NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Pennsylvania DEP proposes strict limits for ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

Bucks County
Falls proposed budget would be 30th year without a tax increase

Chester County
Tower Health finds new owner for Jennersville and Brandywine Hospitals

Delaware County
Board of Assessment rules Springfield Country Club and Ridley Marina are taxable

Montgomery County
With $50M in bank, Lower Merion commissioners opt for 3% tax hike

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia inspects only 7% of its rental units each year, Pew says

 

News Briefs

 

General News

Pennsylvania DEP proposes strict limits for ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water
A board within Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has cleared the way for setting strict drinking-water limits for two forms of toxic man-made substances known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in humans and the environment. The proposed rule approved by the Environmental Quality Board would set stricter limits than a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory for compounds within the per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, family. The proposal is expected to be published next year in the PA Bulletin — the official annual publication of administrative rules and regulations for state agencies — followed by a 60-day public comment period and five public hearings. The rule would set limits of 14 parts per trillion for PFOA and 18 parts per trillion for PFOS. The current EPA health advisory level is set at 70 parts per trillion for both. Pennsylvania’s new rule would apply to all water departments, including Philadelphia’s, as well as water from non-municipal sources, including retailers and vending machines. The rule is based on water sampling, available treatment technologies, and health effects outlined by Drexel University’s PFAS Advisory Group. Water departments would have to monitor, report and install accepted treatment technology under the new rule.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/16/2021

BBB goes to Senate: House version includes priority items for NAR
The U.S. House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden's signature Build Back Better plan by a vote of 220-213. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. The roughly $1.75 trillion bill spares real estate investment from the most-feared taxes and includes key National Association of Realtors® (NAR) priorities like investments in affordable housing and down payment assistance. "Our advocacy operation is bipartisan and focused on the issues," said Shannon McGahn, chief advocacy officer for NAR. “Our goal was to ensure this legislation includes robust funding for affordable and fair housing and protects real estate investment from misguided and harmful new taxes. We are pleased that House lawmakers expanded affordable housing provisions from what was in the original framework, but this bill is far from final. Expectations are the Senate could remove some provisions to lower the price tag. We will continue to work with Congress to ensure the final bill is good for the real estate economy and consumers." Read more here.
Source: NAR.realtor; 11/19/2021

PUC directs Sunoco to take public safety actions involving pipeline
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) directed Sunoco Pipeline LP to take certain reasonable actions to protect public safety regarding the construction and operation of the Mariner East Pipelines — including Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X — addressing complaints that had been filed against the pipeline operator. The PUC voted 3-0 to approve an initial decision issued by PUC Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth H. Barnes, in a case involving complaints against Sunoco filed by nearly a dozen individuals and organizations from southeastern Pennsylvania. The new order addresses the consolidated cases, which were the subject of extensive testimony, hearings and related litigation. Read more here.
Source: Daily Local; 11/18/2021

Happy Thanksgiving from the SRA
Suburban Realtors® Alliance offices will be closed Thursday, Nov. 25, and Friday, Nov. 26, for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our website is available 24/7. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bucks County

Falls proposed budget would be 30th year without a tax increase
Falls Township supervisors introduced a proposed budget for 2022 that would maintain a tax rate that was last increased in 1992. The proposed $38.5 million budget includes a 7.22 mill tax rate. The owner of a property assessed at $30,000 will continue to pay $216 in township property taxes. Even with a flat municipal tax rate, the budget includes several projects for 2022, including: $2 million for the annual road program; $50,000 for tree trimming and removal; $1.1 million in funding for police vehicles, training and new dump trucks; and the replacement of a 20-year-old playground at Elderberry Park. The proposed spending plan is available for inspection at the Falls Township municipal building, 188 Lincoln Highway. Township supervisors are expected to consider the budget for adoption during the board’s next meeting on Saturday, Dec. 20.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/18/2021

Researchers enrolling residents for PFAS study
A study into the long-term health effects of PFAS exposure in 11 towns in Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties is now open for enrollment. The nonprofit research firm RTI, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is seeking 1,000 adults and 300 children ages 4 to 17 who lived near three former and active military bases in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington between 2005 and 2017 as part of a larger look into the health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. PFAS is a family of chemicals found in many industrial and consumer products manufactured since the 1940s. Residents in those three towns and in Ivyland, Abington, Hatboro, Northampton, Upper Dublin, Upper Moreland, Upper Southampton and Warwick could be eligible to participate. Women who lived in those areas while pregnant may also be able to take part in the study. Any interested residents must call 877-267-2890 to be screened for eligibility in the study weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. More information about the study can be found on the PA PFAS Multi-site Health Study website, and general questions about the study can be sent to papfashealth@rti.org.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 11/19/2021

