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

 

General News

Some local governments adjusting to COVID again
Some municipalities in the region are adjusting their health and safety precautions due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases. For example, Upper Darby Township has closed its municipal offices, and Solebury Township offices are open by appointment only. While we have not heard widespread reports of delays in service, the Alliance suggests submitting requests to municipalities as early as possible. If you have difficulty contacting a specific municipality, contact the Alliance at 610-981-9000 or sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

New program provides assistance for water, sewer bills
Help is available for residents who are struggling to pay water bills. The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act, will provide grants to eligible families who have overdue water and sewer bills, had their service terminated, or are at risk of losing service. Funding is available for use through September 2023 or until the funds run out. Learn more on the state Department of Human Services website.
Source: Daily Local; 1/8/2022

FHFA raises fees on high-balance second-home loans
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it will increase upfront fees on second-home mortgages and on mortgages that finance homes with balances that exceed standard conforming loan limits. The fees are expected to increase the purchase cost of second homes and homes in high-cost areas. The new fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will take effect on April 1. Upfront fees for mortgage loans on second homes will rise between 1.125% and 3.875%. Most buyers finance their fee through their mortgage, which adds from 0.225% to 0.75% to the annual mortgage rate. For other certain high-balance loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, upfront fees will increase between 0.25% and 0.75%, or roughly 0.05% to 0.15% added to the annual mortgage rate, the FHFA said. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will face greater risks as the market is weaned off of the extraordinary federal support during the pandemic, and these changes may help them to support the maximum access and affordability possible for the market in a sound manner,” said National Association of Realtors (NAR) president Leslie Rouda Smith. “However, we are concerned that any fee increases that exceed necessary levels in the current environment will harm affordability and access for consumers. Realtors believe any excess revenues gleaned from the fee increases must be used to support homeownership opportunities in underserved communities, expanding affordability and access in a safe manner.” Read more on the NAR website.
Source: Nar.realtor; 1/6/2022

Bucks County

BCWSA fined $450K for Clean Water Act violations
The Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) has agreed to pay a $450,000 penalty to settle Clean Water Act violations, according to state and federal officials. The violations included sanitary wastewater overflow from manholes, as well as operation and maintenance items. BCWSA is also required to “devote substantial resources to evaluate and upgrade its sewer systems” by monitoring water flow, conducting inflow and infiltration systems, addressing illegal sewer connections, and improving overall operations, among other items. According to federal officials, there have been about 100 sanitary sewer overflows in Plumstead Township since 2014, and others during the same time frame in Bensalem, Richland, Doylestown Borough, Middletown, Upper Dublin, New Hope and Solebury. The authority cooperated with the investigation, according to officials. As part of the agreement, the public utility did not accept liability for the alleged violations. The authority said in a statement that, “although BCWSA does not own any of these private [sewer] laterals, it nevertheless has taken a proactive approach to remedy this situation by providing assistance to the residents to repair their private laterals and has indeed had some success with this approach.”
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/6/2022

Bucks County COVID resources
Bucks County COVID-19 resources can be found here. Cases are rising and the county has opened a third vaccine clinic. There is also information on non-county vaccination site options and testing sites.

Perkasie residents weigh in on uses for former church
The First United Methodist Church at 501 W. Market St. in Perkasie is for sale. The 15,000-square-foot church was built in 1927 and has wooden vaulted ceilings, a large fellowship hall, office space, meeting rooms, classrooms and a commercial kitchen, in addition to the sanctuary. Located in a residential area, the church is zoned R2. Potential uses include multi-family housing, a community center or a mixed-use development. Residents have been weighing in on social media, with suggestions ranging from moving the historical society into the space, creating a performing arts center and turning it into affordable housing.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/6/2022

