NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Some local governments adjusting to COVID again

Bucks County
BCWSA fined $450K for Clean Water Act violations

Chester County
East Goshen Township office operating at limited staffing capacity

Delaware County
Seven townships sue to stop Delco health department from taking over municipal inspections

Montgomery County
Conshohocken to consider amendments to animal control regulations

Philadelphia County
Philly’s rental assistance program is ending

 

News Briefs Archive April 29, 2021

 

General News

Pa. ranks among highest property tax rates in nation
Pennsylvania remains in the top 10 for highest effective property tax rates in the nation in 2020, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions. The average property tax rate in Pennsylvania was 1.64% in 2020 — unchanged from 2019. The study reports that, nationwide, the average single-family home’s property tax in 2020 was $3,719, for an effective tax rate of 1.1%. New Jersey is at the top of the list with a 2.2% tax rate. Pennsylvania is number eight on the list. Click here for information on property tax averages per county nationwide.
Source: Central Penn Business Journal; 4/8/2021

Treasury issues Homeowner Assistance Fund guidance
The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act included $9.9 billion in relief for homeowners to be administered through a new Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). The funding, which will soon be made available to eligible homeowners through their states, may be used for mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments and other specified purposes. The HAF was created to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after Jan. 21, 2020. The law and guidance prioritize funds for homeowners who have experienced the greatest hardships, limit eligibility based on need, and can only be used for certain qualified expenses. The statute requires the Department of Treasury to provide a minimum of $50 million for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, plus additional money for U.S. territories and tribal entities. See the National Association of Realtors’ summary for more information on the HAF.
Source: Nar.realtor; 4/20/2021

Watch: ‘The Past, Present, and Future of Fair Housing’
The National Association of Realtors®, in partnership with the Memorial Foundation, sponsored a special Facebook Live event commemorating Fair Housing Month — “The Past, Present, and Future of Fair Housing” — hosted by Soledad O’Brien and featuring U.S. HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. Watch it here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 4/19/2021

Nominate a Great Place in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-PA) is looking for Great Places in three categories: public spaces, greenways/trails and streets. Great Places are unique, memorable places that embody planning excellence and promote a sense of community. The deadline for nominations is Friday, May 7. For more information, including guidelines, category criteria and the nomination form, visit the APA-PA website.
Source: York County Planning Commission; 4/15/2021

Bucks County

Morrisville approaches Pennsbury to revisit merger talks
Morrisville School District has again approached Pennsbury School District to discuss the possibility of a merger. Morrisville faces ongoing financial straits, and officials say the state is not providing needed support to the cash-strapped school district. Morrisville School District has 1,022 students and a budget of $22.4 million, and is facing a $750,000 deficit for the coming school year. The merger request was made public at the end of a recent Pennsbury School Board meeting where the directors agreed to Morrisville’s request for a discussion of the issue. In 2014, a request from Morrisville for a merger with Pennsbury was rejected by the Pennsbury School Board. Morrisville had also sent requests to surrounding school districts to see about sending its students to those districts on a tuition basis, but the proposals did not proceed.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/16/2021

Small development planned in Bristol Township
A proposed development would add seven homes near Bath Road in Bristol Township. The plan calls for homes of about 2,600 square feet, with five of them situated on a private street and another two off Green Avenue. The developer, Ralph DiGuiseppe, who also serves as president of Bristol Borough Council, brought several requests for variances before the Bristol Township Zoning Hearing Board, including relief for the impervious surface ratio for some homes and buffer areas. The zoning board granted the variances. The plans will still need to go through the township’s land development process and earn final approval from Bristol Township Council.
Source: LevittownNow.com; 4/15/2021

Central Bucks superintendent resigns
Central Bucks School Board accepted the resignation of the district’s superintendent of schools, Dr. John J. Kopicki. He will continue to serve in a consulting capacity for the remainder of the school year. Kopicki served Central Bucks as superintendent for five years. The school board will consider the appointment of the district’s assistant superintendent for secondary education, Dr. Abram Lucabaugh, as interim superintendent. A timeline and details of the search for a new superintendent will be forthcoming.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/15/2021

