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 Sept. 6, 2021

 

General News

Gov. Wolf calls on FEMA to lower aid threshold
Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Thursday asking it to lower the federal damage assessment thresholds required for aid. The letter comes after Pennsylvania was unable to obtain federal aid to help more than 1,100 people who reported damage to homes and businesses in Bristol Township, Bristol Borough and Bensalem Township in the wake of July 12 flash flooding. Disaster surveys did not tally enough damage to qualify the state for FEMA disaster aid, which is more comprehensive than the U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest loans being offered. Wolf’s letter stated that “localized short-duration, high-intensity precipitation events result in significant damages … that rarely meet the thresholds needed for federal disaster aid in the form of Individual Assistance.” According to Wolf, 5,200 Pennsylvania homes were damaged from flooding events in 2019 and none of them met the federal thresholds required for individual assistance. Further, “data collected since 1993 has shown that 96% of flooding incidents in the commonwealth reported to the National Weather Service occurred outside of established flood plains.” Wolf asked FEMA to consider evaluating impacts at a “micro level” at the municipal or county level, rather than a whole-state assessment, which “would provide a more realistic assessment of the impacts to that community.”
Source: LevittownNow.com; 8/26/2021

NAR comments on HUD's proposed disparate impact rule
On Aug. 23, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) submitted a comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) proposed rule, “Reinstatement of HUD’s Discriminatory Effects Standard.” The proposed rule would reinstate HUD’s 2013 rule, titled “Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard,” which recognized that the Fair Housing Act prohibits disparate impact discrimination. NAR “welcomes the return to the 2013 Rule” and believes the rule and the 2015 “Inclusive Communities” Supreme Court decision strike the proper balance between combatting discrimination and ensuring that real estate professionals and housing providers have appropriate latitude to make legitimate business decisions in the pursuit of nondiscriminatory objectives. Read the full letter here.
Source: Nar.realtor; 8/30/2021

As moratorium ends, renters can still apply for financial assistance from counties
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to end the nationwide eviction moratorium, it's more urgent than ever for renters to apply for rental assistance through their counties if they're at risk of eviction, or if they are in arrears on their rent or utility bills due to the pandemic. Each county in the Philadelphia suburbs has millions of dollars available to help renters pay down these debts, which will stabilize their housing, make their landlords whole and keep their cases out of what will likely be overburdened district courts. There is no dollar limit on the rental assistance available for each applicant, and the money does not need to be repaid. The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funding available to help them is being distributed by the counties. Visit the Suburban Realtors Alliance ERAP website at suburbanrealtorsalliance.com/erap to learn more and find links to each county's program.

Bucks County

Newtown Township approves Arcadia Green
Newtown Township supervisors recently approved the Arcadia Green development — a 60-home enclave on 20 acres near the intersection of the Newtown Bypass and Buck Road. The township resisted approval of the plan through six years of discussions and court battles. That came to an end through a court order stating that the supervisors had to approve the land development by the end of August, or risk losing the ability to provide input for it. Developer Arcadia Land Co. hopes to begin construction on the detached, single-family homes by early next year. The homes are expected to sell in the $700,000 to $800,000 range.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 8/30/2021

Plumstead Township conducts park improvement survey
The Plumstead Township Parks and Recreation Committee is looking at possible improvements to Jennifer Schweitzer Park and is asking for public input. The park is located on 11 acres at 5651 Potters Lane, and includes a wildlife area, a walking path and foot bridges, a tot lot and swing set, a baseball field, and a parking lot. A Schweitzer family member has left the township funds that are earmarked for improvements and maintenance. Residents are asked to take a survey to let the committee know what activities, programs and improvements the park could use.
Source: Plumstead Township; 8/2021

