage-holders, renters outlined by task force

Montgomery County
No tax increase for Norristown Area — RTT revenue projections skyrocket

Philadelphia County
Philly workers who stayed home may be due a wage tax refund

 

News Briefs

 

General News

House, Senate vote to end governor’s pandemic disaster declaration but keep regulatory waivers
The Republican-controlled state House and Senate each voted this week on measures to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic disaster emergency declaration while keeping many of the regulatory waivers in place. The moves come less than a month after voters dramatically expanded lawmakers’ powers to control such declarations by approving a ballot question in the May 18 primary. The House voted Tuesday on party lines to approve House Resolution 106, which would terminate the governor’s emergency order. The Senate then approved an amended version of the resolution with minor adjustments and sent it back to the House for concurrence, where it was approved. HR106 does not need the governor’s approval, but it will not take effect until the results of the primary election are certified. The resolution is not expected to affect real estate practices, as the relevant restrictions have already been rolled back. The Senate and House also approved House Bill 854, which would extend until Sept. 30 hundreds of regulatory waivers that would otherwise end with the termination of the emergency declaration, impacting practices currently in place like access to telemedicine and distance learning for real estate licensees. HB854 must be signed by Gov. Wolf before it becomes law. The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® will provide further details on how HR106 and HB854 may affect real estate.
Source: Daily Times; 6/9/2021 & Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 6/10/2021

New unemployment claims system goes live
Pennsylvania’s long-awaited overhaul of its rickety unemployment claims filing system went live on Tuesday, with some users immediately complaining about glitches and the state agency that runs the program reporting a phone outage that temporarily prevented it from making or receiving calls. More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic swamped the state’s 40-year-old claims system, officials promised the replacement would be easy to use, speed up the process of filing a claim and reduce fraud. By midday Tuesday, more than 62,000 people had successfully filed using the new system — a quarter of all people receiving traditional jobless benefits and pandemic-related extended benefits. The state Department of Labor and Industry acknowledged some users got “invalid password” messages, while others had trouble connecting to the server, but said that fixes were in progress.
Source: Daily Times; 6/9/2021

PFAS chemicals found in a third of water samples, state says
A statewide testing program did not indicate widespread contamination of drinking water supplies by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of highly toxic chemicals used in products like nonstick cookware, carpets, firefighting foam and fast-food wrappers. Of more than 400 sites tested across Pennsylvania, about one-third were found to contain one of the chemicals, according to results posted online Thursday by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Two of the results — in Centre and Crawford counties — were above the federal government’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for the combined concentrations of PFAS. The chemicals have turned up increasingly in public water systems and private wells around the country after the federal government in 2013 ordered public water systems with more than 10,000 customers to test for it. Studies have found “associations” between the chemicals and cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and other health issues, although state officials say their effects on human health are not fully understood. More information and full results can be found on the DEP website.
Source: Daily Times; 6/5/2021

Bucks County

New Hope-Solebury School District eyes tax increase
The New Hope-Solebury School Board intends to adopt a final budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 24, at 6:30 p.m. either virtually or in person. Meeting information will be posted on the district website. The preliminary final budget calls for a 3% tax increase, which is the maximum allowed by the Act 1 index. From the school district’s proposed final budget presentation, a 3% tax increase translates to a total millage rate of 108.1527 mills. The property tax bill for the average home in the district would increase by $171 to a total of $5,857. The district will also use about $1.3 million from district reserves to balance the budget.
Source: The Intelligencer; 6/2/2021 & New Hope-Solebury School District budget documents

Bucks County seeks public input on comprehensive plan update
The Bucks County Planning Commission is asking for the public’s help to guide the upcoming revision of the county’s comprehensive plan. Called “Bucks 2040,” the updated comprehensive plan is intended to provide fresh guidance to the county’s boroughs and townships on the best ways to use and develop land, improve infrastructure and boost economic opportunities. It is set for completion in September 2022. The county last updated the comprehensive plan in 2011. A representative sample of county households will receive a survey, and feedback will also be requested from local municipalities. For more information about the plan and how to submit public comment, visit the Bucks 2040 website.
Source: Bucks County; 6/2021

