NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
NAR comments on FHFA "Duty to Serve" rule

Bucks County
Sewer ordinance would cost Doylestown homeowners $32k

Chester County
Sunoco will connect homes to public water 

Delaware County
Marple investor's proposed retirement community stirs controversy

Montgomery County
Sora West project in Conshohocken receives zoning approval 

Philadelphia County
PICA approves city's five-year plan, warns of insufficient savings 

 
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

NAR comments on FHFA "Duty to Serve" rule
On July 10, NAR submitted comments to the FHFA regarding the Agency's proposed “Duty to Serve Underserved Markets” plans. Ensuring the continued availability of affordable mortgage credit to all qualified borrowers is an obligation of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Without the affirmative obligation of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to facilitate the financing of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, access to credit in some of these markets would remain limited. As the GSEs implement their proposed plans, their efforts do not need to compromise safe and sound lending standards. Support of fair and affordable mortgages to a full range of qualified households in the market is achievable.
Source: Nar.realtor; 7/14/2017

Lawmakers want to strengthen protections for pipeline neighbors
Local legislators are looking for new ways to create a greater level of transparency for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project after multiple incidents of fluid leaks have affected both private and public waterways in Chester and Delaware counties in recent weeks. State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19th) of West Whiteland, submitted a list of concerns to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. A spokesman for state Sen. Tom Killion ,(R-9th) of Middletown, said the senator intends to back legislation that would give greater clarity to homeowners whose properties fall in the right-of-way of the pipeline. “Sen. Killion is working with Rep. (Chris) Quinn and DEP to fine-tune and refine several legislative proposals that deal with private water wells, the DEP permitting process, landowner information and notification proposals,” said spokesman Mike Stoll. Stoll said legislation in development would provide the DEP with the ability to bring private water sources into the permitting process, which currently the agency does not have the authority to do. He said informing landowners of their private property rights is paramount. State Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-156th) of West Chester, has taken things a step further as she plans to introduce legislation to create a state board that would be responsible for implementing and coordinating the timely communication of the information regarding pipeline activities in Pennsylvania. The proposed bill has 25 bipartisan cosponsors, including state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-161st) of Swarthmore, who said it would “improve transparency and communication on pipeline projects to keep our residents safe and informed.”
Source: Daily Times; 7/18/2017

New tool illustrates active water projects in PA
Pennsylvania American Water has unveiled an interactive tool that lets its customers see where some of the money they spend on water each month is being used. The company recently unveiled a user-friendly, interactive, web-based map showing its 2017 infrastructure upgrade projects. The map displays project details, dollars invested and streets with planned upgrades. “Often, customers do not see their water bills at work because we may not be upgrading infrastructure in their neighborhood, and underground water and wastewater pipes are typically considered out of sight, out of mind,” Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre said in a press release. “This innovative tool showcases our projects and provides details using an interactive map that is accessible from any computer or smartphone.” The interactive map can be accessed on the company’s website. Pennsylvania American Water is a subsidiary of American Water, the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing water and/or wastewater services to approximately 2.3 million people. The company serves approximately 670,000 water and wastewater customers in 36 counties across Pennsylvania.
Source: Daily Local; 7/16/2017

Bucks County

Sewer ordinance would cost Doylestown homeowners $32k
Doylestown Township supervisors tabled a vote on a sewer extension ordinance until Aug. 15 to give the public more time to review the project. If passed, the ordinance would extend public sewer lines to 252 properties in the township currently served by on-lot septic systems. Doylestown has studied bringing public sewers to the area for about 20 years, and the studies have shown that, under the current setup, pollutants, including human fecal bacteria, are leaking into nearby waterways. The proposed ordinance would put the cost of the $10 million project on the individual homeowners, a cost of approximately $32,000 per home, whether the home needs to be connected to the sewer line or not. All homes in the area would be evaluated, and failing systems would be required to connect, which could mean an additional $14,000 in connection and other fees. Joe Van Houten, representative of the township’s water and sewer advisory committee, said the township has worked in securing a 20-year, low-interest loan through PennVest that homeowners could apply for if they wanted. Van Houten said the township would continue seeking grants to lower the final costs of the project.
Source: The Intelligencer; 7/19/2017 