Plans unveiled for five shuttered elementary schools in Bristol Township
Bristol Township Council got a first look at development plans for five closed elementary school sites in the township. Bristol Township School District closed the schools as they consolidated into three new buildings in the past decade. Developer John McGrath presented a plan to develop three 55-plus communities at three school sites: John Fitch Elementary on Greenbrook Drive; Abraham Lincoln Elementary on Plumtree Drive; and George Washington Elementary on Crabtree Drive in Levittown. In their presentation to the township, McGrath’s group said each 55-plus community would have buffers from surrounding homes, green space, water features and improvements to stormwater management. Developer DR Horton presented its plan for twin homes at the Lafayette Elementary site that would also be 55-plus and would include a total of 88 units. The developer is also focused on stormwater management. Finally, Maple Shade Development is looking to turn the former Maple Shade Elementary School site into 24 single-family homes. The developer also plans to improve stormwater infrastructure, noting there is none in place presently. The proposals have not gone through the public land development process, and no approval action was taken at the meeting.
Source: LevittownNow.com; 8/25/2021

State Sen. Santarsiero announces fall events
State Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10) has announced a full schedule of community events this fall. They include a KidsFest, a flu shot clinic, a shredding event, a veterans luncheon, a college financial planning session and a toy drive that is co-sponsored by state Rep. Perry Warren (D-31). Events will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance regarding masking, requiring all individuals to wear a mask when indoors. Click here for more information on the upcoming events.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 8/23/2021

BCAR announces Realtor Relief funding for July 12 flood victims
The Bucks County Association of Realtors (BCAR) was awarded a $200,000 grant by the National Association of Realtors Relief Foundation to help individuals and families affected by the flooding that occurred on July 12 in Bensalem Township, Bristol Township and Bristol Borough. Qualified applicants can receive up to $1,000 to be used exclusively for the monthly mortgage expense on a primary residence or rental housing cost due to displacement from a primary residence resulting from the flood disaster. Residents can apply for assistance on the BCAR website by completing an application and uploading required documents. The application deadline is Monday, Sept. 30, and awards will be made on a first-come, first-served basis, or until the fund is depleted. Contact BCAR with any questions by email at info@bucksrealtor.com or by calling 215-956-9176, option “0”. Read more here.
Source: Bucks County Association of Realtors & Bucks County Courier Times; 8/23/2021

Chester County 

West Chester University, borough form joint committee
West Chester Borough Council voted to establish a West Chester Community-Campus Committee, a collaboration between West Chester University and the borough, and the borough solicitor is drafting an ordinance to formalize the initiative. The committee’s mission states it will “actively promote and improve the health, safety, and quality of life for our community.” Its primary aim is to provide a formal vehicle for the university and borough to address shared priorities. Approximately 10 borough representatives will join 10 university representatives. Among the members will be the mayor, a police department representative, a member of borough council, residents, the borough code officer, local housing officials, student representatives, fraternity and sorority members, student government members and campus public safety representatives.
Source: Daily Local; 8/36/2021

Protesters urge a halt to pipeline
At the Chester County County Justice Center on Aug. 31, demonstrators urged county commissioners to put a stop to construction of Sunoco/Energy Transfer’s Mariner East pipeline. On July 16, the commissioners requested that the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) halt operation of the 90-year-old Mariner East 8-inch and 12-inch lines that run through the county and conduct an independent geological investigation. The request followed sinkholes at Mariner East construction sites. The Mariner East runs 350 miles across Pennsylvania to the refinery in Delaware County, and a pair of new pipelines are being built in the existing right-of-way. There has been no response from the PUC, and demonstrators say it is time for commissioners to take action. More than 500 residents have emailed the county commissioners requesting they file a petition for emergency relief with the PUC. More than a dozen of those attending the rally spoke to the commissioners at their public session, telling them of the danger they feel the pipelines present to their neighborhoods. The commissioners listened to almost an hour of comments, but made no formal response at the meeting, a work session at which votes are not taken. The county by itself does not have the statutory authority to shut the construction down. Attorney Mark Freed, of the law firm of Curtain & Heefner, which is representing the county before the PUC, spoke at length about the difficulties the county would face if it asked the commission to act against Sunoco without proper data linking the geology underpinning the construction to pipeline safety. He tried to assure those in attendance at the commissioners meeting that the county was working hard on their behalf.
Source: Daily Local; 9/1/2021