DEP report finds progress in PFAS remediation in Montco, Bucks sites
A recent report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shows PFAS contamination of drinking water is not widespread in the commonwealth, and progress has been made in remediating contaminated sites in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Some municipalities in those counties had previously tested several hundred times higher than the 70 parts-per-trillion health advisory level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Of about 50 sites in Bucks and Montgomery counties sampled between February 2020 and January 2021, none exceeded the 70 ppt threshold — and of the 36 sites that had some level of PFAS, the average test results for both counties came out to about 14 ppt. The municipalities have so far shouldered the costs of clean-up to remediate the toxic PFAS chemicals — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that were widely used in household products and firefighting foams at military bases. Residents and local officials want the military to fully cover the cost of remediation, but a lack of federal and state regulations mean the polluters are not legally accountable. The military has previously refused to pay for remediation efforts that lower PFAS levels under the federal threshold. Read more here.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/8/2021

PennDOT seeks input for US 1 improvements in Middletown
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is making significant improvements to US Route 1 in Bensalem and Middletown townships. Phase 1 of the three-phase project in Bensalem Township is wrapping up, with Phase 2 in Middletown Township beginning now. PennDOT is planning Phase 3 of the plan that spans the area near Neshaminy Highs School to the interchange at SR 413 (Pine Street/Bellevue Avenue), and wants to hear from residents in the area. Read the Middletown Township press release for links to more information about the project and instructions on submitting comments by the July 2 deadline.
Source: Middletown Township; 6/2021

Chester County 

West Goshen to consider resale ordinance
West Goshen Township will consider a resale inspection ordinance for adoption. The proposed ordinance establishes the application and procedure process for resale inspections. Verbiage from Act 133 is incorporated into the ordinance, and the Alliance was able to make comments on the draft language. If adopted, the new requirements would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. The ordinance will be considered at a public meeting on Tuesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. in the West Goshen Township Building, 1025 Paoli Pike, West Chester.

Price tag may derail rail service to West Chester
Although there is considerable support from residents to re-establish rail service between West Chester Borough and Philadelphia along the existing Elwyn Line right-of-way, SEPTA has no current plans to bring commuter trains back to the borough’s old Market Street Station. “It’s not part of our next 12-year projection,” Robert L. Lund Jr., SEPTA deputy general manager, told residents at a special meeting of borough council. Lund pointed at an existing SEPTA $4.6 billion backlog for infrastructure costs that he said needs to be addressed. The audience, which included several members of the rail restoration committee and Chester County SEPTA board members Skip Brion and Kevin Johnson, heard that renovations might run $500 million to $600 million, about double what has been suggested recently by restoration advocates. Lund said that there are nine miles of single track, 25 bridges, and seven public and five private crossings that would all have to be upgraded. Four stations — at Cheyney, Westtown, West Chester University and West Chester Borough — would need to be rebuilt and made fully ADA accessible. Parking would be limited. SEPTA is currently reviewing its bus routes and is considering connecting a station on the Paoli-Thorndale Line to West Chester by bus. Lund also noted that SEPTA regional rail ridership is at 20% of prepandemic levels.
Source: Daily Local; 6/9/2021

Caln gets $65K for blight remediation
State Rep. Dan Williams (D-74), of Coatesville, announced $65,000 in Commonwealth Financing Authority funding for blight remediation in Caln Township. The funding will be used to help demolish a building on the township-owned Ingleside Golf Course and perform an asbestos abatement. “I’m very glad that this funding will help make the Ingleside Golf Course a safe place which all its residents can enjoy,” Williams said.
Source: Daily Local; 6/8/2021

Contracts awarded for Avon Grove middle school renovation
The Avon Grove School Board has approved contracts for the district’s high-school-to-middle-school renovation project. Contracts were awarded to: Bancroft Construction Company, general contractor; Matchline Mechanical LLC, mechanical contractor; Wescott Electric Company, electrical contractor; and Jay R. Reynolds Inc., plumbing contractor. Bids opened on May 13 and were lower than expected, allowing the district to choose alternate bids for additional renovations, including ceiling and lighting replacement with energy-efficient LED fixtures throughout the building. The total award for all contracts, including base bids and alternates, is just over $16 million. The total project to convert the high school to a middle school is $1.37 million under the projected budgeted amount of $22 million — and that figure is part of a larger $127 million plan that also includes constructing a new high school. The renovations to convert the high school into a middle school are expected to begin in the summer of 2022. Both schools are slated to open by the beginning of the school year in September of 2022.
Source: Daily Local; 6/8/2021

