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 October 7, 2019


General News

NFIP extended through Nov. 21
President Trump signed H.R. 4378 into law, funding the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through Nov. 21 and averting a government shutdown. The continuing resolution is the 13th short-term measure for this program in the past two years. “With this CR temporarily ending the threat of a program lapse, Realtors® urge Congress to resume working toward a long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program,” said National Association of Realtors® (NAR) President John Smaby. “NAR strongly supports the NFIP Reauthorization Act, which includes a 5-year extension along with significant reforms to improve mapping, enhance mitigation and remove obstacles to private flood insurance. H.R. 3167 strikes a delicate balance between NFIP sustainability and affordability, and we urge both chambers of Congress to take up this legislation after its unanimous approval in the House Financial Services Committee.” Top of Form
Source: National Association of Realtors®; 9/27/2019 

Voter registration deadline is Oct. 7
Monday, Oct. 7, is the last day for Pennsylvania residents to register for the Nov. 5 general election. An online voter registration application is available here. Registered voters can now also request an absentee ballot online.

Bucks County

Lower Makefield planners OK mixed-use overlay district
The Lower Makefield Township Planning Commission approved a mixed-use overlay district around a 36-acre property across from Shady Brook Farm at Stony Hill and Township Line roads. The project’s developers — Equus Capital Partners, Envision Land-Use and DeLuca Homes — received approval for the overlay that is the first step toward potentially bringing in a 100,000-square-foot Wegmans grocery store, 55,000 square feet of retail space, 200 apartments and amenities to the site called Prickett Preserve at Edgewood. Approval comes with the condition that township supervisors review recommendations from the Bucks County Planning Commission and that the overlay district be limited to within a quarter-mile of the Edgewood Village development. Edgewood Village sits in the town’s Historic Commercial District. The proposal includes the preservation of a building and barn formerly occupied by C.L. Prickett Antiques. The planning commission added the option to withdraw the overlay if the development does not come to fruition. Preliminary and final land development plans must be secured from the planning commission before plans go to the supervisors. No land development plans have been filed with the township yet.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/24/2019

Hilltown grapples with yard waste
Hilltown Township supervisors recently closed a township-controlled dump yard on Fairhill Road due to rampant misuse of the property. The dump was intended for use by residents as a place to dispose yard waste but was closed after people used the dump improperly, including chronic dumping by landscapers despite posted signs that the facility was not for them. Hilltown supervisors are trying to find an alternative facility where residents can dispose of certain yard waste at no charge. Supervisor Jack McIlhinney said the township is in preliminary talks for a new location but nothing has been finalized.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 9/26/2019

Lower Southampton hires new zoning officer
Lower Southampton recently appointed Jeffrey Bartlett as its new zoning officer. Bartlett was previously manager of North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, and prior to that was managing director of Bristol Township for five years. Bartlett replaced William Oettinger, who will remain in his other full-time township position as fire marshal. Bartlett is expected to start his new position by the end of October.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/29/2019

Solebury places land preservation bond referendum on November ballot
Solebury Township supervisors approved placing on the Nov. 5 ballot a referendum that would authorize the township to borrow up to an additional $12 million to finance the acquisition of interests in or improvements to real property for open space purposes. The authorized borrowing would occur over a period of years. Click here for more information.
Source: Solebury Township; 9/18/2019

Chester County 

Investors look to capitalize on Coatesville’s revitalization
More than 80 investors, developers, mortgage brokers, bankers and residents attended an invitation-only symposium on Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) opportunities in Coatesville. The event was the final of three briefings offering a comprehensive update of activity, land assets and guidance to those interested capitalizing on QOZ incentives. “We have now reached an important tipping point toward real development action and matchmaking with investors and entrepreneurs,” said James Logan, Assistant City Manager. “The Opportunity Zone initiative has reenergized interest from developers who have considered Coatesville previously and are now coming back with renewed interest. Part of our role is to help navigate this rise in activity and balance out smart economic development with civic-minded awareness.” In addition to deferring the capital gains tax from the initial investment, the overall QOZ tax benefits are significant and grow with time. The City of Coatesville has several available development sites for new construction or revitalization of existing structures. To date, significant interest has been shown in two key areas of the city: The Flats, a 21.2-acre site located at the key intersection of Business Route 30 and Route 82; and the area of 3rd and Fleetwood near the proposed new train station.
Source: Daily Local; 10/1/2019