Bedminster budget holds taxes steady
The Bedminster Township proposed budget for 2022 is available for public inspection at the township building, 432 Elephant Road, Perkasie. The proposed budget maintains the current tax rates of 5 mills for the general fund, 1 mill for fire protection, 1.5 mills for open space, and an earned income tax rate of 0.75% for residents and 1% for nonresidents, not including the 1% collected for Pennridge School District. The board of supervisors will consider the budget for adoption at the regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Source: The Intelligencer; 11/17/2021

Durham holds the line on taxes
Durham Township supervisors reviewed a roughly $675,000 draft budget that will hold the line on taxes for 2022. If approved without change, the tax rate will remain at 6 mills. The owner of a property assessed at the township average of $38,000 pays about $228 in township tax each year. The preliminary budget is available for review on the township website.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/18/2021

Chester County 

Tower Health finds new owner for Jennersville and Brandywine Hospitals
Tower Health’s Brandywine and Jennersville hospitals in Chester County have gotten a reprieve. Canyon Atlantic Partners, a hospital management firm based in Texas, will take over as owner of the two facilities on Jan. 1, 2022, and keep them open as acute-care hospitals. Jennersville was slated to close on that date, and Brandywine’s future was uncertain as Tower sheds assets in a bid to rebound from massive financial losses caused by a rapid, debt-fueled expansion from its core market around Reading into Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/22/2021

Phoenixville Borough eyes 8.6% tax hike in 2022
Phoenixville Borough property taxes would rise by about 8.56%, from 7.2 to 7.82 mills, if the $27 million 2022 draft budget approved by borough council on Nov. 9 is passed without changes in December. But Council President Jonathan Ewald predicted the actual increase will be closer to 5% once some late-arriving figures are received. “There are still some numbers we haven’t received and have to work our way through,” said Borough Manager E. Jean Krack. Those items can have a big impact, such as the final total assessed property value in the fast-growing borough, where prices have been on a steady climb. Other outstanding figures in the Nov. 9 draft included final insurance premium costs and the borough’s final earned income tax numbers. The proposal calls for a nearly 14% increase to the fire tax, from 1.3 mills to 1.48 mills, which would support a new firehouse already under construction. The parks and recreation tax would see a 21% millage hike, from 1.19 mills to 1.44 mills. Trash fees could also increase by 3.37%, from $89 per quarter to $92 per quarter, according to Krack’s review.
Source: Daily Local; 11/20/2021

Chesco launches Partnership to End Homelessness
Chester County is launching the Partnership to End Homelessness, a new program reflecting a reinforced commitment to helping the most vulnerable residents find or keep a stable place to live. The partnership, organized by Chester County’s Department of Community Development, consists of a team of street outreach workers, a board of advocates, and nonprofit organizations that provide shelter and service. Hundreds of people in the county lack a stable place to live on any given day, and the pandemic only exacerbated the problem, according to a county press release. Outreach workers are now county employees rather than contractors, and the program’s advisory board includes individuals who have experienced homelessness. The county also increased funding for the nonprofit agencies who provide shelter and transitional homes. Learn more at the Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness website.
Source: Daily Local; 11/17/2021

West Chester’s proposed Hotel Indigo comes down slightly in height
Following years of discussion concerning the height of a proposed hotel in downtown West Chester, the builder has asked the borough council for a decrease in the number of floors. Brian Nagle, an attorney with the partnership between Zukin Realty and ONIX Group, pitched cutting the projected height of the building proposed for Walnut and Gay streets from 118 to 108 feet and from seven to six stories. Council voiced tentative approval for the project. The change is contingent upon approval by the Historic Architectural Review Board, which meets later this month. Jonathan Silver, vice president of ONIX Group, said the reason for the change is the increased cost of construction due to the pandemic and supply chain issues. The builder hasn’t always had the full support of council for the proposal that called for a hotel to soar as high as the nearby Chestnut Street Garage, but all parties agreed to the changed plans. Demolition will soon take place at the site of the former Thatchers/Rite Aid pharmacy, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2022 and take 16 months to complete. The new Hotel Indigo will maintain a customized, local feel, unlike most chain hotels. “You will know you are in West Chester,” builder Scott Zukin said. The only other hotel in the borough, the Hotel Warner, operates at the former site of the Warner Theater on High Street.
Source: Daily Local; 11/19/2021

