NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Congress extends national flood insurance for three months

Bucks County
Yardley Borough approves parking rule changes 

Chester County
Kennett Square sells land to library 

Delaware County
Upper Chi aims to boost Route 322 businesses 

Montgomery County
Pottstown’s $2.3M budget gap raises prospect of large tax hike

Philadelphia County
L&I to add inspectors and satellite office locations 

 
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

Congress extends national flood insurance for three months
Congress passed a three-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which the president signed into law Friday, Sept. 8. The NFIP was last reauthorized in 2012 for five years and was set to expire Sept. 30, but the three-month extension carries it to Friday, Dec. 8. In August, the National Association of Realtors® launched a Call for Action to compel Congress to reauthorize the NFIP with reforms that would make the program more effective and sustainable. Across the nation, more than 121,000 Realtors® took action. Pennsylvania is 12th in the country in the number of NFIP policies and fifth in the number of flood claims filed. Click here to learn more about the reforms NAR is supporting as part of the NFIP reauthorization. 

Study: Pa. towns face financial distress, need resources
A report released by the Pennsylvania Economy League says the financial health of Pennsylvania towns is worsening due to rising tax burdens, overmatched tax bases, ballooning pensions and fragmented governments. The report, “Communities in Crisis: The Truth and Consequences of Municipal Fiscal Distress in Pennsylvania, 1970 – 2014,” was funded by 11 nonprofit groups and can be found on the Berks County Community Foundation website here. It states that overall fiscal conditions have worsened over the past two decades and recommends that the state allow towns to tap more revenue sources, create incentives for local governments to collaborate, and expand their abilities to share tax bases and services. Tax burdens have increased in the state’s cities, boroughs and townships since 1990, outpacing gains in the tax base in boroughs and townships, and leaving all types of municipalities vulnerable to financial distress, according to the study. Among the most troubled towns cited in the report are: Coatesville, Chester County; Chester, Delaware County; and Pottstown, Montgomery County. The Economy League studied 2,388 of Pennsylvania’s 2,561 municipalities for which data were available to compare the years 1970, 1990 and 2014.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/13/2017

Bucks County

Yardley Borough approves parking rule changes
Yardley Borough Council adopted an ordinance amendment that will impose progressive fines to discourage the storage of vehicles on borough streets, including vehicles being repaired or awaiting repairs, or being advertised for sale. The amendment states, “Any vehicle parked or allowed to remain parked in the same location for more than four consecutive days shall be presumed to meet the criteria after reasonable diligence to determine and notify the owner.” Councilman Bryon Marshall said the ordinance will be driven by residents who report violations to the police department, which would then be investigated. Marshall said the ordinance was in response to an “inordinate number of vehicles being left here simply for storage by people who may not even live in the borough.”
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 9/13/2017 

Lower Makefield manager search begins
Lower Makefield Township supervisors will interview three professional search firms to assist the township in finding a replacement for retiring manager Terry Fedorchak. Fedorchak has served as manager since 1993 and announced his plans to retire in 2016 but agreed to stay on another year while the township searched for a replacement. Once a firm is hired, they will immediately move forward with the search. Supervisor Chair Kristin Tyler said a search firm would not only help narrow the field, but also cast a broader net for candidates in “a more wide-ranging search.” Fedorchak will retire at the end of December.
Source: The Advance; 9/13/2017 

Upper Bucks tourism gets boost from state grant
A $50,000 grant from the state Department of Economic Development is expected to keep two of Quakertown Borough’s most significant historical attractions open to the public on a more regular schedule. The Burgess Foulke House on Main Street was built in 1812 and was the home of the first burgess (mayor) of Quakertown when the borough was incorporated in 1855. Liberty Hall on Broad Street was built in 1772 as the first permanent residence in Quakertown and is purported to have sheltered the Liberty Bell overnight as the bell traveled to Allentown in 1777, after the Continental Congress ordered it to be moved before the British Army melted it down for ammunition. Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce spokesman Jim Haigh said the “Marketing to Attract Tourists” grant was landed with the help of state Sen. Robert A. Mensch (R-24). A steering committee comprised of chamber members, the Quakertown Historical Society and owners of historically significant properties will decide exactly how to spend the money, according to Haigh.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/7/2017