Northampton will mark 300th anniversary throughout 2022
Northampton Township will mark the 300th anniversary of its incorporation on Dec. 14. A 300th Anniversary Committee has been formed, planning activities throughout the year that will encompass the slogan of “cherishing the past, celebrating the present and welcoming the future.” Also planned is a 300th Anniversary Festival weekend scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25. Those interested in sponsoring an event or volunteering to help can reach out to northampton300@nhtwp.org, check the township website or follow on Facebook.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/6/2022

Central Bucks School District enters into esports arena
The Central Bucks School District (CBSD) has entered into an agreement with Metro Esports to be the district’s official esports league, skills combine and tournament partner. Metro Esports is a digital sports production agency and tech-based education facility based in Warminster. CBSD — the third-largest school district in Pennsylvania — is the first school district in the commonwealth to sanction virtual/live esports league play. The partnership gives interested students a competitive, welcoming and inclusive outlet for gaming. It also provides a unique opportunity for CBSD to offer its K-12 students a combination of gaming and technology-based skill development, an outlet for competing in a non-sport team activity, and the ability to learn about gaming industry and STEM/STEAM careers in a hands-on way. Learn more here.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 1/6/2022

Housing Link program offers bonuses up to $2K for Realtors and landlords
The Bucks County Housing Link is offering incentives to Realtors and landlords who partner with the Housing Link to lease to qualified program participants. Through the Bonus for Bucks Landlords Event, landlords who are new to the Housing Link program can receive a bonus equal to one month of rent when they lease to a Housing Link program participant. Landlords and Realtors who refer a landlord to the Housing Link can receive a $2,000 finder’s fee if that landlord ends up participating. Aside from the cash bonus, landlords involved in the program receive reliable rent, continuity coverage payments between leases, the ability to collect additional referral bonuses, and support from the Housing Link staff. For more information on the program, visit the Bonus for Bucks Landlords website and read answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Bonus for Bucks Landlords runs through Jan. 31 and is a joint effort between the Bucks County Housing Link Partners, the Bucks County Association of Realtors and the Suburban Realtors Alliance.
Source: Bucks County Housing Link; 7/14/2021

Chester County 

East Goshen Township office operating at limited staffing capacity
Due to the current COVID surge, the East Goshen Township administrative office is operating with limited staff. “We ask that you please be patient when contacting our office either by phone or in person,” said Township Manager Derek Davis. ”Please make an effort to call first rather than come into the office over the next two to three weeks. You may receive the automated phone attendant. Please leave a message and we will return your call at the earliest possible opportunity.” Basic core functions such as trash, sewer and winter maintenance operations will not be impacted.
Source: East Goshen Township; 1/10/2022

Chesco to move sheriff sales online
Chester County will transition its sheriff’s sales of real estate to an online format using auction platform Bid4Assets. The virtual format enables remote bidding for all participants while expanding the sale to a wider audience of buyers, increasing the likelihood for third-party sales and more competitive bidding. As part of the online transition, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office is now able to conduct its sales at no cost. “Over the past year, we’ve watched nearby counties like Montgomery and Berks enjoy the benefits of virtual sheriff’s sales, and the time has come for our office to pilot this innovative process,” said Chester County Sheriff Fredda L. Maddox. “We are always looking for ways to use technology to better serve our residents. These virtual sales are another step our office has taken to combat the spread of COVID while generating more revenues for the county, lenders and most importantly, those parties losing their properties.” Excess funds remaining after all debts are paid from a third-party property sale’s proceeds may be claimed by the defendant who has lost that property. Bidders must create a free account and fund a $5,000 deposit. A full list of available properties can be found on the Bid4Assets website.
Source: Daily Local; 1/7/2022

