NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
NAR urges Mnuchin to protect MID

Bucks County
St. Luke’s proposes 80-bed hospital in Milford

Chester County
Anti-bias ordinance adopted in Phoenixville

Delaware County
Big budget gap still looms in Upper Darby after update

Montgomery County
New procedure for Lower Frederick use and occupancy

Philadelphia County
Philly's Civic Engagement Academy expanding to meet booming demand

 



 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

NAR urges Mnuchin to protect MID
NAR 2017 President William E. Brown has sent a letter to new Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging him to protect the current tax benefits of homeownership as the Trump Administration seeks to reform the federal income tax system. Referring to recent media reports where Mnuchin promised to leave “the mortgage interest deduction as is,” the letter explained that certain types of tax reform plans, such as the “Blueprint” put forward by House Republicans last year, also pledge to leave the deduction untouched. However, by nearly doubling the standard deduction while repealing most itemized deductions, “the Blueprint would in fact have the consequences of nullifying not only the MID, but also other tax incentives of owning a home for the great majority of Americans who now are, or who aspire to become, homeowners.” The letter goes on to explain that this kind of approach to tax reform could harm the incentive effect that makes purchasing a home easier for the first-time homebuyer and also could lead to a drop in the value of all existing homes.  “The overall result could be a disastrous downturn in the quality of many neighborhoods and communities, and especially our most vulnerable ones,” Brown said in the letter. The letter concludes by asserting that REALTORS® support tax reform, but that in making needed changes, we should “not discard the features of our tax system that make America a homeownership society.”
Source: Nar.realtor; 3/17/2017

Trump Administration releases budget
On Thursday, March 16, President Trump released the "America First - A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." The budget does not include many details, but is more an outline of President Trump’s spending proposals. House and Senate appropriations committees will review the budget proposals and will develop the final budget documents for the President's signature. Of interest to NAR, the budget would cut $6.2 billion from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, Choice Neighborhoods, the HOME Investment Partnership program and Self-help Housing programs (SHOP). These programs provide resources for states and local communities to provide downpayment assistance, home renovation, rental assistance and development. The budget does make provisions to continue the FHA mortgage insurance program. In addition, the budget cuts nearly $1 billion from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), including:

  • $190 million in federal funding for flood maps. According to NAR, without adequate flood maps communities and property owners would not know where to insure or build, potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for increased post-disaster financial assistance;
  • $667 million in FEMA grants for states and local governments to mitigate (elevate, flood proof, relocate, buyout) properties and communities out of harm’s way;
  • It also proposes a new user fee for NFIP policyholders to “ensure the cost of Government services is not subsidized by taxpayers.”

The budget focuses largely on defense spending and border security.  Congress is beginning to consider the FY 2018 budget, and will take this proposal into consideration. NAR will work with Congressional appropriators to advocate for adequate funding for programs important to REALTORS® and homeowners.
Source: Nar.realtor; 3/17/2017

Bucks County

St. Luke’s proposes 80-bed hospital in Milford
Representatives of St. Luke’s University Health Network appeared before the Milford Township Board of Supervisors to discuss a sketch plan for a proposed 80-bed hospital in the township. The proposed facility would be built on the property at Route 663 and Portzer Road. Supervisors voted 3-0 to affirm that the sketch plan is in general conformance with township zoning for the area. The affirmation gives St. Luke’s the go ahead to develop in-depth land development and traffic management plans to bring back to the board for further consideration and public hearings. Road improvements and developing the best plan for managing traffic on the heavily traveled section of Route 663 could figure prominently in discussions about the proposal once formal development hearings begin before Milford supervisors.
Source: The Intelligencer; 3/22/2017

Upper Southampton to consider backflow/cross connection prevention ordinance
Upper Southampton Township supervisors will hold a public hearing on April 4, beginning at 7 p.m. to consider an ordinance that would require the installment of backflow prevention devices in all properties connected to public water systems. The hearing will take place at the Southampton Free Library, lower level meeting room, 947 Street Rd., Southampton. The full text of the ordinance is available on the Township’s website at www.ustwp.org. The public is invited to attend and comment during the hearing.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/21/2017

