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General News
Judges rule Pa. can keep congressional map 

Bucks County
Tinicum revises nuisance ordinance 

Chester County
Discussion of West Chester rail service scheduled

Delaware County
County considers Historic Preservation Plan 

Montgomery County
North Penn eyes $9.7 million budget deficit 

Philadelphia County
Federal policy from 1930s continues to harm 
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

Judges rule Pa. can keep congressional map
Pennsylvania can keep its congressional map, a judicial panel in Philadelphia ruled, rejecting an argument from a group of Democratic voters who contended it should be thrown out because the state lawmakers who created the map in 2011 gerrymandered it to help Republicans. The court cast aside the argument that districts should not consider politics, saying partisanship is part of the system. “The task of prescribing election regulations was given, in the first instance, to political actors who make decisions for political reasons,” Circuit Court Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in the majority opinion in the case delivered by a court that was split 2-1. “Plaintiffs ignore this reality.” The ruling came a day after a unanimous judicial panel threw out North Carolina’s congressional map, finding it went too far to help Republicans. It will be up to the nation’s top court to sort out which ruling was right — or whether there’s some wrinkle that makes them both valid. The plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania case plan to appeal in a case that would go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Source: Daily Local; 1/11/2018 

Veterans organizations exempt from realty tax
Nationally recognized veterans’ organizations are now exempt from the realty transfer tax under a provision sponsored by state Sen. John Rafferty (R-44) and state Sen. Mario Scavello (R-40). Prior to the change, an American Legion local association wishing to transfer property to a regional post was not excluded from the 2-percent realty transfer tax despite their tax-exempt status. “For organizations serving Pennsylvania’s veterans, covering costs is a constant challenge. The last thing government should be doing is imposing burdens that divert funds away from services for veterans,” Scavello said. “Other tax-exempt entities are excluded from the realty transfer tax, and now organizations that serve veterans will receive the same treatment.”
Source: Daily Local; 1/14/2018 

Pennsylvania's population is aging. Who will pay for it?
Pennsylvanians are getting older, more expensive — and less taxable. The commonwealth’s senior population is growing at a rate 20 times faster than Pennsylvania’s overall population. By 2025, more than one in five Pennsylvania residents will be 65 or older, according to population projections from the U.S. Census and the Pennsylvania State Data Center, while the number of people below the traditional retirement age decreases. Pennsylvania’s population is projected to grow by 4 percent from 2015 to 2025, but the number of residents who are 65 or older is expected to grow by over 30 percent. The increasing senior population will swell the demand for nursing homes, senior centers, transportation services, and other programs offered by state and county governments. The annual cost of providing senior programs is increasing more than twice as fast as the revenue sources that fund them, according to the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office. The increased demand and costs also will come as seniors retire and stop paying state and local income taxes. And raising property taxes — nearly a third of which are currently paid by homeowners who are over 65 — is often politically unpopular because it affects seniors who live on fixed incomes and don’t have children in schools, which consume the bulk of the tax revenue.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/16/2018

Bucks County

Tinicum revises nuisance ordinance
Tinicum Township supervisors revised the township’s 67-year-old nuisance ordinance at the Jan. 2 meeting. Months of discussion preceded the vote, with officials trying to find a balance between individual property rights and community impacts. The original nuisance ordinance was adopted in 1951, and the new ordinance took effect on Jan. 7. The revised ordinance still covers “the storage of abandoned or junked automobiles” with stronger language that prohibits the “storage of any unlicensed, unregistered, abandoned or junked automobiles, vehicles and equipment other than in a licensed junkyard.” The new ordinance also continues to prohibit the “carrying on of any offensive manufacture or business” or the “obstruction of any public road,” and adds “the placement of a storage container such as a POD or truck body, for greater than two years, unless extended by the township in writing.” It also lists as a prohibited nuisance “for any garbage, rubbish, refuse, waste, junk, or trash of any kind to be transported into and/or accumulated within” the township.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/11/2018 

Water contamination resources for Bucks, Montgomery counties
Over the past two years, 16 public wells and about 140 private wells have been shut down by contamination from perfluorooctanioc acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in Bucks and Montgomery counties. The former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham, along with the active Horsham Air Guard Station, are thought to be the source of the contamination. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have been reporting on the issue and, as a public resource, have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available to subscribers and nonsubscribers on their websites — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos. Maps of the contaminated areas have been added to those sites, along with recent news articles and efforts by area congressmen to fund testing and cleanup. Realtors® are encouraged to reach out to specific municipalities for more information regarding water safety in areas where they do business. 

Herald and BCAR publish ‘Area Guide to Homes’
The Bucks County Herald, in collaboration with the Bucks County Association of Realtors®, is publishing the “Area Guide to Homes.” The publication features topics that range from homebuying to home maintenance and repair, and it will be published weekly in print and online. The Bucks County Herald is an independent, locally owned news media company. 