Richland adds ballot question for more supervisors
Richland Township supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to have a public referendum on whether the township should change from having a three-person board of supervisors to a five-person board. The referendum question will appear on the Nov. 7 municipal ballot and will ask, “Should two additional supervisors be elected to serve in this township?” with the opportunity to vote yes or no. If approved, two members would be elected in the 2018 general election for one three-year term and one five-year term.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 7/14/2017 

Medical cannabis dispensary to open in Sellersville
Proprietors of a medical marijuana dispensary called Terra Vida recently met with Sellersville Borough Council. They expect to open the dispensary in Sellersville before the end of the year. The dispensary will neighbor the Sellersville Fire Department on Main Street. Chris Visco, Terra Vida’s president/chief operating officer, and business partner Adina Birnbaum wanted to dispel potential misconceptions about their business. They stressed that they will be selling cannabis products like oils, lotions and concentrates strictly to people with qualified medical conditions who have received a doctor’s prescription and a state-issued medical cannabis identification card. No cannabis will be sold in leaf form. There will be at least one security guard present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with additional security on duty during operating hours. Additional security measures will be in place and admittance will only be granted after a patient displays identification and their medical marijuana card. Terra Vida is one of 27 companies to receive a medical marijuana dispensary license from the commonwealth, allowing it to operate up to three locations, said Visco. The other planned locations are in Abington and Philadelphia.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 7/14/2017 

Commissioners approve funds for farm preservation
At their July 12 meeting, Bucks County Commissioners were joined by dozens of local farm owners who have previously preserved their properties through the County Agricultural Land Preservation program. Chairman Charles H. Martin, Robert G. Loughery and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia unanimously agreed to pay $121,000 for a conservation easement on the 60.5-acre Litzenberger farm in Nockamixon Township and $141,108 for a similar easement on the 64.14-acre Arner Farm in Haycock Township. The state picked up the remaining easements of $605,000 and $705,540 respectively. They are the 200th and 201st farms preserved by the county since 1990. Those 201 farms total more than 16,200 acres and have leveraged approximately $153 million of county, state and local funding.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 7/14/2017

Chester County 

Sunoco will connect homes to public water
Sunoco Pipeline LP will pay to extend municipal water mains to about 30 Chester County households whose private water wells were impacted by pipeline construction. The company arranged to extend Aqua Pennsylvania water service to an area of West Whiteland Township. Township Supervisor George Turner affirmed that the company had agreed to “assume responsibility for the expansion of the public water system to serve the residents involved.” Details about costs, timetables and whether Sunoco will support the residents’ monthly water bills were still being worked out. Sunoco was under pressure from public officials to remedy the damage caused by the company’s horizontal directional drilling, which caused some of the wells to stop flowing and others to go cloudy. Some of the affected homes are along Township Line Road near an existing Aqua main, but other homes along Valleyview Drive will require the design and construction of a new main.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 7/12/2017

Phoenixville Council cuts tax abatement short
Phoenixville Borough has opted to accelerate the expiration clause of the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) ordinance. Previously scheduled to sunset in 2020, the program will now end July 31, 2017. The 10-year LERTA ordinance, adopted in 2010, is a tax abatement meant to incentivize development in the community. “We had all of the former steel site property under the LERTA in the hopes that we would get new development going on,” said Borough Manager Jean Krack. In 2016 and 2017, Phoenix Village and Riverworks took advantage of the abatement. Those projects resulted in 625 new apartments and 30,000 feet of commercial space. The downside of the tax abatement is the borough must provide services to the newly developed areas without receiving full tax payments to cover the costs. Property taxes increase 10 percent each year until they reach the newly assessed amount in the 10th year of the LERTA. Phoenixville, the school district and the county will receive full taxes for Phoenixville Village and Riverworks in 2026 and 2027, respectively.
Source: Daily Local; 7/17/2017