Perkasie seeking applicants for council vacancy
Perkasie Borough Council is accepting applications for a vacancy following the death of Councilwoman Florence Frei. “Her commitment to the community will be sorely missed,” said Council President Jim Ryder. Frei had served on council since 2010. The borough is seeking residents of the second ward interested in being considered for appointment to the Perkasie Borough Council. The term is available through December 31, 2017. To be eligible for appointment, an applicant must be a registered voter residing in the second ward. Applications will be received up until April 17, 2017. Appointment will be made at the Perkasie Borough Council meeting April 17, 2017 which begins at 7:00 PM. Appointment to the Borough Council is a unique opportunity for individuals to serve their community and be involved with the critical issues of Borough operations including subdivisions, budgeting and community and economic development. Interested persons may contact any Council member, the Mayor or the Borough Office at 620 West Chestnut Street, Perkasie. An application form is available by calling the Borough Office at 215-257-5065. Applications can also be found under Borough Office/Documents, Forms and Permits on the Perkasie Borough website.
Source: The Intelligencer; 3/22/2017

Warminster zoning board grants variances for seven-home plan
Warminster Township’s zoning board voted 4-1 to grant various lot size and density reliefs to developer JAMP LLC, which will allow the developer to move forward with plans to develop a 4.2-acre site at 900 York Road. The proposed plans call for a seven-home development on the property of the abandoned White Column Farm. The developer agreed to the board’s request to amend the application to remove one home from the original eight-home community and to add deed restrictions including requiring any person who purchases the 200-year-old home to refurbish or renovate it. The deed restrictions are to guarantee the historic structure, currently listed as an abandoned house in township documents, will remain on the site and not be demolished by a future owner. There is a long process ahead for the site development – which will include various land development approvals that will require public hearings. The current development plan is the result of meeting with neighbors following a previous zoning meeting when a 14-unit twin home development was proposed.
Source: The Intelligencer; 3/23/2017


Chester County 

Anti-bias ordinance adopted in Phoenixville
A new ordinance in Phoenixville Borough is being hailed as an important victory for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the fight against discrimination. In a 6-1 decision Wednesday night, Phoenixville Borough Council adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance that ensures every resident is afforded equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations and is treated fairly regardless of, among a host of other things, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. A standing-room-only crowd of over 100 people filled the council chamber and delivered thunderous applause upon the ordinance’s adoption. Many said the bill stood up for human rights and made the borough a safer place to live for LGBT residents. The borough joins 38 other municipalities in Pennsylvania that have similar ordinances on the books, including locally in West Chester and Downingtown boroughs. Phoenixville’s ordinance looks to address gaps in state law. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protects against discrimination based on race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, familial status, handicap or disability and national origin. The new ordinance forms a five-person volunteer panel called the Phoenixville Human Relations Commission, appointed by borough council, whose members will serve overlapping three-year terms to handle discrimination claims through a mediation process. The goal will be to settle disputes before they have to go to court. Read the approved ordinance here.
Source: Daily Local; 3/23/2017

Downingtown Main Street Association leads the Borough’s revitalization efforts
Downingtown Borough’s business district is much busier these days, thanks largely to the concerted efforts of the Downingtown Main Street Association, a nonprofit helping to revitalize the borough, writes Steven Hoffman for the Chester County Press. “The trend is that people want to come to small towns such as Downingtown to have dinner and to shop,” said Steve Plaugher, CEO of the Downingtown Main Street Association. One of the primary goals is to attract new businesses to the district. The organization has been working closely with Downingtown Borough officials to facilitate improvements. One example is the Armor Alley Pocket Plaza, which is planning further redevelopment this year. Located in the 100 block of East Lancaster Avenue, the plaza connects the business district with Milltown Square and will soon have a new, vibrant feel. According to Plaugher, a state grant of $108,000, combined with additional funding, will bring around $127,000 in improvements to the area.
Source: Daily Times; 3/20/2017

Area officials taking pipeline issue to state level
With several township residents strongly opposing installation of the proposed Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline, a pair of elected representatives is fighting to improve safety and advocate for public sharing of the financial bounty generated by pipelines. Two Chester County elected officials, Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19th), and Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-156th), have taken the fight to Harrisburg. Dinniman has been addressing the pipeline issue for five years. While he no longer represents West Goshen Township, he has supported several pipeline bills concerning notification, safety and preserving the environment.  A series of Dinniman-favored senate bills (SB- 801, 802, 803 and 804) would guarantee residents are properly notified and educated about the presence of a pipeline in their community. Pipeline right-of way seizure by eminent domain would need to be approved by a state agency. Comitta wants to make pipelines safer. “I have a great deal of confidence in local emergency services personnel,” Comitta said. “They are highly dedicated and highly trained and I don’t have a concern about that, but we need additional training. I don’t know what the additional costs would be, but we should find out and support local emergency responders for what they need.”
Source: Daily Times; 3/20/2017