Chester County Historical Society needs votes to win grant
A leaking roof and crumbling chimneys are threatening Thomas U. Walter’s Horticultural Hall, a historically and architecturally significant building that is home to Chester County Historical Society. Fortunately, CCHS has been chosen as one of 20 historic sites in the nation to compete for preservation funding in an online voting campaign. Members of the public can sign up and cast up to five votes daily through Oct. 29 by clicking here. Video instructions on how to vote are available here. “We need your help to save your history,” said Allison Snavely, development director at CCHS.
Source: Vista; 9/27/2019

Luxury apartment building proposed in Berwyn
So many people turned out for an Easttown Township Zoning Hearing Board meeting in September on the plans for Berwyn Village at the site of Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt, the meeting was postponed until a larger venue could be located. Todd Pohlig, a homebuilder, teamed up with David Della Porta, and the developers are seeking variances to build a 120-unit luxury apartment building dubbed Berwyn Square at the site where Handel’s now stands. Handel’s would stay as a first-floor tenant, said Pohlig. Easttown Township recently changed the zoning for Berwyn Village to revitalize an area with some vacant buildings. The idea for the 2.3 acres is to include mixed use spaces that combine commercial with residential or office uses. The plan needs zoning waivers, including zoning relief for to make the building 49 feet high instead of 42 feet, he said. They also need relief to add a front plaza, where visitors can sit on benches and eat their ice cream, and for fewer loading docks in the rear. Berwyn residents have concerns about the four-story apartment building changing the character of their neighborhood and increasing traffic.
Source: Daily Local; 9/30/2019

County officials pass resolution on clean energy
A resolution sponsored by state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) promoting energy efficiency and clean energy in Pennsylvania was passed unanimously. The bipartisan resolution, SR232, declared Oct. 2, 2019, “Energy Efficiency Day” and Oct. 19, 2019 “Clean Energy/Solar Tour Day” in Pennsylvania. The dates align with National Energy Efficiency Day and the National Solar Energy Tour, which is the largest grassroots renewable energy event in the country, featuring solar tours nationwide. Mayors in Downingtown and West Chester issued their own municipal proclamations recognizing the two dates. At the same time, state representatives led by Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-156) introduced similar resolutions with bipartisan support in the state House. In Chester County, residents will be able to participate in clean energy tours starting from locations in Kennett Square, Wayne, Phoenixville and West Chester. Tour attendees will have the chance to see a variety of cutting-edge energy efficiency projects and clean energy technologies being used by local businesses, schools, houses of worship, municipalities and homes.
Source: Daily Local; 10/2/2019

Delaware County

Chester City Council updates parking ordinances
Chester City Council passed a series of ordinances to amend the city’s parking laws, bringing them up to date with its new meter system and creating a new residential parking program. Further policies not specified in the ordinances will be addressed by the revamped Chester Parking Authority, launched in May. “We have been able to make these upgrades at no cost to the city by working through a public-private partnership even as we maintain oversight,” Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland said in a statement. “This legislation will bring tangible benefits to our city by better regulating parking opportunities in congested residential neighborhoods and by encouraging vehicle turnover in commercial areas.” The first new ordinance, 2019-5, repealed the city’s existing residential parking program. Ordinance 2019-6 amends the city’s traffic code to create a merchant parking zone and new residential parking permit program. The merchant zone will provide parking for downtown business owners at spaces on sections of Sproul, West Sixth and Wall streets. The non-transferable merchant zone permits will cost $25 per year to the principal of a retail business or their designated employees. The residential parking permit program begins in October for areas surrounding Crozer-Chester Medical Center, and will expand to four residential areas that will be identified at the first meeting of the parking authority, including around Widener University and Talen Energy Stadium. Each residence will be eligible for two residential parking permits, and may request a third “in the event of a unique hardship or other exigent circumstances.” Commercial vehicles are excluded from the program. The residential permit parking zones will be in effect daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The non-transferable permits will be tied to a license plate number and physical permits will not be distributed. The permits will be issued for free for the first year of the program, followed by a $25 fee each subsequent year. The ordinance provides for the authority to create a “program for guest/temporary permits” and a “limit on the number of such permits per property.”
Source: Daily Times; 10/2/2019