Delaware County

Board of Assessment rules Springfield Country Club and Ridley Marina are taxable
The Delaware County Board of Assessment has ruled four municipal-owned properties that are leased or rented out for private use should be taxed. The board ruled that the Ridley Marina complex and the Springfield Country Club complex were taxable, while the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority complex and the Ridley Community Center, which is owned by Ridley School District, were partially taxable and partially exempt. The board set the following values: $9.84 million for Springfield Country Club, which includes a golf course, a hotel, a restaurant and a spa; nearly $1.99 million for Ridley Marina, which includes 97 boat docks and Stingers Restaurant; $486,500 on the leased section of the Ridley Community Center; and about $182,600 on the leased portion of the solid waste complex on Reed Road in Marple. “We are happy that, at least starting in 2022, the residents of the county and the impacted communities will not need to pay more than their fair share of taxes,” county solicitor William Martin said. “Instead, the restaurants, hotels, and golf courses that have had a free ride for too long, will share in the tax burden.” The parties involved have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Court of Common Pleas. Jim Byrne, Springfield Township solicitor and special solicitor for Ridley Township, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that both townships will most likely appeal the ruling.
Source: Daily Times; 11/17/2021

Delco moves forward with Don Guanella property acquisition
Delaware County Council unanimously approved setting aside $21 million to compensate the owners of the Don Guanella property in Marple Township. In July, council agreed to use eminent domain so that 213 acres of the property could be transformed into a county park. The property is divided into two parcels — 124 acres belong to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and 89 acres are owned by Maple Glen Development LLC. The $21 million comes from proceeds of bonds issued in April 2020. The county hired an appraisal professional to review value per the legal requirement to tender equitable just compensation, according to county solicitor William Martin. Upon payment, the owners will either accept the payment in full or assert their own estimated value, and there will be statutory evaluation processes that will either confirm the appropriateness of the payment or result in an establishment of a different value. Preservation advocates have highlighted features of the property, from old growth trees to streams that connect with Darby Creek, to the area’s ability to clean the air. Deep within the property is a BMX course with bicycle ramps, jumps and bowls. Delaware County has been rated lower than other regional counties for its preservation of open space, and council members have expressed their commitment to changing that.
Source: Daily Times; 11/17/2021

Middletown appeals ruling on gas pipeline records
Middletown Township is fighting a court order to release communications between municipal officials and the developer of a natural gas pipeline that was recently charged with environmental crimes. The township has been refusing to produce the records for nearly a year, asserting they were exempt from disclosure under the state’s open records law. Energy Transfer, the owner of the multi-billion-dollar Mariner East pipeline system, also opposed their release. A Delaware County judge ruled last month that the records are public, and ordered the township to turn them over to the owners of a 124-unit apartment complex along the pipeline route. Middletown appealed the judge's ruling to Commonwealth Court, days after a similar appeal by Energy Transfer. The township claimed the records contain sensitive and confidential information the township obtained from Energy Transfer during its investigation of sinkholes near the pipeline. The owners of Glen Riddle Station Apartments, who have been seeking the records, say pipeline construction has threatened the health and safety of the residents. The pipeline’s route splits the apartment complex in half. Energy Transfer was recently charged with 48 criminal counts related to Mariner East construction, most of them for illegally releasing industrial waste at 22 sites in 11 counties across the state. A grand jury report cites numerous spills of drilling fluid at the construction site at Glen Riddle. Energy Transfer subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP has been installing two new pipelines to take natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale gas field in western Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/15/2021

County selects director for new health department
The Delaware County Board of Health unanimously appointed Melissa Lyon, M.P.H., C.P.H., as the director of the county’s soon-to-open health department. On track to open in January, the Delaware County Health Department is anticipated to start with approximately 70 employees, positions required by the state through the Health Administration Law of 1951 to provide environmental and community health services, such as inspections, maternal/child health services, tracking infectious and communicable diseases, and chronic diseases. “We’re attempting to retrofit an old public health model to adopt a new 21st-century strategy, and that comes with a lot of challenges,” Lyon explained. “I’m looking forward to Delaware County not necessarily having some of those old ways of doing public health, and we can build it the right way.” Lyon previously served as the public health director for the Erie County Department of Public Health for nearly eight years.
Source: Daily Times; 11/21/2021

Montgomery County

With $50M in bank, Lower Merion commissioners opt for 3% tax hike
Lower Merion Township staff presented the township commissioners with a budget that contained no tax increase for the 11th consecutive year. Township commissioners had their own idea, and a majority of the members ignored the no-tax-increase recommendation and voted to advertise a 3% tax increase. The proposed tax hike would raise the millage rate from 4.19 mills to 4.316 mills. The budget proposed by township staff had a $6.5 million deficit that would be filled using money from the fund balance. The township would still be left with a 23% fund balance. Commissioner Scott Zelov, who voted against the increase, said the township has $50 million in various funds. “Why do we want to hold our taxpayers’ money that we don’t need today,” Zelov said. “The manager’s budget for no tax increase is what we should adopt.” The vote to advertise the increased millage rate could still be amended before the mid-December final vote on the 2022 budget. Although the township hasn’t increased the millage rate in a decade, property tax revenues have continued to increase due to increases in the overall assessed property in Lower Merion.
Source: Main Line Times; 11/19/2021