Kennett officials take action to advance trails plan
Kennett Township’s Board of Supervisors recently voted to authorize a potential payment of $360,050 to cover about half the cost of a 20-acre parcel that Township Manager Lisa Moore said would provide linkages among various proposed walking trails being planned around the area. Moore said the location of the parcel is being kept confidential until the negotiations are finished. Supervisors Chairman Scudder Stevens said residents would be able to comment on the proposed purchase at that point. The other half of the funding would come from county and state grants, Moore said. The vote authorizes the township to commit its own funds once the outside funds are available. The proposal to purchase the parcel is unrelated to another parcel of 80 acres the township is also considering to buy and preserve as open space, Moore said.
Source: Daily Local; 3/19/2017

Delaware County

Big budget gap still looms in Upper Darby after update
A brief update on the budget process for the 2017-18 Upper Darby school year has offered some slight relief. Superintendent Dan Nerelli said at the school board’s March 21 meeting $500,000 savings was found in medical expenses, bringing the overall shortfall to $10 million in an approximately $200 million budget. Nerelli and district Chief Financial Officer Patrick Grant will be providing updates to the Upper Darby community until the adoption of a final budget in June.
Source: Daily Times; 3/23/2017

Delaware County Economic Development Plan to be considered for adoption
Delaware County Council will hold a public hearing on Weds., March 29, beginning at 10 a.m. to consider the adoption of a new county-wide economic development plan. During the public hearing, to be held in the County Council Meeting Room, any interested person may appear and be heard on the subject matter of the proposed plan. Copies of the proposal can be reviewed at the Planning Department Office located at the Toal Building, 2nd and Orange Streets, in Media, as well as on the county website at:  www.co.delaware.pa.us/planning.
Source: Daily Times; 3/23/2017

Delta reaffirms commitment to Monroe Energy refinery
Delta Air Lines says it remains committed to the Monroe Energy LLC refinery in Trainer.  Employees expressed concerns after Reuters reported earlier this week that the company is hiring a consultant to evaluate the facility. The report said a Texas consultant was being hired to determine what would happen to jet fuel prices if the refinery closed or was sold. Delta officials said that report was inaccurate. “Delta has said publicly many times that we are committed to the refinery and that position hasn’t changed,” said a statement from company spokesperson Morgan Durrant. “The study was commissioned as a routine evaluation of our investment five years after the refinery was purchased. The refinery continues to perform well as part of our broad-based fuel management strategy and we are fully supportive of Monroe Energy and its employees.” Five years ago, the refinery closed under Conoco-Phillips due to issues with East Coast refining profitability. By summer, Delta Air Lines had purchased the facility to provide jet fuel for its fleet.
Source: Daily Times; 3/18/2017

Aston OKs second medical marijuana growing application
For the second time in a month, Aston Township Commissioners have been asked to grant a conditional use permit to a business that is considering growing and distributing medical marijuana in the township. After a hearing to learn more about the proposal, the commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of granting a conditional use permit for Penn’s Greens LLC to operate such a facility on 3.5 acres at the former site of Folsom Tool and Mold Co., located at 12 Mount Pleasant Drive. In preparation for possible applications, Aston commissioners in February adopted an ordinance regulating growing facilities. Principal stipulations of the ordinance state that a facility may only be located in the Limited Industrial (LI) district, be at least 1,000 feet from a school or day care center, and be in a fully enclosed and secure structure not accessible to minors. In addition, there can be no visual exterior evidence of any medical marijuana growing facility.
Source: Daily Times; 3/21/2017

‘Cherry Blossom Lane’ proposed for Marple development
Attorney Kenneth Kynett, representing Fort Joy Development II LLP, appeared before the Newtown Board of Supervisors March 13 seeking a “conditional use” to build a 27-foot-wide cartway between Media Line Road in Marple and Gradyville Road in Newtown through “wetlands, steep and very steep slopes.” Fort Joy is also seeking to subdivide the 71.5 acre property into two lots: a 56.6-acre lot and a 12-acre lot with an existing house and driveway access to Gradyville Road, with 1.25 acres for the new roadway. Hunter’s Run also bisects the property. The proposed road — called Cherry Blossom Lane — would be a “local street” and privately owned. The intent of the project, according to the developer, “is to create Cherry Blossom Lane to a 38-lot subdivision in Marple” — known as Village of Four Seasons. He also noted that there were no development plans for the Newtown side of the property.
Source: Daily Times; 3/19/2017

Montgomery County

New procedure for Lower Frederick use and occupancy
In late 2016, Lower Frederick Township amended its Use & Occupancy ordinance for single family dwellings. One- and two-unit homes do not require a use and occupancy inspection but do require a notarized affidavit stating that the home is equipped with smoke detectors; carbon monoxide detectors if applicable; and public/private sewer connection and inspection. If the property has an on-lot system, proof of pumping and inspection should be on file on the township office to be in compliance with Lower Frederick’s on-lot septic system maintenance ordinance. If the property is connected to Lower Frederick public sewer, a sewage inspection officer needs to inspect the home to confirm there is no sump pump connected to the sewage system. If the property is connected to Schwenksville Borough Authority’s public sewer, a sewage inspection officer must inspect the home to confirm there is no sump pump connected to the sewage system and the sewer lateral lines are in satisfactory condition. There is no fee for the use and occupancy permit. Please click here for the Lower Frederick Township Use & Occupancy guidelines and affidavit.