Nation’s first hydrothermal system coming to Phoenixville wastewater plant
Phoenixville officials recently announced plans to install a hydrothermal carbonization system at a municipal wastewater treatment plant — the first such system in all of North America. The new technology is faster, safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than the current process of anaerobic digestion, and it also has the potential to yield beneficial bioproducts, including biocoal, construction sand, synthetic gas and improved fertilizers. Hydrothermal carbonization, or HTC, has the power to offset the carbon use of every driver residing in Phoenixville. Phoenixville will partner with SoMaxBioEnergy, in Spring City, to modernize the borough’s current wastewater treatment facilities. The wastewater treatment plant is Phoenixville’s largest user of energy and soon will have the ability to create enough energy not only to power itself but to power the community or return the energy to the grid. Equipment has started to arrive this month, and construction on the new system will begin in February. Read more here.
Source: Daily Local; 1/7/2022

Metrick takes over as West Chester Borough manager
West Chester Borough’s new manager, Sean Metrick, is excited to take over as the top administrator and hopes his tenure is long. Metrick, 50, who previously worked as assistant borough manager for a year, plans to hire a geographic information systems manager who would use data systems to organize information in a bid to make better decisions concerning policy and processes. Streetscapes and stormwater improvements will be addressed, including flooding issues at Goose Creek, he said. Metrick expects the borough’s population to grow. He also said that the borough, county government and West Chester University’s future are all intertwined. The new manager worked at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission for a year and then at the Montgomery County Planning Commission for 11 years, prior to serving as assistant manager in the borough and then manager in Narberth.
Source: Daily Local; 1/10/2022

PennDOT extends deadline for Route 30 feedback
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is extending the deadline to Friday, Feb. 4, for the public to provide feedback on plans for the reconstruction and improvement of the U.S. 30 Eastern Project Area corridor. The project area extends from just west of the Reeceville Road Interchange to the Business U.S. 30/Quarry Road Interchange in Caln and East Caln townships and Downingtown Borough. The purpose of the project is to improve safety, reduce future congestion, accommodate planned growth and improve facility deficiencies along the 7-mile corridor. The virtual open house plans display will be available for viewing and feedback on the U.S. 30 Reconstruction Program website.
Source: Daily Times; 1/7/2022

Chester County annual water conditions report now available
Chester County Water Resources Authority’s annual water conditions report for 2020 is now available online. The report presents a snapshot of the county’s water resources and highlights long-term water quality trends from the past 20 years. It summarizes precipitation, stream flow, water chemistry, biological and water supply data collected at monitoring stations throughout Chester County.
Source: Daily Times; 1/9/2022

UCFSD approves the 2022-2023 preliminary budget
Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board members approved the proposed preliminary budget for the 2022-2023 school year. Approving the proposed preliminary budget is the first step in the budget process, and the numbers will likely change before a final vote in June. The proposed preliminary budget anticipates expenses and revenues to be $98.5 million, up $5.6 million or about 6% from the current budget.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 1/11/2022

Delaware County

Seven townships sue to stop Delco health department from taking over municipal inspections
Seven townships filed a motion seeking a court injunction to prevent the new Delaware County Health Department from taking over municipal inspections. “Townships cannot effectively manage their budgets with the lack of certainty that exists around their staffing needs and whether they will be able to recoup those costs from fees for the heath inspection services they provide,” said James Byrne, an attorney representing Springfield, Ridley and Aston. The other municipalities involved include Upper Chichester, Tinicum, Marple and Darby townships. The municipalities take issue with the county health department’s intention to take over health inspections, a responsibility that has been with the municipalities that have maintained staff to complete these services. The county’s executive director, Howard Lazarus, distributed a letter in September 2021 telling municipalities that the county health department would commence operations on Jan. 1, 2022, and that it would assume responsibility from municipalities for health inspections of retail food establishments, food trucks, private wells and on-site septic systems, public pools and other establishments. The county is awaiting final approval from the state. Byrne said that an injunction is needed because of the uncertainty of when the county health department will be fully functioning, staffed and trained in order to provide health inspection services.
Source: Daily Times; 1/9/2022