Chester County 

Discussion of West Chester rail service scheduled
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will hold an open house on Thursday, Jan. 25, to discuss the results of its feasibility study concerning restoration of rail service to West Chester. The study, as listed under SEPTA’s project descriptions, will be used in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Advisory Committee to Reestablish Rail Service to West Chester. West Chester’s last commuter train ran in 1986, even after the Market Street Station was demolished in 1968. Since that time, the tracks, which can still be found running through the borough, into West Goshen and Westtown, are currently home to the West Chester Railroad. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) estimates the restored service would attract almost 2,000 passengers for weekday trips by 2035 and capital cost estimates by the borough range from $100.3 million to $111.9 million. The Jan. 25 public meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cheyney University, Marion Anderson Center, at the intersection of University Circle and Alumni Drive in Cheyney.
Source: Daily Local; 1/17/2017 

Census shows Chesco is healthy, wealthy and wise
Chester County government officials and politicians frequently like to point out that their home is “the healthiest, the wealthiest, and the best educated county in the state.” Figures released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau in the 2012-2016 American Community Survey — the demographic and socioeconomic report for every community in United States — show they are not speaking with hyperbole. Southeastern Pennsylvania remained the region of the state with the highest median household incomes from 2012 to 2016. Chester ($88,995), Montgomery ($81,902), Bucks ($79,559) and Delaware ($66,576) counties had the highest median household incomes across the state. “This does not come as a complete shock to us,” said commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline in an interview last month about the Census figures. “This is a continuance of a trend we have seen for a number of years in Chester County. There is something of a synergy here.”
Source: The Phoenix; 1/14/2018                               

Paid parking and kiosks coming soon to Oxford
Motorists in Oxford will have to pay for parking in the borough lot between Second and Third streets when new kiosks arrive. Under the new system, there will be two kiosks where payment can be made for parking in that lot. A kiosk will also be placed on Broad Street for drivers using the lots between Broad and Hodgson streets, and between Broad Street and Niblock Alley. One kiosk will be set up on the Second Street side of the lot, opposite the Oxford Public Library. The other will be within the lot at the end of the middle lane of parking spaces. Drivers using the lot will pay at the kiosk, entering their license plate number to identify their cars. Formerly the property of BB&T Bank, the lot between Third and Second streets has been a free parking spot for the community since it was owned by Peoples’ Bank of Oxford, and National Penn Bank following that. It was purchased for a nominal sum by the borough last year and is the proposed site for a three-story borough parking garage. The construction of a parking garage has been an ongoing plan that saw considerable discussion during last fall’s election.
Source: Avon Grove Sun; 1/9/2018 

New supervisor appointed in Easttown
After Brandon Adams was unable to take a seat on the Easttown Township Board of Supervisors following his victory in the November general election, the township needed to fill the vacancy. Easttown supervisors appointed attorney Karl Romberger to serve Adams’ term. Romberger, according to his employer, Sweet, Stevens, Katz and Williams LLP, is a specialist in school law.
Source: Tredyffrin Patch; 1/17/2018

Delaware County

County considers Historic Preservation Plan
Delaware County Council will consider the adoption of a County Historic Preservation Plan. Copies of the proposed plan can be reviewed at the Planning Department Office, located at the Toal Building, 2nd and Orange streets, Media, as well as online at www.co.delaware.pa.us/planning. The public hearing will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. in the County Council Meeting Room, Government Center Building, 201 W. Front St., Media. The public is invited to review the proposed plan and to attend the public hearing to provide comment.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/11/2018 

Ridley votes to stay within state tax hike guidelines
The Ridley School Board approved a resolution at its January meeting stating that the district will not increase local property taxes in excess of the Act 1 index set by the state Department of Education for the 2018-2019 school year. The index has been set at 3.1 percent. By taking this action, the district will not be eligible to apply for Act 1 exceptions, for which the district qualifies and which would allow it to exceed the index. The Act 1 index of 3.1 percent means the school board cannot raise taxes above that percentage without voter approval. The current budget was approved last June with no tax increase. A preliminary budget for 2018-2019 will be presented in May with final adoption in June.
Source: Daily Times; 1/11/2018 