Negative outlook removed for Lower Makefield
Moody’s Investors Service affirmed Lower Makefield Township’s general obligation rating at Aa2 and removed the negative outlook for the township’s finances. According to Moody’s, the township’s financial position has stabilized and is expected to continue to improve due to the sale of the township sewer system. The sale will reduce the township’s debt burden and eliminate the need for additional financial support of the sewer system, which had pressured operations in previous years.
Source: Lower Makefield Township; 3/2/2021

Chester County 

Sunoco floats Mariner East 2 pipeline reroute plan to avoid more Marsh Creek Lake spills
Sunoco has proposed a quarter-mile reroute of its troublesome Mariner East 2 pipeline in Chester County. The new plans would avoid a construction method that led to a 2020 spill of about 8,000 gallons of claylike drilling mud, which polluted the 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake in Marsh Creek State Park. The spill enraged residents and environmental groups, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ordered drilling stopped at the time. Rather than building the pipeline through a 2,640-foot-long path drilled horizontally underground, as previously approved, Sunoco instead proposes to use an open trench method of construction. An open trench is more disruptive to the land’s surface, but minimizes the risk of leaks of fluid from underground drilling, an accident known as an “inadvertent return.” Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/15/2021

In Coatesville, Flats sale advances redevelopment effort
The sale of Coatesville’s largest parcel, known as the Flats, was approved by a resolution this week during a city council meeting. After vetting proposals and conducting public meetings, project reviews and negotiations, Coatesville’s Redevelopment Authority (RDA) recommended the sale of its largest commercial property in the city’s Qualified Opportunity Zone — at 26.3 acres — to IDG Development LLC, a Coatesville-based company comprising a joint venture between New Heritage Properties and Activated Capital. “I was delighted that my colleagues enthusiastically approved the Flats agreement in a 6-1 vote,” said Council President Linda Lavender-Norris. “It’s so exciting to see the vision for the City of Coatesville coming to fruition. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait!” During a city council meeting in March, IDG revealed plans for National Sports and Events Center, a multi-use sports facility, velodrome and events venue. The $50 million project sets in motion a much-needed economic development stimulus for Coatesville.
Source: Daily Local; 4/20/2021

Municipalities get more than $6 million to improve safety
Gov. Tom Wolf announced that 43 highway, bridge, rail, and bike and pedestrian projects in 21 counties were selected for $45.9 million in funding through the Multimodal Transportation Fund. In Chester County, four municipalities will get more than $6 million in funding. PennDOT evaluated the applications and made selections based on criteria such as safety benefits, regional economic conditions, technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency and operational sustainability. Municipalities receiving funding include:

  • Kennett Township — $2.19 million to construct a roundabout at a “5-Points” intersection
  • West Brandywine Township — $1.69 million for embankment stabilization, drainage and roadway reconstruction of a section of Pratts Dam Road
  • West Nottingham Township — $842,500 for improvements to the main signalized intersection at SR 272/SR 3026
  • Valley Township — $1.5 million for the reconstruction of a collapsed portion of Wagontown Road

Source: Daily Local; 4/20/2021

County gets $200K grant to address internet gaps
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has awarded a $200,000 grant to conduct a southern Chester County internet access study, following concerns raised by community and business representatives of the region, and a successful application by the Chester County Department of Community Development. “It is difficult to believe that there are areas of Chester County that do not have strong digital access, but this is the case in pockets of the southern part of the county,” the Chester County Commissioners said in a statement. “The virtual world brought on by the pandemic has made internet coverage very necessary.” The study will analyze internet access in four school districts: Kennett, Avon Grove, Oxford and Unionville-Chadds Ford. The Chester County Intermediate Unit, which is recipient of the grant, will lead the study.
Source: Southern Chester County Weeklies; 4/16/2021