Delco to take over county prison on April 6
Delaware County has set April 6 as the date it will return the operations of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility to public control. “We are in the process of hiring correctional officers at George W. Hill to become county staff members,” County Executive Director Howard Lazarus said. In September, the county’s Jail Oversight Board voted 6-to-2 to terminate the contract with GEO Group Inc., which was awarded a five-year, $295 million contract in 2018 to run the 1,883-inmate prison by the then-county Board of Prison Inspectors. At that time, county leadership was under Republican control, but it switched to Democratic control in 2020. The contract with GEO included a 180-day termination clause.
Source: Daily Times; 1/10/2022

UCFSD approves the 2022-2023 preliminary budget
Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board members approved the proposed preliminary budget for the 2022-2023 school year. Approving the proposed preliminary budget is the first step in the budget process, and the numbers will likely change before a final vote in June. The proposed preliminary budget anticipates expenses and revenues to be $98.5 million, up $5.6 million or about 6% from the current budget.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 1/11/2022

New life for Chester Pike: Neighboring towns come together for unified planning
Several towns along U.S. Route 13/Chester Pike have partnered to develop a revitalization plan for the corridor that will address many community needs, including land use, transportation, lighting, and safety for residents and business owners alike. Members of the Chester Pike Corridor Improvement Partners (CPCIP) decided to brighten up the corridor and create ways to make it more useful and appealing to residents, business owners, prospective homeowners and visitors, which then prompted the Delaware County Planning Commission to get involved. The CPCIP comprises the boroughs of Sharon Hill, Norwood, Prospect Park, Glenolden and Ridley Park. The SEPTA station on Chester Pike in Sharon Hill and a business district in Glenolden are among the areas scheduled for revitalization. “We got together because we were thinking about how we could unify to get funding to redevelop Chester Pike and make it more unified with things like street lighting, safety, business development, and walkability,” said Glenolden Borough Manager Brian Razzi. The plan is set to be completed by April 2022.
Source: Chester Spirit; 12/29/2022

Chester’s Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods is succeeding
Local, county and state officials gathered Tuesday to tout the success of the City of Chester’s Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods in lowering gun violence rates since its launch in November 2020. The program uses a method called “focused deterrence” that targets individuals the Chester Police Department identify as most at risk — people whom it believes are causing most of the violence. Then the program uses a “carrot and stick” approach: through community liaisons, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office points to community resources like job training, education and mental health support. But if those “at-risk” individuals don’t accept the offers, the police follow up with swift repercussions. According to Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, since 2020 the city has seen a 44% decrease in gun violence homicides and a 34% decrease in overall shootings with victims. In 2020, there were 34% fewer shooting incidents compared to 2016. Read more here.
Source: WHYY; 1/12/2022

Montgomery County

Conshohocken to consider amendments to animal control regulations
Conshohocken Borough Council will consider for adoption several ordinances on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m., in Borough Hall, 400 Fayette St. An animal control draft ordinance updates definitions, rules and regulations relating to prohibiting off-leash animals, removal of animal waste, noise generated by animals, and prohibiting the feeding of feral cats where such feeding causes a nuisance. Other proposed ordinances include the establishment of 15-minute “to-go orders only” parking in certain areas of the borough, adding a fire battalion chief position, and amending the solid waste chapter to reflect the borough’s current collection procedure. A copy of the ordinances under consideration can be found on the borough website.
Source: Times Herald; 1/5/2022

Montgomery County COVID resources
With new COVID-19 cases on the rise, Montgomery County residents are reminded that the county maintains a COVID information webpage with important information about vaccines, testing, case counts and other resources.