Coatesville Gateway Project: ‘When we build it, others will follow’
An official groundbreaking was held July 18 for Coatesville Gateway, a roughly $22 million redevelopment project planned for the area around First Avenue and East Lincoln Highway. The mixed-use project calls for new retail and office space that supporters hope will generate a wave of further investment in the city of 13,000 people. “I think it’s going to be incredibly catalytic,” said Sonia Huntzinger, Economic Development Administrator for the Coatesville 2nd Century Alliance. “Coatesville has been on the verge of revitalization for a long time, and it’s only been a matter of getting that first domino to fall.” Coatesville has recently drawn expectant comparisons to other areas – like West Chester and Phoenixville – that have seen their fortunes turned around through investment and revitalization. While other revitalization efforts are in the planning stages, some will soon be under way. Later this month, a groundbreaking will be held for the first phase of work on the Third Avenue Streetscape, a project that will transform the Amtrak station and surrounding area. The city also received funding from PennDOT for a much-needed realignment at the intersection of First Avenue and East Lincoln Highway to improve traffic flow and safety. The Gateway Project has also kindled interest in improving Coatesville’s infrastructure, the exploration of new uses for old warehouses and strategies for bringing new developers for future projects.
Source: Vista Today; 7/16/2017

New report identifies Chester County’s main employers
The boom in the health industry and the expanding education workforce in Philadelphia is having a positive impact on the suburbs, according to a report in the Philadelphia Business Journal. According to a study from Data USA, these industries are now the main employers in Chester County. With 61,062 employees between them, they account for nearly a quarter of the county’s workforce. Overall, employment in Chester County has grown by a rate of 1.29 percent since 2014. The highest-paid jobs in the area tend to be in the fields of legal, management, technology and mathematics. Read more about Data USA’s findings in the Philadelphia Business Journal here.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 7/5/2017

Delaware County

Marple investor's proposed retirement community stirs controversy
Steve Sudhop, a 35-year Marple resident and real estate investor, purchased the remnants of Greenbank Farm and its four-acre parcel on Palmers Mill Road last August. The purchase ignited apprehension among residents who are concerned he’ll combine the property with proposed plans for his controversial Woodland Preserve project, a 650-unit active-adult continuing care retirement community on a neighboring 45-acre tract, turning the historic farm into a clubhouse corner that green-space groups are calling “invasive.” “All I want to do is build a retirement community so I can live in one that I like,” Sudhop said. He’s planned a park-like setting on the site and promises 69 percent of the property will remain as green space, more than is typical in such high-density housing. He says the vertically stacked single-floor hybrid apartment-cottage units for independent, assisted and skilled living would be affordable and equipped with elevators and communal recreational galleries. The proposed project has not yet been approved by the township and project remains contrary to current zoning. Neighbors have joined forces to oppose the project as a group called Paxon Hollow Greenspace.  
Source: Main Line Today; June 2017

Springfield rejects zoning change for car dealership
Springfield Township’s Board of Commissioners rejected an application by Reedman Toll to rezone 305 West Ave. from residential to business. Residents who live near the site raised concerns about their homes, safety and lifestyle. The board’s 4-3 vote to deny the application represents a reversal from earlier approvals the commissioners had given to the automotive dealership’s plans. Commissioner Dan Lanciano, who changed his vote, said he walked the property, and reconsidered what he’d heard and the strong feelings of residents.  
Source: Daily Times; 7/13/2017
 

New study identifies main Delco employers
The boom in the health industry and the expanding education workforce in Philadelphia is having a positive impact on the suburbs, according to a report in the Philadelphia Business Journal. According to a study from Data USA, these industries are now the main employers in Delaware County. With 85,623 employees, they employ nearly a third of the county’s workforce. Overall employment in Delaware County has increased at a rate of 4.71 percent since 2014. Read more about Data USA’s findings in the Philadelphia Business Journal by clicking here.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 7/5/2017

Concord planners to review proposed development
The Concord Township Planning Commission is slated to review an application regarding Concord Ventures, a proposed development involving 63.8 acres bordered by Route 202, Watkin Avenue and the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line. The tract is owned by Woodlawn Trustees with equitable owners Eastern States Development Co. and McKee-Concord Homes. The new design of 29 townhouses, three five-story apartment buildings, a clubhouse and an in-ground pool was revised from the original proposal based on comments from township consultants. Because the plan is a planned residential development, it could be considered by council without input from the planning commission, but council voted earlier this year to request the commission complete a review and provide recommendations. The meeting will be held Monday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 43 Thornton Road.
Source: Daily Times; 7/17/2017