Chester Business Association challenges stormwater authority over fees
The board of the Chester Business Association (CBA) began an effort to challenge the newly imposed Chester stormwater fee, which this year will affect residents and businesses in the city. Filing two separate injunctions on behalf of Widener University and Chester Charter School of the Arts, along with “numerous other businesses in Chester who also wish to challenge the fee,” the CBA said it would file another legal action no later than Wednesday, Jan. 17, on behalf of these businesses. “It is our belief that a large coalition of Chester businesses and proprietors will send a strong message to the court that the fee is illegal,” the CBA stated in a written release. The stormwater authority was established to help remove excess stormwater throughout the city, opening a way for greener spaces and infrastructures improvements around Chester. However, to do so, a fee will be charged to residents and businesses — and that has been met with resistance from both groups. The CBA statement continued: “This additional fee has the potential to have a negative effect on the business and property owners in the city. Since one of the main duties of the association is to advocate on behalf of the businesses, after our discussion the board unanimously voted to support our membership with their opposition to this fee.” Businesses in the city will be charged based on the square footage of their entire property, including sidewalks and parking lots. Their bills would be measured by Equivalent Residential Units, or 1,139 square feet charged at $8.25 per month.
Source: Daily Times; 1/17/2018 

Radnor commissioner files legal action to block PLO zoning change
Hoping to stop the planned Penn Medicine development at 145 King of Prussia Road — the old Wyeth Laboratory property — Ward 2 Commissioner Richard Booker filed an appeal of zoning changes for the Planned Laboratory Office district that was passed by the Board of Commissioners in December. In the appeal, filed Jan. 9 in Delaware County Common Pleas Court, Booker said the zoning change is “unlawful,” and asked the court to stop the township and developer “from taking any action in furtherance” of the development. In his legal filing, Booker notes that a township traffic consultant found the redevelopment would add 7,100 new trips per day on King of Prussia Road, increasing traffic there by 50 percent. This would cause cars to cut through Ward 2 neighborhoods, “creating an unsafe condition for school students, parents and employees of Radnor High School and Radnor Elementary School, pedestrians and motorists, and negatively affecting residents and commuters through excessive traffic, noise, congestion and pollution; creating immediate, irreparable, non-compensable harm to all the residents of Radnor’s Second Ward.”
Source: Suburban Main Line Times; 1/12/2018 

Morton gets pitch for medical marijuana dispensary
A former auto body shop in Morton Borough may soon get a new life as Delaware County’s first medical marijuana dispensary. Matt Darin, chief operating officer of Grassroots, a Highland Park, Ill., company, gave a presentation at borough council’s January meeting, explaining that clients who would come to the dispensary would have to be a patient with a medical marijuana prescription from a physician in order to purchase its product. The building the company is eyeing for purchase is at 409 Baltimore Pike, near a kidney dialysis center and Kohl’s. “It is for medical marijuana only,” said attorney Ted Flowers, who accompanied Darin to the meeting. “It is not a recreational marijuana facility.” Council President Mario Cimino said the presentation by Darin was “informational.” There are no zoning impediments to the dispensary’s location.
Source: Daily Times; 1/16/2018

Montgomery County

North Penn eyes $9.7 million budget deficit
Excluding any tax increases, the first draft of North Penn School District’s 2018-19 budget shows a preliminary deficit of $9.7 million. According to the district’s Director of Business Administration, Steve Skrocki, the main factors influencing the budget gap are contracted salary and benefit increases for district staff and retirement expenses, which are calculated according to formulas set by the state legislature and administered through the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS). “This isn’t a teacher problem, this isn’t an administrator problem, this isn’t a staff problem. We, the school district, don’t set the rate,” Skrocki said. “Every employee that’s eligible for a pension pays a percentage out of his or her paycheck — 6.5 percent, 7.5 percent, or even higher percentages, for their contributions to PSERS. The employer pays a contribution — and that’s what we’re talking about here — of 33.43 percent.” The retirement rate school districts pay has increased dramatically from nearly zero in 2000-01, and less than 10 percent in 2011-12, to 33.43 percent now and possibly leveling off in 2022-23 at 36.3 percent. North Penn has $41.7 million budgeted for retirement expenses next year. North Penn went from budgeting $6 million for retirement expenses in 2011-12 to $41 million in the draft budget, Skrocki said. He also presented the board with the good news that local income taxes, transfer taxes, investment income and the district’s real estate tax base are all projected to grow in 2018-19, and the district maintains a healthy reserve fund to help offset the deficit. The entire school board will meet in finance committee meetings scheduled for Monday, Jan. 22, and Thursday, Feb. 1, before a possible preliminary budget adoption at the board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6. 
Source: The Reporter; 1/16/2018 

Lansdale site deleted from EPA Superfund priorities list
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a partial deletion of the North Penn Superfund 6 site in Lansdale from the National Priorities List (NPL). The partial deletion of the North Penn 6 site applies to a 6.5-acre segment that is referred to as the Administrative Parcel that, according to the EPA, has been effectively cleaned up and no longer poses a threat to human health or the environment. The site was added to the NPL in 1989 after high levels of trichloroethene (TCE) were detected in several Lansdale area wells in 1979. The EPA maintains a groundwater treatment system at a portion of the site outside of the Administrative Parcel. The current property owner plans to redevelop the 6.5-acre parcel into a residential development with 174 semi-attached condominium units.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/11/2018