SEPTA: $36 million Levittown train station project is on track
SEPTA recently announced it is on track to complete the $36 million “state-of-the-art” Levittown Station on Bristol Pike in Tullytown. The project should be completed by fall 2018, said SEPTA spokeswoman Kristin Mestre-Velez. Work on the station began in November 2015, but disagreements between SEPTA and Tullytown officials over the design and oversight of the project led to legal trouble. SEPTA filed an injunction against the borough in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, arguing the borough’s permit fees and oversight caused delays that could have potentially stretched the project passed its completion date. In April 2016, Tullytown Borough Council unanimously approved a settlement agreement to end litigation with SEPTA and removed the borough from any oversight of the project.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/12/2017

Chester County 

Kennett Square sells land to library
Kennett Square officials on Sept. 6 officially sold a parcel of land in the center of its business district to the Kennett Library, setting the stage for construction of a state-of-the-art library that could house an auditorium. The decision to sell was unanimous by the Borough Council. The borough sold the Weinstein lot, a 22,000-square-foot parcel on State Street near South Willow Street, to the library for $386,000, well under the recent appraisal of $550,000. Dan Maffei, council president, said the price difference, $164,000, can be considered the borough’s contribution to the new library. Because the borough is selling municipal land to the library, it does not need to go through public auction. “This has been a dream of both the library and the borough for quite some time,” Maffei said. “I am delighted both parties were able to work together to find the very best possible solution to find a new home for the library.” Now that the land has been acquired, architects will begin designing the new facility, which could include an auditorium that can be used by both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Environmental assessment and soil testing must take place to ensure suitability for a multi-story building. After the tests are complete, final payment will be made and the land will transfer to the library. Library officials plan to raise funds to build a $10 million facility.
Source: Daily Local; 9/11/2017 

West Chester Borough plans ‘green curb’ extension plan
In a bid to protect area streams, West Chester Borough is working on a green curb extension program aimed at improving the ground’s ability to collect and retain storm water runoff. To start, seven bump outs will be constructed on South Everhart Street between Sharpless and Nields streets. Curbs will be removed, and in spots bump outs will stretch six feet into the existing street and three feet on the opposite side. Gently graded grasses and plantings will replace some asphalt. The borough also plans to eventually repair the bank of Plum Creek, which has significantly eroded. The program is funded by the Storm Water Protection Fee. As of the end of August, $637,200 had been collected through that fee.
Source: Daily Local; 9/13/2017 

Kennett Township drafts ordinance regulating marijuana facilities
Though Kennett Township has not had any proposals for the establishment of marijuana growing or distribution facilities within its borders, the township is drafting an ordinance in anticipation of such a request. The ordinance would regulate the location, hours and security plans for marijuana-oriented businesses, according to Township Manager Lisa Moore. Moore said the township’s zoning enforcement officer provided input on the ordinance, the township solicitor drafted it, and the township and county planning boards have reviewed it. She said the solicitor believed it made sense to have the regulations in place ahead of any proposals similar to one in East Marlborough. A motion to authorize advertising the ordinance passed unanimously, allowing the supervisors to discuss it and vote in October on whether to adopt it.
Source: Daily Local; 9/11/2017 

UCSD to consider sidewalks in East Marlborough
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board is considering partnering with East Marlborough Township to install sidewalks and traffic-calming devices on Route 82. Supervisor of Building and Grounds Rick Hostetler told board members that the township is asking the district to help fund the design portion of about $1 million "to improve the safety of everyone who crosses the street to the schools." Both the Unionville High School and Charles F. Patton Middle School properties front the portion of Route 82 being considered for improvement. Should the board vote to approve, the district would pay half of the $180,000 design portion. Grants of $900,000 would be used for the rest of the project, but all the funding for the design must be covered before the grant application can be approved, Hostetler said. The primary idea for the design would be to calm traffic, and the township would also work with PennDOT to lower the speed limit in front of the schools from the current 45 mph. Hostetler said East Marlborough Township is also asking the Longwood Foundation for $60,000, which could reduce the school district’s costs for the project.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 9/12/2017 