Pottstown OKs plans for ‘sustainable energy park’
A vacant 11-acre site on Pottstown’s Keystone Boulevard will soon be home to Pottstown Sustainable Energy Park. Pottstown Borough Council unanimously approved site plans for the proposed $208 million sustainable energy facility. Using a process called “gasification,” the facility will convert cellulose material, which is currently not being recycled, into “renewable diesel.” The process also produces a residual “bio-char” that can be sold for things like making graphite and pellets for wood-burning stoves. Project manager Terry Planton said that 85 million tons of material will be diverted from landfills into this renewable process. The company plans to build five to 10 more plants across the country and will locate its corporate offices in Pottstown.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 1/10/2022

Taxes steady in Towamencin, but sewer fees up
Towamencin Township supervisors approved a $16.3 million budget for 2022 that does not include a property tax increase. The tax rate will remain at 4.558 mills. Supervisors did approve an increase in the sewer fee for the first time since 2008. The sewer fee increase will bring the base rate for one EDU, or equivalent dwelling unit, from $375 to $450 per year. The supervisors also made good on a commitment made several years ago to eventually return the township’s homestead exemption to its previous figure. The township reduced the homestead exemption in 2014 from $59,000 to $45,000. The board raised the exemption to $50,000 for 2022 —– saving taxpayers that take advantage of the homestead and farmstead exemption approximately $23 a year.
Source: The Reporter; 1/7/2022

Marlborough approves Skymount remediation plan, moves to downsize planning commission
Marlborough Township supervisors approved a proposal by Princeton Hydro to eliminate invasive vegetation in Lake Skymount. The lake has been choked by invasive plants, such as Eurasian watermilfoil and hydrilla. The board voted to start the application process to allow Princeton Hydro to treat the lake with herbicide. The invasive plants cannot be removed mechanically. The board also voted to advertise an ordinance to downsize the planning commission from nine members to seven, citing the fact that it has been hard to find people to serve on the commission. One of the seats on the planning commission has been open for a while and another member asked not to be reappointed.
Source: upvnews.com; 1/5/2022

Philadelphia

Philly’s rental assistance program is ending
Philadelphia’s Rental Assistance Program has shut down because it ran out of funding. The program was launched in May 2020 to help landlords and renters financially burdened by the pandemic. To date, the effort has disbursed more than $248 million to more than 38,000 households affected by COVID-19. The final phase of the program helped people cover rent and pay their utility bills. A city spokesperson said applications currently in the pipeline will be reviewed and paid out with remaining funds until they are exhausted. The city is awaiting word from the state and the U.S. Department of Treasury on requests for an additional $485 million for the program. Tens of thousands of people affected by the pandemic are still waiting for help from the city’s emergency fund — as of early December, some 30,000 applications had yet to be processed.  The additional money will help just a fraction. Philly’s rental assistance program was a key part of the city’s emergency eviction diversion program, a pandemic-inspired alternative to landlord-tenant court credited with keeping thousands of residents in their houses while dramatically reducing the number of eviction proceedings in the city. In December, city council approved legislation to make that program permanent throughout 2022.
Source: PlanPhilly; 1/7/2022

Philadelphia’s Housing Advisory Board meets quarterly
In 2015, Philadelphia voters created the Housing Advisory Board. The board includes members of the housing, real estate and lending industries. It also includes relevant government agencies. The board suggests ways to maintain and increase the supply of housing for all income levels. It also reviews and provides advice on the Department of Planning and Development’s strategic housing plans. The board’s 2022 quarterly meetings will take place on the following Wednesdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m.: March 16, June 8, Sept. 14 and Dec. 14.
Source: City of Philadelphia; 1/2022

What to know about fire safety rules for your Philadelphia home or apartment
A recent fire that killed 12 people last week has raised questions about fire safety in the city. The building had battery-powered smoke alarms that weren’t working, no sprinkler system, no fire escape and no fire extinguisher. Safety features like hard-wired smoke detectors and sprinklers are not required under city code for older two-family duplexes like the one that burned, but some of these features are required for newer or larger residential buildings. WHYY compiled a guide to fire safety requirements for Philadelphia homes, including apartment buildings, rowhouse apartments or single-family homes.
Source: WHYY; 1/11/2022

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