Delaware County

Assistance for mortgage-holders, renters outlined by task force
The June 4 meeting of the Delaware County Fair Housing Task Force provided an update on efforts to use $37.3 million available in the county's Emergency Rental Assistance Program (Delco-ERA). The program has received 3,600 applications for rent and utility assistance, 92.5% of which were from people in the high priority group, meaning they earn less than 50% of area median income, have experienced unemployment or are in some state of eviction. The program, which is being administered for the county by Capital Access, has approved $5.5 million in funding for 680 applicants. The municipalities with the highest numbers of applicants by far are Upper Darby Township and Chester City. Tenants must apply for the assistance, which can include up to 15 months of rent and utility bills, but landlords have an online interface to track and assist in tenants' applications. Capital Access is open to community partnerships, and will send staff to intake events or train partners’ staff to conduct their own intake events. For more information, visit the Delco ERA website. The Task Force meeting also included updates from the county Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD), which has $1.16 million in federal grants to assist with mortgage and utility assistance. The program, which offers up to $6,000 in assistance, has garnered a small response so far. For more information, visit the OHCD website and scroll to the Delco CARES mortgage assistance section.
Source: Delaware County Fair Housing Task Force meeting; 6/4/2021

Lansdowne acquires property for parking lot through eminent domain
Lansdowne Borough Council on June 4 approved a resolution to purchase an undeveloped property on the east side of North Lansdowne Avenue, located between Baltimore and Lacrosse avenues. The borough condemned the 5,800-square-foot property through eminent domain and worked out a purchase agreement with the owner, Famiglia LLC, for $35,000. The borough intends to turn the property into a public parking lot. Read the resolution here.
Source: Lansdowne Borough; 6/4/2021

County rental assistance program sets goals for reaching renters in need
The administrators of the Delaware County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (Delco-ERA) hope to push the program farther into the Latino and immigrant communities. Capital Access was hired by county council in March to administer a $37 million program using combined federal and state funds to provide rental assistance to those who experienced a loss or disruption of income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, management consultancy Witt O’Brien’s completed an analysis and found that roughly 64,500 renters live in Delaware County and of those, slightly more than 12,000 would qualify for the program. Jeremey Newberg, CEO of Capital Access, said he’s aiming to reach 5,000. The Delaware County program has been distributing an average $7,900 of rent and utility payments to applicants approved so far. Newberg said he initially thought the average would be $4,000 or $5,000. The Emergency Rental Assistance program covers up to 12 months of past-due rent and three months of future rent, and past-due utility charges.
Source: Daily Times; 6/8/2021

Forgotten graves: How a Delco township learned it owned a graveyard
When Concord purchased a historic abandoned church on an acre of land in 2014, no one from the township knew the property contained a nearly forgotten graveyard. Officials have located several unmarked graves on the property, and there could be many more. The site is called the Spring Valley African Methodist Episcopal Church on Spring Valley Road. No one is certain when the last services were held in the building, but it’s been empty since at least the 1980s. The church was built in 1880 and used by African-Americans living and working primarily in the areas around Concord and Chadds Ford. After learning about the graves from a group of former parishioners in 2019, the township hired a company to use ground-penetrating radar, which identified eight to 10 potential grave sites. The township received a historic preservation award from Delaware County for its renovation of the property. The township originally purchased the property for $65,000 with plans to fix the building as part of the township’s historic properties.
Source: Daily Local; 6/6/2021

Delaware County posts inaugural board of health meeting online
A video recording of the inaugural Delaware County Board of Health Meeting can be viewed on the county website. Work to officially create a county health department began in January 2020. The county plans to hire a director for the new health department along with personnel this summer, and it expects the department to be operational by January 2022. The vision of the Delaware County Health Department is to ensure that all members of the Delaware County community have access to the resources that provide the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life. Its mission is “to promote, protect, and assure conditions for optimal health for all residents of Delaware County through leadership, prevention, response and partnership with the community.”
Source: Delaware County; 6/3/2021 & 4/16/2021