Construction begins on project to improve safety on Route 41
The Wolf administration announced that construction has begun on a project to improve travel and safety along Route 41 (Gap Newport Pike) approaching the Route 841 (Chatham Road) intersection. The project will add gateways at the north and south ends of the Village of Chatham in London Grove Township, and it is expected to be completed in late December. “The goal of this project is to slow down traffic as it enters the Chatham Historic District, which is centered around the intersection of Route 41 and Route 841,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “The safety measures implemented along this corridor will help save lives by reducing speeds and crashes.” PennDOT is widening pavement to provide a curbed median that will serve as a gateway to the village, installing a new guide rail, and updating signage, pavement markings and drainage. The project is the first of three that PennDOT is undertaking to improve travel and safety on Route 41 in Londonderry and London Grove townships. The other two projects are currently in the preliminary design stage.
Source: Daily Local; 9/13/2017

Delaware County

Upper Chi aims to boost Route 322 businesses
Upper Chichester Township Manager George Needles recently spoke to members of the Chichester School Board about the township’s plans to increase businesses along Route 322. Needles said that in recent years businesses have been reluctant to open along the corridor due to the pending expansion of the roadway. He added that the township and school district will lose an estimated $35,000 and $400,000, respectively, in tax revenue with the reconstruction over the next three years. The township has contracted with the Delaware County Planning Department to develop a revitalization plan along the Route 322 corridor, and it is the only municipality along the corridor that is involved in a revitalization plan, he said. “Our objective is to do redevelopment and try to increase property values to make up for the lost tax revenue,” Needles said. “Our focus is on light manufacturing and industrial jobs, to bring jobs to the township.”
Source: Daily Times; 9/10/2017 

$1 million donation toward Willows mansion renovation announced
Plans to renovate the Willows mansion in Radnor got a boost with a $1 million donation from an anonymous donor. Christina Perrone, one of the founders of the new nonprofit Willows Park Preserve, which is dedicated to restoring and operating the 107-year old mansion, announced the gift at a recent Radnor Township Board of Commissioners meeting. The BOC also heard a presentation by consultants Barton Partners, Urban Partners and RETTEW regarding renovation of the mansion and business plan recommendations. Mark Evans, with Barton Partners, said they had designed a three-phase plan for renovations of the mansion, with phase one consisting of health and safety needs, phase two providing it with more amenities, and phase three adding the Pond View Room, a glass enclosed room overlooking the pond that would allow the Willows mansion to compete with other venues in the area for the lucrative wedding business. With the $1 million matching gift from an anonymous donor, the township would need to spend $2.75 million to make the three-phase plan a reality. Some township officials expressed concern over the costs associated with the renovation. Commissioner Jim Higgins said there was “broad demand” for “historic venues for weddings,” and noted the township can apply for state grants. Township Manager Robert Zienkowski said the mansion, now a “diamond in the rough,” could be the “crown jewel of the community.”
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 9/13/2017 

Havertown plans Skatepark upgrades
With help from a $35,000 allocation recently approved by Haverford Township Commissioners, the Havertown Skatepark is moving closer to becoming a state-of-the-art venue. The funds will go toward retaining Jesse Clayton, of 5th Pocket Skatepark, to create a permanent, concrete park at Merry Place. 5th Pocket will transform the existing skate park, built in June 2016 on a former tennis court, into a unique installation “you can’t find anywhere else,” according to Michael Armine, spokesman for the Haverford Skatepark Advocacy Group. Work is expected to begin in October, and Armine hopes to continue fundraising efforts for possible expansion in the future. The Havertown Skatepark first opened in June 2004 at a site adjacent to Veterans Field, behind current police headquarters. Plans for a new municipal services building forced the park to close in May 2016. Armine and other skatepark proponents led a determined effort to find an alternate location, which eventually led to the new park being opened at Merry Place.
Source: Delaware County News Network; 9/6/2017 

Wawa withdraws proposal in Ridley, but residents’ concerns remain
Though the Ridley Township Board of Commissioners received a letter stating that the application to build a Wawa on MacDade Boulevard at Buchanan and Forest avenues has been withdrawn, a planned meeting between township officials and residents from the neighborhood surrounding the site went on as scheduled. “The letter said Wawa is in the process of creating an improved plan,” Board of Commissioners President Bob Willert said at the meeting. The commissioners are on record as opposing the development of another Wawa that, if built, would be the sixth Wawa in the township and the fifth along the MacDade Boulevard corridor in the township. Residents voiced concerns about the effect a convenience store with gasoline pumps would have on the residential neighborhood to the rear of the property. They cited the noise and lighting of a 24-hour operation, increased traffic on MacDade Boulevard and the side streets nearby, and the 19 variances requested that include the location of fuel tanks to be located 8.4 feet from the property line where the zoning code requires a minimum distance of 20 feet.
Source: Ridley Town Talk; 9/1/20177