County campus redevelopment project moves forward
An estimated $281 million Montgomery County Campus Redevelopment project is moving forward. There will be six individual construction projects in downtown Norristown scheduled to be completed by 2025 to address service, operational and energy inefficiencies, safety risks, inadequate office and parking space and to modernize county buildings for the future. The projects are: a security entrance at One Montgomery Plaza; a façade replacement for same; a new justice center; renovations to Hancock Square; renovation of the existing courthouse; and finally interior renovation of One Montgomery Plaza. Officials hope the project will help encourage other development in Norristown.
Source: Times Herald; 3/20/2017

2016 MCPC Annual Report
The Montgomery County Planning Commission has released a 2016 Annual Report. The report highlights MCPC work with communities, businesses, organizations and engaged citizens to accomplish many projects and plans that will have a significant impact on the lives of county residents in the future. The report also focuses on how the goals contained within “Montco 2040: A Shared Vision,” are being implemented and provides data on county development trends, education and outreach services, professional planning services and 2016 Montgomery Award winners. Click here for more information.
Source: Montgomery County Planning Commission; 3/8/2017

Upper Merion supervisors OK elementary school development plan
Upper Merion Township Supervisors recently approved a development plan for the proposed Gulph Elementary School. The new school has been proposed by the Upper Merion Area School District to be constructed at 650 S. Henderson Rd. District Superintendent Dr. John Toleno fielded questions from the township supervisors regarding stormwater management at the site. The new building is projected to be over 91,000 square-feet and will have a variety of stormwater management methods in place including vegetative filters, an underground stormwater facility and soil amendments throughout the property. Visit the school district website for more information about the project.
Source: Times Herald; 3/20/2017

Philadelphia

Philly's Civic Engagement Academy expanding to meet booming demand
In response to a new outpouring of interest, Philadelphia’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service has started ramping up civic engagement offerings. To this end, the Civic Engagement Academy (CEA) brings representatives from different city departments—including Licenses and Inspections, the District Attorney's office, the Managing Director’s Office, and the Streets Department—to community centers, schools, and churches in underserved neighborhoods in an eight-week long course that meets once per week. The program is designed to introduce residents to various city departments, provide information about how to effectively access their services, and encourage residents to share the information with their networks. CEA works with community organizers upon request, and the office of civic engagement tries to tailor CEA sessions to the particular interests and needs of the community. To publicize the CEA program to more Philadelphians, Mayor Kenney sent a citywide email on February 13 encouraging people to sign up. In the first week, 576 people signed up for the CEA—almost double the number of people who graduated from CEAs between 2010 and 2016.  To meet this need, the Office of Civic Engagement is planning 10 CEAs in various neighborhoods in 2017. Upcoming spring courses are scheduled in Upper North Philadelphia, Frankford, and Elmwood.
Source: Plan Philly; 3/15/2017

Seven proposed medical-marijuana sites across Philadelphia get zoning approval
Seven locations received zoning permits for proposed medical-marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities in Philadelphia, and applications for six more locations are pending, according to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections. The zoning approvals came amid a furious dash by investors seeking to submit bids to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for medical-marijuana licenses by the March 20 filing deadline.  The L&I list provides an early glimpse into a pot gold rush that has stirred such investment interest that state officials expected to receive up to 900 applications statewide for just 12 grower licenses and 27 dispensary permits. Only two grower licenses will be awarded in the eight-county southeast region that includes Philadelphia.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/22/2017

Philly rents finally starting to fall, reports find
Philly rent has been climbing but the latest data from two major rental firms, Abodo and Zumper, show numbers falling locally in their March reports. According to Abodo, local monthly rents fell so precipitously last month that Philadelphia is at the top of its biggest decrease list. Abodo has the median one-bedroom apartment in the city falling 9.7 percent to $1,112 a month. Zumper shows a smaller decrease, to $1,350. Local rental rates remain north of the national average this month – no matter whose report you reference. And the increase is still very real when you compare data from March 2017 to March 2016. Zumper has that growth at about 10 percent.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/23/2017



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