Businesses report MontcoStrong grant program helped
A Montgomery County-commissioned survey has found that the county’s $42 million MontcoStrong grant program was largely successful in sustaining local businesses during the height of the pandemic. Of the businesses surveyed, 98% said they were still in operation and expected to remain so until at least the end of 2021. Three in five grant recipients responding to the survey said the MontcoStrong grants were “extremely important” in keeping their businesses open. Of the 2,153 eligible businesses, 877 participated in the online and telephone surveys during April and May. Read more here.
Source: Whyy.org; 11/18/2021

Tents for the homeless trouble some business owners in Norristown
Flooding from Hurricane Ida left residents from 174 Montgomery County households homeless. Add to that the 181 households identified as experiencing homelessness earlier this year, and it is not surprising that shelter for the homeless is in short supply in Montgomery County. In Norristown, there are about 50 people living unsheltered on the streets, and the county has contracted with the nonprofit Access Services to run street outreach and deliver tents throughout the county. Mark Boorse, director of program development for Access Services, said the “idea of us giving out tents isn’t going over well.” Several business owners expressed concern over the mess left behind by the homeless in the streets. Norristown Council Vice President Thomas Lepera said, “It’s insane that tents are a solution.” He criticized the public-private partnership between Montgomery County and Your Way Home, the agency charged with helping the homeless in the county. Kayleigh Silver, administrator of the Office of Housing and Community Development, said the agency is doing the best it can with limited resources. “We have to stop pointing fingers and thinking one entity will solve this,” she said. “The homeless crisis is like climate change: We need massive investments and all hands on deck from government, corporations and individuals.” Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/10/2021

Researchers enrolling residents for PFAS study
A study into the long-term health effects of PFAS exposure in 11 towns in Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties is now open for enrollment. The nonprofit research firm RTI, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is seeking 1,000 adults and 300 children ages 4 to 17 who lived near three former and active military bases in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington between 2005 and 2017 as part of a larger look into the health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. PFAS is a family of chemicals found in many industrial and consumer products manufactured since the 1940s. Residents in those three towns and in Ivyland, Abington, Hatboro, Northampton, Upper Dublin, Upper Moreland, Upper Southampton and Warwick could be eligible to participate. Women who lived in those areas while pregnant may also be able to take part in the study. Any interested residents must call 877-267-2890 to be screened for eligibility in the study weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. More information about the study can be found on the PA PFAS Multi-site Health Study website, and general questions about the study can be sent to papfashealth@rti.org.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 11/19/2021

Philadelphia

Philadelphia inspects only 7% of its rental units each year, Pew says
Rentals make up an increasing share of Philadelphia’s housing stock, and although the city is responsible for making sure rentals are safe and livable, it inspects only about 7% of rental units each year, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. “That it was that low was certainly a surprise to us,” said Octavia Howell, the report’s author and a manager of the Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative. The lack of inspections means an unknown number of Philadelphia tenants could be living in homes that endanger their health and safety. Despite the city’s historical reputation as a city of homeowners, almost half of Philadelphia’s households — about 300,000 — rent their homes, according to Pew estimates. The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) mainly relies on residents’ complaints to trigger inspections, a reality of limited resources and a broad range of departmental responsibilities, according to L&I. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/22/2021

13,000-acre PES refinery site to become ‘Bellwether District’
Plans to transform the former PES oil refinery have a map, a vision, and now, a name: the Bellwether District. HRP, the company formerly known as Hilco Redevelopment Partners, recently unveiled the name. As a global hub for logistics, e-commerce and life sciences, HRP said the Bellwether District will create 19,000 permanent jobs in Philadelphia and a new, modern economy. "As the home to the nation’s first library, first hospital and first stock exchange, Philly has always been a bellwether city,” said Jasmine Sessoms, senior vice president of corporate affairs at HRP. “And now, the Bellwether District will bring that legacy into the 21st century by ushering in a new standard of economic, environmental and community stewardship.” For residents hoping to meet the development team and learn more about the project, HRP is hosting multiple virtual town halls. For more information, visit the Bellwether District website.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/25/2021 and The Bellwether District; 11/15/2021

Philadelphia says city employees must get vaccinated
Philadelphia city workers will be required to be vaccinated or get an exemption by mid-January, city health officials said. The announcement reverses course from previous directives that allowed unvaccinated workers to wear double masks while at work in enclosed offices. City officials had mandated this summer that new employees be vaccinated as a condition of employment, and recently the city mandated that non-union employees be vaccinated by Dec. 1. The new mandate covers workers represented by four city labor unions, as well as some city contractors, and requires two doses or an approved exemption by Jan. 14. Officials said employees who fail to comply will be considered unable to fulfill their duties and will be placed on unpaid leave for no longer than 15 days. Continued refusal to be vaccinated could result in firing, city officials wrote.
Source: Penn Live; 11/19/2021

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