Montgomery County

Pottstown’s $2.3M budget gap raises prospect of large tax hike
Pottstown Borough Manager Mark Flanders recently reported sobering financial news to Borough Council, detailing a total budget shortfall of $2.3 million across eight different borough funds. The largest shortfall is $1.5 million in the general fund. Flanders said increased personnel and health care costs are a factor, but a relentless stream of property assessment challenges has been the greatest cause. According to Flanders, 2017 began with a total assessed value of $804 million, and by July 31 that number had dropped by $2 million. With more hearings ahead, “our assessed valuation will likely go down even further – most likely below $780 million,” Flanders told council. Pottstown is also facing a potential loss of assessed property value if Pottstown Memorial Medical Center is taken off the tax rolls because of a possible purchase by the nonprofit Reading Health Systems. Currently, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center is the borough’s largest property tax source. Heading into budget season, Flanders said council “will have to make some tough decisions over the next few months,” either deciding on service cuts or some form of tax hike.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/8/2017 

Montgomery County announces 19 bridge projects
Montgomery County Commissioners approved contracts for 19 bridge projects across the county. The measures taken at the meeting allow seven bridges to move into the engineering phase, ready nine more for construction and advertise for request for proposals for another three. The commissioners also announced an interactive map that will keep the public updated on the progress of county-owned bridges. The map is a collaborative effort between the Montgomery Planning Commission and the Department of Assets and Infrastructure, and it can be viewed online at www.montcopa.org/bridgeinfo. Funding for more recent bridge projects comes from the $5 Motor Vehicle Registration Fee passed by the commissioners in a 2-1 vote in September 2016. The fee, enacted through the transportation funding bill Act 89, has brought an estimated $3.3 million in dedicated funding for infrastructure to the county for 2017.
Source: Montgomery County; 9/7/2017 

No 2018 tax increase anticipated in Lower Merion Township
Lower Merion Township Manager Ernie McNeely recently announced that if current finance projections hold, there may not be a need for a township tax increase in the upcoming 2018 budget. It would be the seventh year in a row that township municipal taxes have not increased. The proposed 2018 Budget and Capital Improvement Program will be released on Friday, Nov. 3, with two public hearings scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 15, and Wednesday, Dec. 6, and a final vote on Wednesday, Dec. 20. Visit www.lowermerion.org for the most up-to-date information.
Source: Main Line Times; 8/20/2017 

Lower Merion Conservancy releases annual WatchList
Since 1996, the Lower Merion Conservancy has published an annual WatchList of significant historic properties in Lower Merion and Narberth that are threatened with demolition, neglect or insensitive development. The 2017 list includes the Barnes Foundation and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, among others. The intent of this list is to cultivate preservation opportunities for threatened properties by enhancing the public’s awareness of their importance, their value to the community, and their reuse potential. Click here to view the 2017 properties.
Source: Lower Merion Conservancy; 9/2017

Philadelphia

L&I to add inspectors and satellite office locations
Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) has been understaffed since 2008, when approximately 20 percent of the staff was laid off. As the city’s real estate market went into its most sustained boom in decades, L&I has been slow to refill its ranks. Developers have expressed frustration with delays related to inadequate staffing, and the agency is now hiring more employees. There are 18 more building inspectors in 2017 than there were last year, and 17 additional code enforcement officials. Generally, building inspectors monitor new construction, whereas code enforcement inspectors respond to public concerns about existing properties. L&I is also changing the way that its target areas will be apportioned, along with opening two new district offices by the spring of 2018. Click here for the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections website.
Source: PlanPhilly.com; 9/12/2017 

City offers ‘Partners for Good Housing’ guidebook
The City of Philadelphia, on behalf of its citizens, has set minimum health, safety and maintenance standards for houses and apartments. A guidebook produced by the city, “Partners for Good Housing,” outlines the responsibilities of owners, tenants and landlords for maintaining houses and apartments in a safe and clean condition. The publication is available on the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections website. Access to this booklet, and to the Building Construction and Occupancy Code, is available in multiple languages.

 


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