How Havertown became hot with old-fashioned charm
With a growing number of restaurants and bars, upgraded parks and recreation facilities, and a younger demographic trickling in, there’s new energy in Havertown. As nearby suburbs like Ardmore rapidly develop, and the faux main streets of town centers pop up around the Main Line, many people said they were attracted to the old-fashioned charm of Havertown. Gerard Hart, a Haverford Township commissioner who’s lived in Havertown since 1990, called it “kind of a throwback to what you imagine small towns were like years ago, but you’re sitting right next to the city.” Havertown is a section of Haverford Township, which is home to 39,000 people and has a median household income of about $103,000, according to census data. However, locals often note a distinction between the Havertown and Haverford sections of the township.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/30/2019

Springfield zoners deny request for new parking area
The Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board unanimously denied an application for a variance to allow parking in the rear of 305 West Ave. The application of Robert C. Miller and David R. Miller, according to the legal public notice, was for “use and dimensional variances to permit off-street parking at the rear of 305 West Ave. in relation to their properties located at 230-244 Baltimore Pike and to permit more than 40% impervious surface coverage of the lot area at 305 West Ave.” The variance was intended to allow the Jeep/Dodge dealership at the site to park or store vehicles in what is part of the backyard of the single-family home currently occupied as a rental.
Source: Daily Times; 10/1/2019

Nether Providence OKs zoning change for South Media development
A busy corner of Nether Providence’s South Media section has moved another step closer to gaining a distinctly new look, now that a controversial proposed duplex development has received a key approval. The board of commissioners voted on Sept. 26 to allow a zoning change for the project, eyed for the 300 block of Wallingford Avenue. The board approved a revision of the zoning designation for the five-acre tract, from R-3 to R-5, allowing for greater housing density. Under the change, the developer, Progressive New Homes, can construct a dozen duplex structures containing two units each and a pair of single-family detached homes — for a total of 26 units — on the currently wooded property adjacent to Sapovits Park. Those plans deviate from a separate concept put forward by Progressive New Homes that were approved by the township, calling for the building of 10 single-family homes on a cul-de-sac at the site. Assistant Township Manager Dave Grady said the developer recently submitted a preliminary plan for the project, with the next step a review by the municipal planning commission on Monday, Oct. 7. The preliminary plan includes stormwater management calculations.
Source: Daily Times; 10/1/2019

Montgomery County

County releases voting system feedback
Montgomery County has issued a report detailing the feedback received from poll workers, the public and employees on their experience with the new voting system first used in the May 2019 primary election. The county implemented a new voter-marked balloting system with a verifiable paper trail that can be used for audits and recounts to meet a state mandate that all counties in the commonwealth have such a system in place for the 2020 elections. The full New Voting System Feedback Report Summary is posted on the voter services website.
Source: Montgomery County; 9/27/2019

Pottstown selected to pilot flexible plastic recycling program
Pottstown is beginning a recycling initiative meant to divert flexible plastics, such as shopping bags, bread bags, food bags and drink pouches, from landfills — the first such program in a nationwide effort led by retailers and manufacturers. Pottstown’s waste hauler, J.P. Mascaro and Sons, was chosen by an industry-sponsored research collaborative called “Materials Recovery for the Future” for a $2.6 million grant to install sophisticated optical sorting equipment to make the recycling of flexible plastic packaging (FPP) possible. Mascaro selected Pottstown as the place to start, mainly because the borough’s recycling bins have lids and it is close to Mascaro’s recycling sorting facility in Exeter Township, Berks County. Pottstown residents will receive information outlining how the program will work successfully and what new materials can be added to the recycling stream. Frank Sau, director of communications for Mascaro, said, “[Pottstown] will be the only community in the country where we can tell people, just throw those things in loose, we’ll do the rest.”
Source: The Reporter; 10/1/2019

Pottstown to amend vacant property registration ordinance
Pottstown Borough Council will consider for adoption a proposed ordinance to amend various sections of the Abandoned Real Property procedures. The proposed amendments include: identifying a contact person for the property; creating or defining definitions pertinent to the ordinance; and requiring registration of abandoned real property under certain circumstances and setting forth rules for same. The proposed ordinance amendments can be viewed on the borough website here. They will be considered on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at Pottstown Borough Hall, 100 E. High St.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/27/2019