Utility’s ‘protection plan’ comes up short for Thorndale family
A Thorndale Township family faced with a backed-up sewer line eventually paid out of pocket for the repair, despite having a costly sewer “protection plan” from their utility provider, Pennsylvania American Water. After discovering toilet paper in the front yard and realizing the problem, the family wasn’t able to wash clothes or dishes, flush a toilet, take a shower, or even wash their hands for more than two days. Despite 16 years of paying for the protection plan — which now costs $22.50 per month — and making more than a dozen calls to the utility, the family was unable to get the problem quickly fixed. The clog was discovered on a Wednesday, and on Friday the family hired a private company to fix the problem for $510. The utility, in addition to the monthly protection plan fee, charged a $50 service fee to open the case.
Source: Daily Local; 4/18/2021

Delaware County

County plans in-person sessions for rental assistance applications on April 24
Delaware County will have in-person intake sessions on Saturday, April 24, for residents who want to apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA). The county has been taking applications through Delco-ERA website, and hundreds have applied but funding is still available. The U.S. Treasury and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allotted $37.2 million for the county’s assistance program to help people who have experienced financial loss due to the pandemic. The program will cover up to 12 months of past due rent and three months of future rent, as well as the largest outstanding utility bill, for those meeting income requirements. The in-person intake sessions will be held on Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at two Delaware County Human Services office locations: the Eddystone office in the Baldwin Towers, 1510 Chester Pike, Suite 102; and the Upper Darby Office at 20 S. 69th St. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 484-729-4200. Information is available by email at info@delco-era.com. Delaware County Council hired Philadelphia-based Capital Access Inc. to administer the program.
Source: Daily Times; 4/16/2021

Concord Township plot, eyed for shops, currently being farmed
Plans for a shopping center at Ridge Road and Route 202 in Concord Township have stalled, and the land is being farmed, at least for now. There's been no official word from the owner, the Pettinaro Company, but the proposed shopping center remains on hold. Work on the 22-acre property bordering Chadds Ford was delayed when it was determined that wetlands were part of the site. Passersby and merchants in the adjacent Olde Ridge Village have seen activity in recent weeks. According to Concord Township Manager Amanda Serock, swales were being cut in to allow a local farmer to plant soybeans and wheat. Serock said she didn't know who the farmer is or for how long the site will be farmed. In October 2008, Concord supervisors approved the site for a 190,000-square-foot shopping center with 21 retail pads, three for restaurants, and another 58,000-square-foot pad for an anchor store. Controversy and litigation surrounded the project when Chadds Ford Township residents learned later that part of the shopping center's design included widening Ridge Road from two to six lanes and that the main entrance would be on Ridge, not Route 202. Residents expressed safety concerns related to increased traffic in an already congested area.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 4/21/2021

Media to discuss open space, parks in public meeting
Media Borough will hold a virtual meeting to present the preliminary findings of its Open Space, Parks and Recreation Plan. The need for open space, parks and recreation has emerged as one of the most important issues affecting quality of life in the borough, especially over the past year as residents have coped with the isolation of the pandemic. The borough’s Open Space, Parks and Recreation Committee met for over a year and conducted a public survey to gather community input. The upcoming meeting will take place on Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. Email Karen Taussig-Lux at ktlux@mediaborough.com to register and get the meeting link.
Source: Media Borough; 4/20/2021

Delco appoints its first Board of Health
Delaware County Council created the first-ever five-member Board of Health after sorting through 92 applicants as it moves forward with the creation of a county health department. For the terms ending in January 2024, the council unanimously approved:

  • Lora Siegmann Werner, regional director/environmental health scientist for the Agency of Toxic Substances & Disease Registry for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
  • Y Lily Higgins, market chief medical officer for AmeriHealth Caritas Pennsylvania/Keystone First

For terms ending in January 2026, the council unanimously approved:

  • Patrick J. Brennan, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Penn Medicine
  • Rosemarie Halt, Delaware County’s COVID-19 task force director
  • Oni Richards, executive director of the African Family Health Organization

The county plans to hire a director for the department this summer and anticipates opening the health department next January.
Source: Daily Times; 4/21/2021

Montgomery County

Collegeville to adopt 2015 IPMC
Collegeville Borough Council will consider an ordinance to adopt the 2015 edition of International Property Maintenance Code. The meeting will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, May 5, at 7 p.m. The Zoom link to attend and participate will be available on the Collegeville Borough website. Questions or comments related to agenda items can be submitted in advance to the borough manager via email or first-class mail. Comments must include name and address.
Source: Times Herald; 4/19/2021