Kendal-Crosslands near Kennett Square expands
Kendal-Crosslands Communities, a 500-acre nonprofit complex located just outside of Kennett Square, celebrated the groundbreaking of eight new cottages and an apartment building featuring 10 residences. The new homes will be located on their Crosslands campus and are being touted as high-performance buildings that meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s zero-energy ready standards. The community’s campus is also home to an arboretum with a diversity of trees and terrain. The new homes will be one-bedroom with a den and two-bedroom residences. All the homes include balconies, patios and updated amenities. The community is working with people on their waiting list and is expecting to welcome new residents next year.
Source: Daily Local; 8/30/2021

Annual Chester County Day set for Oct. 2
The 80th annual Chester County Day will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Being the longest running historic home tour in the country, the event has much to offer in the way of history, architecture and interior design. A project of the Women’s Auxiliary to Chester County Hospital, it has raised more than $5 million for the hospital. The 2021 tour will feature homes and gardens in West Chester Borough, East Bradford Township and Unionville. Tickets are $50 and available online.
Source: Daily Local; 8/25/2021

Seven join Chester County Economic Development Council board
The Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) is announcing the election of seven new members to its board of directors. “CCEDC board members help shape the future of Chester County’s business community, and they face unique challenges as we continue pandemic support services while planning for a post-pandemic economy,” says Gary Smith, CCEDC president and CEO. The new board members are: Miguel Baptista, vice president of commercial real estate, M&T Bank; Joyce Chester, president and CEO, Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center; Sean Fitzpatrick, senior vice president/CFO, Chester County Hospital; Al Fuller, human resources manager, Cleveland Cliffs; Sassan Hejazi, director, Kreischer Miller; Zeke Li, senior vice president, Frontage Laboratories; and Dwayne Walton, executive director, Parkesburg Point. Each board member serves a term of three years.
Source: Daily Local; 8/28/2021

Delaware County

Upper Darby, Clifton reach deal on athletic fields
After an 18-month battle over Clifton Field, Clifton Heights Mayor Joe Lombardo and Upper Darby School District Superintendent Dan McGarry held a joint press conference Monday announcing an agreement. The school district will be able to move forward with building a 166,000-square-foot middle school, while the borough will retain the youth athletic fields. Lombardo said the settlement has the following key provisions: The borough will approve the school district’s revised preliminary land develop plan to allow planning to proceed for the new middle school to be built, and the school district will subdivide the property with the section containing the new playing fields to be deeded over to the borough.
Source: Daily Times; 8/31/2021

Ridley Park Borough tax collector resigns
Ridley Park Borough’s tax collector, Richard Snyder, recently resigned. The borough has appointed an interim tax collector, Rachel Miccarelli. Alliance staff reached out to the borough regarding reported delays in the issuance of tax certification information. Borough manager Richard Tutak noted that the borough is working with the interim tax collector to fulfill existing requests for tax certifications.

Aston preparing for new 300-seat amphitheater
Aston Township is clearing trees and shrubs around its community center ahead of the construction of a planned amphitheater at the site. The Aston Community Center Park outdoor amphitheater will be a 0.9-acre, 250- to 300-seat venue with a raised stage with canopy, sound and light and dance space. Its design takes advantage of the site’s natural bowl-shaped topography, with terraced seating levels for lawn chairs and blankets, and access for all abilities. The new facility will expand outdoor programming for summer community concerts and movie nights. An outdoor amphitheater is a natural addition to the location, which is also home to an indoor community center, sports fields, an all-abilities playground, and the public library. An additional benefit is the economic value of attracting audiences to the downtown area. View a rendering of the amphitheater and more details on the township website.
Source: Aston Township; 8/2021

PA Health Department resumes COVID-related services to Delco
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has resumed COVID-19 related services for residents of Delaware County. These services include case investigation and surveillance, data reporting, testing and vaccination oversite, public health communications, official guidance and assistance to residents who have questions relating to COVID-19. For 16 months, Chester County Health Department provided these services, but the intergovernmental agreement between the counties ended on Aug. 1. Delaware County projects having its own health department operational by January 2022. Updates and progress on the future of the Delaware County Health Department can be found here.
Source: Chester Spirit; 8/25/2021

Montgomery County

UMJA now charges for sewer lateral inspections
The Upper Montgomery Joint Authority (UMJA) has begun charging for sewer lateral inspections. UMJA has conducted sewer lateral inspections at point-of-sale or when bathroom fixtures are added since 2014. There had originally been no charge for the inspection. The fee for a sewer lateral inspection is now $100, plus an additional $200 if the clean out is not accessible. Property owners or registered agents are reminded to contact the authority at 215-679-5133 at least 10 days prior to settlement or the start of construction. UMJA serves Red Hill, Pennsburg and East Greenville boroughs.