Upper Dublin superintendent announces early retirement
The Upper Dublin School Board recently voted to accept the retirement of Superintendent Deborah Wheeler, who had four years left on her contract. Wheeler, whose retirement will be effective at the end of the school year, said, “My family obligations are now leading me down a different path.” An RFP seeking a firm to help with the superintendent search has a Jan. 19 deadline, said Human Resources Director Tom Sigafoos. In a news release, Board President Art Levinowitz said the community will be engaged in the hiring process through “opportunities to share their vision for the qualities the district should seek in its next superintendent.”
Source: Ambler Gazette; 1/17/2018

Water contamination resources for Bucks, Montgomery counties
Over the past two years, 16 public wells and about 140 private wells have been shut down by contamination from perfluorooctanioc acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in Bucks and Montgomery counties. The former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham, along with the active Horsham Air Guard Station, are thought to be the source of the contamination. The Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer have been reporting on the issue and, as a public resource, have made all of the reporting about the water contamination issue available to subscribers and nonsubscribers on their websites — http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos and http://www.theintell.com/news/horsham-pfos. Maps of the contaminated areas have been added to those sites, along with recent news articles and efforts by area congressmen to fund testing and cleanup. Realtors® are encouraged to reach out to specific municipalities for more information regarding water safety in areas where they do business. 

Norristown Police Department conducts community feedback survey
The Norristown Police Department will once again be conducting a leadership summit to discuss the current and future state of the police force. In order to facilitate discussion during the summit the police department is asking for feedback. This information is anonymous and will be tabulated to be discussed during the event. The survey is available online until Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Philadelphia

Federal policy from 1930s continues to harm Philadelphia
A federal policy that began almost a century ago is still harming Philadelphia. Beginning in the 1930s, the federal government encouraged mortgage lenders to withhold credit from areas where people of color or immigrant communities lived — a process that became known as "redlining." While the government eventually passed a measure to get rid of the practice in the 1960s, its effects still linger. The publications Next City and PlanPhilly took the 1934 redlining map created by the Home Owners Loan Corporation and overlaid it with a contemporary map of Philadelphia, and looked at the Census Bureau data from 2015 in those areas. Areas that were redlined back in the '30s continue to be high-poverty areas and neighborhoods that are segregated.
Source: Marketplace; 1/11/2018 

New housing plan unveiled for Manayunk church site
A revised development plan for the St. Mary of the Assumption Church campus in Manayunk cuts the number of proposed units nearly in half, and provides new on-street parking as well as dedicated off-street parking for a busy community center. The original plans, proposed last March, would have brought more than 100 apartments to the old church site, eliminated some on-street parking and threatened to end a practice of off-street parking for people visiting the North Light Community Center, which offers tutoring and after-school programs for children as well as a food pantry and other services for adults and senior citizens. The new plan will allow North Light to purchase 16 spots on the former church parking lot, directly behind the center. The developer’s new plan for the one-acre, two-block area from Carson to Conarroe to Gay streets has a combined total of 56 units — 21 townhouses and 35 apartments. The apartments will be built inside three former church properties: the old St. Mary’s church building, its rectory and its school.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/11/2018 

SEPTA’s $1.1B trolley plan announced
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Corporation released a lengthy guide to the future of SEPTA’s trolley system, providing conceptual plans and ideas to make rides faster, more efficient, and more accessible to all. Although SEPTA said the plans are still very much in the infancy stages, the goal would be to implement the $1.1 billion plan, including replacement of current trolleys with modernized versions, by 2024. The plan calls for automatic ramps and low-floor entrances to make the trolley systems ADA-compliant. SEPTA also plans to upgrade its fleet of aging trolleys and replace them with 120 cars that are at least 80 feet long. In order to increase efficiency, the proposal calls to reduce the number of stops that trolleys make along their route. Currently, trolleys function like bus services, in that people can disembark at nearly every block. Consolidated stops would make rides more efficient and faster. Lastly, trolleys have to share the road with cars and bicycles, with trolley tracks in the center of the road. The proposal breaks down four ways to help the trio live coexist in harmony. Among them:

  • Creating curb extension stations that use the parking lane to create more space for passengers to board.
  • Moving bike lanes behind trolley stations to avoid bicyclists and passenger contact.
  • Split-lane floating stations, which would place trolley stations in between a traffic lane and bike lane.
  • “Road Diet” stations, which would dedicate two lanes of traffic for trolleys. Protected bike lanes would also be included in this proposed station type.

Source: Curbed Philadelphia; 1/16/2018


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