Increased demand and usage fuels trail expansion
Growing demand due to the pandemic has led to upgrades and an expansion of Montgomery County’s trail network. A new connector to Route 422 on the Schuylkill River Trail near Pottstown will help build the link from Chester County all the way to Philadelphia — a project that has been in the works for 20 years. County Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence Jr. said the trails saw about 2 million visitors in the past year. To encourage the use of the trails, Montgomery County will kick off the 2021 Montco Trail Challenge on Saturday, May 1. Participants have until Dec. 5 to visit as many of the 15 trails on the itinerary as they can, earning awards along the way. Montgomery County’s trail expansion complements a plan adopted by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the Circuit Trails Coalition that aims to connect Philadelphia, the surrounding suburbs, and parts of New Jersey and Delaware by 500 miles of trails by 2025.
Source: Whyy.org; 4/18/2021 & Montgomery County; 4/15/2021

Lower Merion superintendent to retire
Lower Merion School District Superintendent Robert Copeland has announced he is retiring in the fall. Copeland expressed his intention in a letter to the community. He has been with the district for six years. The school board will now be tasked with finding a replacement and expects to identify a consulting firm at the next regular board meeting.
Source: Main Line Media News; 4/14/2021

Free ride on PART buses to end May 1
Pottstown Borough has announced that riding on the Pottstown Area Rapid Transit system (PART) will not be free much longer. Effective May 1, PART riders will have to pay a fare. The borough suspended fares on the buses more than a year ago in an effort to ease the financial burdens of the pandemic. Masks will still be required to ride.
Source: Digital Notebook Blog; 4/19/2021

Philadelphia

Kenney’s proposed 2021 budget would cut taxes and raise spending — but not for police
After a year of belt-tightening, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled an ambitious $5.18 billion spending proposal that looks to boost city services and avoid layoffs while simultaneously accelerating cuts to business and wage taxes. The latest budget comes after a year of uncertainty that concluded with City Hall moving onto sounder financial footing thanks to $1.4 billion dollars in federal relief aid from the American Rescue Plan. The spending plan, if approved by the city council, would restore hundreds of millions of dollars cut in last year’s $4.9 billion budget by pumping cash into education, libraries, street sweeping and paving, economic development, anti-violence programs, and more. But the city’s police department — now grappling with an increasing homicide rate and calls for reform — would see its budget frozen. Neglected departments, like the city’s libraries, Parks & Recreation, and the Commerce Department, would see millions return after deep cuts last year — with libraries able to restore five-day-a-week service. The Community College of Philadelphia would receive a $4 million funding increase, and Philadelphia Fire Department would get $15 million, another major increase. The budget includes $42 million in federal grant dollars for housing homeless individuals in non-congregate shelters and capital improvements to shelters. The administration also included emergency rental assistance in the budget, also supported by Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The administration said it would avoid raising any taxes while initiating the “largest wage tax reduction since 2009” and making steeper cuts to the net income portion of the city’s business taxes, valued at some $343 million over five years. Read more about the budget and tax reduction details here.
Source: Plan Philly; 4/14/2021

Council bills would stop landlords from using eviction records to screen tenants
Under a pair of bills introduced by Councilmember Kendra Brooks, landlords wouldn’t be able to deny prospective tenants based solely on eviction records and would have to give a reason as to why they are denying them within two business days. The package, dubbed the Renters’ Access Act, would provide guidelines on how eviction records can be used when landlords review applications. Eviction records follow people. In many cases, they can be a permanent hindrance to obtaining subsidy vouchers, public housing programs and private housing. In Pennsylvania, public court records of eviction case filings are not sealable and are available to landlords regardless of the outcome of the case. If passed, the council bills would not let landlords deny potential tenants solely because of credit score, failure to pay rent/utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, or eviction records older than two years. It would also force landlords to make screening criteria written and accessible to all renters and forbid automatic exclusions based on eviction records. It would give applicants the right to dispute the accuracy of third-party information and request a reconsideration of their application.
Source: Plan Philly; 4/15/2021

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

Designed and delivered by Accrisoft