Upper Gwynedd adopts ‘2040’ comprehensive plan
Upper Gwynedd Township commissioners unanimously adopted a new comprehensive plan that details the township’s vision through 2040. Since the formation of a volunteer committee in 2019 that was charged with developing the comprehensive plan, there have been countless hours of public input and several rounds of community surveys. The committee developed the plan around different aspects of the township: housing and neighborhoods, economic development, community services and institutions, transportation, sustainability, parks and open space, and historic preservation. Each component carries detailed analysis of the township as it exists in 2021 and goals for the next two decades. The housing chapter includes data on the distribution of certain types of housing, home values and information on related topics like food access, historic preservation and senior communities. Visit the township website to review the plan.
Source: The Reporter; 8/23/2021

Norristown discusses funding for mortgage, rental relief program
Funds for Norristown’s mortgage, rental and utility assistance program were made available last year through a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Eligible participants may have had some type of loss in compensation, including being laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic. As of May, the unemployment rate in Norristown was recorded at 6.5%, compared to 4.7% in Montgomery County, according to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. So far, there have been 12 applications processed for assistance and a majority of available funding has not yet been dedicated, prompting a review by the municipal council. Homeowners and renters are encouraged to check out the Norristown Emergency Rental, Mortgage and Utility Assistance program to see if they qualify for aid.
Source: Times Herald; 8/19/2021

Aqua rate increase could mean 90% hike for Limerick
Aqua Pennsylvania recently filed a statewide rate hike request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for both public water and public sewer systems owned by the company. In the filing, Aqua said the rate increase is necessary for “the recovery of $1.1 billion the company has prudently spent to upgrade its distribution and treatment systems.” Aqua purchased Limerick Township’s sewer system in 2018 for $75 million, and part of the sale agreement was a rate freeze for three years. A letter mailed to Aqua customers in Limerick shows that if the full rate hike is approved by the PUC, residential customers using 3,800 gallons could see their bills rise to $71 a month from $37 — an increase of 89.6% or over $400 per year. The Mercury reported three years ago that, according to public documents related to the sale, “the current average monthly rate of $38 could jump to $70 when the rate freeze enacted as a condition of the sale expires.” Other objections to the sale included mention that Aqua would need to increase rates by 104% on Limerick customers to make its money back and that Aqua customers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties could end up paying higher rates to help Aqua make back its money for the purchase of the Limerick sale. Click here for the full article.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 8/28/2021

Philadelphia

Germantown rezoning highlights neighborhood tensions over parking, density
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) is eying a rezoning plan for northern Germantown, with a focus on imposing new rules mandating developers provide parking with their projects and putting limitations on building. The rezoning plan, which is currently up for public review, would create the new rules for building in a historic neighborhood experiencing a boom in growth as demand for housing swells in the city. It ticks off a laundry list of local priorities both big and small: reacting to neighbor complaints about increasing density and parking problems, imposing a facade review process, limiting housing development in a flood-prone area, and remapping some irregularly zoned parcels to conform with their surroundings. Perhaps most significantly, the plan would expand an existing parking overlay along Germantown Avenue to an area between Rittenhouse to Johnson streets. The overlay mandates that any new developments that feature more than 10 units provide off-street parking lots or garages. Read more here.
Source: PlanPhilly; 8/30/2021

New neighborhood school opens in Northeast Philadelphia
The first new neighborhood school in the Philadelphia School District in years — Northeast Community Propel Academy — opened its doors to 1,200 students on Aug. 30. The $80 million, 180,000-square-foot K-8 building will ease overcrowding in some Northeast schools. Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite called it “a 21st century learning environment.” It is the first of three new school buildings being opened by the school district this fall. The other two new buildings will be replacements for existing schools.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/1/2021


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