Lower Gwynedd meeting location changes
The regular meeting of the Lower Gwynedd Township Board of Supervisors scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 8, will begin at 7 p.m. at the auditorium of Foulkeways at Gwynedd, 1120 Meetinghouse Road, Gwynedd. The supervisors have also scheduled a special budget meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m. at the Lower Gwynedd Township Municipal Building, 1130 N. Bethlehem Pike, Spring House. The regular supervisors meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 22, will begin at 7 p.m. at Gwynedd Estates, 301 Norristown Road, Ambler. The public is invited to attend the meetings. Visit the township website for meeting agendas.
Source: The Reporter; 9/20/2019


In gentrifying Philly, speculators exploit the poor for massive gains
As long-disadvantaged Philadelphia neighborhoods skyrocket in value, entrepreneurs have been ingenious in thriving in an increasingly crowded and savvy market. They target heirs a generation or more removed from their relatives’ real estate and often unaware of its worth. They select abandoned lots and rowhouses in the path of revitalization, identify the people in line to inherit, and connect those heirs with a lawyer to help them buy the properties, paying off any liens, demolition bills and back taxes in the process. Such intermediaries typically operate without a state real estate license, allowing them to skirt rules that bar agents and brokers from making claims they know — or ought to know — are untrue. One company, BK Partners, has grossed at least $4 million flipping properties. In one deal, they paid $6,000 for a Brewerytown lot and resold it five days later for $127,000. The two partners are among the most active players in a loosely affiliated band of speculators who have found a new way to do something the City of Philadelphia often fails at: taking control of long-abandoned properties and putting them back on the market. The flips are also the latest example of the age-old practice of exploiting the poor and poorly informed. Kate Dugan, a public-interest attorney specializing in homeownership cases at the SeniorLAW Center in Philadelphia, said sellers in changing areas are often duped into undervaluing real estate. “These things tend to happen in neighborhoods where property values are higher than our clients realize," she said. “Or they may not have the resources to figure out their property values.” Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/27/2019

After 18-month battle, Philly Council passes lead safety bill
Ending an 18-month lobbying battle between landlords and child safety advocates, City Council voted 16-0 to approve a bill aimed at ensuring children aren’t exposed to lead in rental housing. “Our children continue to be poisoned by lead even though we have the tools available to create a safer and healthier environment,” Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who wrote the legislation, said before the vote. Paint that contains lead, which can cause developmental problems for young children, was banned in the United States in 1978, but buildings constructed before then can still expose children to lead if newer layers of paint deteriorate. Brown’s bill, which will require landlords to test all rental housing for lead every four years, fixes enforcement problems with a law council passed in 2011 that only required testing for units with families who had children 6 years old or younger. The new bill, which Mayor Jim Kenney supports, goes into effect in October 2020.
Source: WHYY; 9/27/2019

New federal report surprises: Philadelphia poverty down, income up
Philadelphia’s poverty rate, a stark and stubborn indicator of hard times that has long hindered the city’s reputation, dropped to its lowest level since 2008 — near the start of the recession. At the same time, median household income rose. The findings from a U.S. Census Bureau report show the city’s poverty rate declined from 25.7% in 2016 to 24.5% in 2018. The number of Philadelphia residents living in poverty dropped from roughly 391,600 to 377,100 — while the median household income (adjusted for inflation) increased from about $43,400 to $46,100. The report, known as the American Community Survey, said that the data contained in last year’s release, which depicted poverty, income and other aspects of life in Philadelphia in 2017, were incorrect. That admission of the error roiled some city leaders, at the same time confirming their suspicions that those figures had been wrong all along. Philadelphia’s poverty rate had not dipped below 25% since 2008. Economists, city officials and some antipoverty advocates, then, were gratified to see a positive change in poverty, as well as in household income. “It gives us hope and confidence that we are making progress,” said Maari Porter, deputy chief of staff policy and strategic initiatives in the Philadelphia mayor’s office. “But there’s no denying one-quarter of Philadelphians in poverty are still too many.”
Source: WHYY; 9/26/2019

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