Montgomery County

Sora West project in Conshohocken receives zoning approval
Three years after first proposing the idea, Keystone Property Group has received zoning approval to move ahead with a $100 million mixed-use project called Sora West. The project will be done in two phases and will define a key gateway in Conshohocken. A historic firehouse that dates back to 1874 will be redeveloped into a brew pub, and two office buildings will be torn down and replaced by two new office structures. One building will total 245,000 square feet, with 11,800 square feet for restaurant space and 1,900 for retail. The second office building will total 223,000 square feet and include: 3,500 square feet of retail space; a 171-room hotel with restaurant and retail; and an eight-level parking garage with almost 1,000 spaces. The developer still needs to obtain preliminary and final land development approvals.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 7/2017 

Towamencin reviews ways to announce curb upgrades
Towamencin Township officials are discussing whether residents should be required to repair or replace their curbs as road repairs are completed throughout the township. Township codes currently require homeowners to take responsibility for repairing their existing curbs and sidewalks, according to Township Manager Rob Ford. Ford has discussed with staff whether to start notifying residents one or two years in advance of road-repaving projects, that they will need to replace the curbs too. “We started, probably six or eight years ago, when a house is up for sale and goes to settlement, they have to get a use and occupancy permit, and our code department goes and inspects and notes if any curbs or sidewalks don’t meet the code requirements,” Ford said. “We’ve had some success with that, but the issue is, not all houses are going up for sale, if you live in a house for 25 or 30 years, and we’re starting to look at beginning to pave roads where the curbs and sidewalks are in poor condition,” he continued. Township staff looked at one older neighborhood in the township that could be in line for paving over the next two years, and out of a total of 183 homes, 102 had issues with their curbs that would necessitate repaving. Ford said that fresh curbs help to maintain the integrity of a new roadway by providing strong support on either side. Ford and Township Engineer Tom Zarko plan to gather more information and discuss the plan with supervisors at a future board meeting.
Source: The Reporter; 7/19/2017 

Community Connections offers one-stop resource for Montco residents
Montgomery County describes its “Community Connections” program as an innovative approach to providing services to people who need them most, where they need them most — in their community. There are currently four Community Connections offices located in Willow Grove, Pottstown, Lansdale and Norristown, and the county has added several expansion sites with limited hours. These offices offer guidance related to taxes, veterans’ affairs, addiction services, housing, women’s health and many other areas. Community Connections aims to build a stronger partnership between government, community organizations and families to foster better service and care. Click here for the Community Connections brochure. 

Lower Merion boards recommend approval of hotels at Pencoyd Iron Works site
The Lower Merion Township Planning Commission and the Building and Planning Committee recommended approval of a plan to construct two hotels and other amenities on a portion of the former Pencoyd Iron Works site in Bala Cynwyd. Penn Real Estate Group plans to construct one hotel with 124 rooms and a second hotel with 138 rooms on a site between the new Royal Athena apartments and the Aquatic Fitness Center on Righters Ferry Road. The plan will also provide public access to a public gathering space that will be called Pencoyd Square. There will be a café and a trail that township officials hope will one day reach the Falls Bridge in Philadelphia. The Board of Commissioners will review the plans for approval.
Source: Main Line Times; 7/13/2017

Philadelphia

PICA approves city's five-year plan, warns of insufficient savings
Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), the state board that oversees Philadelphia’s finances, unanimously approved the city’s five-year plan Tuesday. PICA board members followed the authority staff’s recommendation that the five-year plan be approved but still raised concerns about low fund balances and future labor contracts. “The city’s revenue projections have consistently been outperformed by actual collections in recent years,” PICA staff wrote in the 43-page report. “PICA feels confident that the city and its consultant are effectively monitoring tax performance in a way that will allow adjustment to changes in economic growth.” The Kenney administration is projecting $4.41 billion in total general fund revenues for fiscal 2018, which began July 1. The city expects to spend $4.44 billion and use leftover funds from the prior year to close the gap and end with a $75.5 million fund balance.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 7/18/2017 

 



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