Montgomery County

No tax increase for Norristown Area — RTT revenue projections skyrocket
The Norristown Area School Board approved a $173 million preliminary budget for the 2021-2022 school year that does not include a tax increase. The budget is scheduled to be finalized on Monday, June 28. A presentation of the proposed final budget in May showed the district is projecting about $650,000 more in real estate transfer taxes than the budgeted amount of $750,000 for the 2020-2021 school year budget. Click here for the budget documents and presentations for the upcoming school year. In other news, the district will be preparing for on-site, in-person instruction five days a week for the upcoming school year. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 30.
Source: Times Herald; 5/26/2021

Upper Merion to define bed-and-breakfast regulations
Upper Merion Township supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider an amendment to the township zoning ordinance that will define bed-and-breakfast establishment regulations. The proposed ordinance will set forth the zoning districts in which a bed-and-breakfast may be operated and also regulations on the number of guest rooms, minimum bathroom requirements, maximum continuous stay, food service compliance regulations and more. The public hearing will be on Thursday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Upper Merion Township Building, 175 W. Valley Forge Road, King of Prussia. The full text of the ordinance is available for review on the township website.
Source: Times Herald; 6/2/2021

DEP report finds progress in PFAS remediation in Montco, Bucks sites
A recent report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shows PFAS contamination of drinking water is not widespread in the commonwealth, and progress has been made in remediating contaminated sites in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Some municipalities in those counties had previously tested several hundred times higher than the 70 parts-per-trillion health advisory level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Of about 50 sites in Bucks and Montgomery counties sampled between February 2020 and January 2021, none exceeded the 70 ppt threshold — and of the 36 sites that had some level of PFAS, the average test results for both counties came out to about 14 ppt. The municipalities have so far shouldered the costs of clean-up to remediate the toxic PFAS chemicals — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that were widely used in household products and firefighting foams at military bases. Residents and local officials want the military to fully cover the cost of remediation, but a lack of federal and state regulations mean the polluters are not legally accountable. The military has previously refused to pay for remediation efforts that lower PFAS levels under the federal threshold. Read more here.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 6/8/2021

Lower Merion’s walkable riverfront has industrial past
A century ago, Lower Merion’s Schuylkill River waterfront was lined with buildings that housed the blast furnaces of the Pencoyd Iron Works. Now the area is a modern waterfront complex called Pencoyd Landing. Not normally thought of as a riverfront town, Lower Merion has seven miles of frontage along the Schuylkill River, with much of it directly across the river from Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood. Crossing the river on foot or bike was made a reality in 2017 with the refurbishment of the Pencoyd foot bridge. Pencoyd Landing developer, the Penn Group, “has created a lush and cozy refuge” out of a location hemmed in by highways and high bluffs that “should inspire the region’s other waterfront projects to up their game,” according to Inquirer columnist Inga Saffron. Read more detail about the design and future development for the area here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/7/2021

Lower Salford resumes in-person meetings
Lower Salford Township municipal board and committee meetings will resume as in-person events during June 2021. To comply with coronavirus pandemic guidelines, some mask restrictions continue. The township asks all those who plan to attend its meetings but who are not yet fully vaccinated “to please wear a mask.” See the township announcement here.
Source: Sanatoga Post; 5/30/2021

Philadelphia

Philly workers who stayed home may be due a wage tax refund
People who work in Philadelphia and live elsewhere are subject to pay the nonresident Philadelphia wage tax of 3.5019% of gross wages. Many municipalities in the Philadelphia area levy an earned income tax (EIT), with most running about 1%. Residents living in the suburbs usually pay their EIT to the municipality in which they reside — unless they work in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia wage tax supersedes the local EIT. Due to the pandemic, some suburban residents that were relocated from the city to their suburban homes for work may be entitled to a refund of the Philadelphia wage tax. Click here for more information.
Source: Newtown Township, Bucks County; 6/4/2021

Program helps youth of color learn about real estate; applications due June 11
Drexel University has partnered with NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, to host a summer youth program for current high school sophomores and juniors of color, designed to introduce the teens to careers in commercial real estate, including architecture, development, investment, construction, brokerage and urban planning/design. Applications for the 2021 program are open, and the deadline to apply is Friday, June 11. The program runs weekdays from Monday, July 12, to Tuesday, July 20. Click here for more information.
Source: Philadelphia Tribune; 6/7/2021


Email grassroots@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com to receive our weekly News Briefs. It's as simple as submitting your contact information so we can create a user profile.

Designed and delivered by Accrisoft