Suburban REALTORS® Alliance
News Brief Headlines
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- · Revenue Secretary meets with PAR leaders
- · REALTOR® Party Mission
- · Chalfont looks at housing density
- · Bristol Township declares two homes ‘unsafe for human occupancy’
- · Bensalem school district deals with million-dollar theft
- · County commissioners vote to scale back justice center
- · Growth means more pipelines in Chester County
- · Johnsontown train station’s fate uncertain
- · Townships honored for communications
- · Land-use plan anticipates Kardon Park
- · Middletown looks to change sign ordinance
- · Lowest- achieving list sparks ire in Delaware County
- · Villanova’s new use amendment mulled by Radnor planners
- · Chester Heights zoner resigns; council selects replacement
- · County commissioners discuss housing in Pottstown
- · Army Corps of Engineers present Tookany Creek flood study in Cheltenham
- · Ardmore businesses prepare for June U.S. Open at Merion
- · North Penn School Board denies charter applications
- · Council to examine issue of tax delinquents
- · City revenues holding up
- · Some neighborhoods will bear brunt of property tax increase according to City Controller
Revenue Secretary meets with PAR leaders
Pennsylvania Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser met with a group of Realtors this week at PAR’s office to discuss the proposed 2013-14 state budget and received input from members about various business proposals. Meuser noted that Gov. Tom Corbett has three primary goals in preparing the budget: create a stable and reliable financial future; a job for every Pennsylvanian who wants one; and a trained and educated workforce to fill the jobs available. Of special interest to commercial Realtors who attended the meeting was the proposal to eliminate the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax (CSFT). With this budget, Pennsylvania will no longer be the only state in the country to tax both business income and business assets. The completion of the phase-out of the CSFT eliminates this business inhibitor. The governor’s budget proposal also creates Like-Kind Exchanges, similar to the federal 1031. This change would align Pennsylvania with federal rules, effective in fiscal year 2016-17, allowing for like-kind exchange of property without facing a negative tax consequence. In addition, the state would eliminate the 89/11 Realty Transfer Tax loophole. The Department of Revenue projects generated revenue from this change to be $55 million over the next five years.
Source: PAR JustListed; 2/13/2013
REALTOR® Party Mission
The REALTOR® Party is an energized movement of real estate professionals fighting to keep the dream of home ownership alive. We are engaged at every level of government from city halls across the country, to 50 state houses and to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Our elected officials are making decisions that will have a huge impact on the bottom line of REALTORS® and our clients. When we stand together elected officials will hear our united message that a sound and dynamic real estate market builds and strengthens the communities we live and work in. The REALTOR® Party is energized and speaking in one voice. Now, we need you to help spread the word far and wide. Click here to learn more about the REALTOR® Party Mission.
Chalfont looks at housing density
The Bucks County Planning Commission recently reviewed Chalfont’s proposed Butler Avenue overlay district and concluded that it needs some more work. The planners questioned whether the proposal for 48 garden-style apartments the zoning change fits with Chalfont’s comprehensive plan and recommended a maximum density of four to five dwelling units per acre for residential garden apartments. The Butler Avenue overlay district ordinance is being considered to allow for the long-awaited redevelopment of the blighted corner of Butler Avenue and Bristol Road. A convenience store with eight gas pumps, a bank, a restaurant with outdoor seating and four 12-unit apartment buildings have been proposed for the 7-acre site. When Chalfont’s comprehensive plan was developed, the overlay district was to be used solely for commercial uses. Borough Manager Melissa Shafer said that views are evolving about apartment complexes and similar housing in older boroughs trying to revitalize, and more planners are recognizing the trend. The Regional Density-Strategies for Compact Suburban Living report from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission says the region is lagging behind the rest of the country in encouraging higher-density housing.
Source: PhillyBurbs.com; 2/11/2013
Bristol Township declares two homes ‘unsafe for human occupancy’
After overgrowth caused a fire at a vacant property, Bristol Township took quick action to have two blighted properties condemned. Township Manager Bill McCauley said that the township will use an estimated $12,000 for the cleanup of both properties from Community Development blight funds. The properties will be liened in order to recover the cost of cleanup. Neighbors of the Violet Road and Verdant Road properties say that they have complained to the township and Bucks County Health Department about the overgrowth, junked cars, debris and uncovered in-ground swimming pool for 20 years. Last August, newly elected members of Bristol Township council made it a priority to focus on cleaning up blighted and vacant homes. According to Township Solicitor Randall Flagler, “The new council is very concerned about turning the township around and realizes that the housing stock and conditions are critical to maintaining the smooth functioning of the township.”
Source: PhillyBurbs.com; 2/11/2013
Bensalem school district deals with million-dollar theft
An anonymous tip led to an investigation that has uncovered the theft of more than $1 million in Bensalem School District property. A second anonymous note sent to the school district superintendent kicked-off a probe into a “ghost employees” scam – claiming that two grounds crew employees had not shown up for work for two years but continued to collect paychecks and even overtime. Twenty people, including nine current or former district employees, a former fire chief and retired police officer, are facing various felony or misdemeanor charges including theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy and misapplication of entrusted property. The total loss for taxpayers is estimated at $1.5 million with more arrests possible. Bensalem School Board Member Kevin McKay called the allegations “reprehensible” – “While we were staying up nights squabbling over every nickel, these individuals allegedly bilked the children of the district and the taxpayers – their own friends and neighbors – out of hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of years.” Click here for the full story.
Source: PhillyBurbs.com; 2/14/2013
County commissioners vote to scale back justice center
Bucks County commissioners Charley Martin and Diane Marseglia recently voted to eliminate two courtrooms and 10 conference rooms from the construction plans for the county’s new $84 million justice center. The move will save a reported $291,671. Commissioner Robert Loughery voted against the proposal, and argued that it will cost more to complete the project in the future. The move was also opposed by Bucks County General Services Director Jerry Anderson and President Judge Susan Devlin Scott, who argued that the county should build for the future and an increasing caseload.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/7/2013
Growth means more pipelines in Chester County
Chester County officials view Columbia Gas Transmission’s plans to install another pipeline as an inevitable progression in the county due to the growth of the natural gas business in Pennsylvania. “As I’ve often said, Chester County is already pipeline central, and their numbers are going to increase, not decrease, in the years ahead,” said PA Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland. “I am not against natural gas. I am for protecting our communities, our property values and our natural resources like the Brandywine Creek against harm from companies simply looking to get their product to ports in Philadelphia, Wilmington or Baltimore — or anywhere else — as quickly as possible.” Columbia Gas Transmission is planning to install 8.8 miles of natural gas pipeline that will travel from the Eagle Compression Station and into West Bradford. According to Chevalier Mayes, communications manager for NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage, the pipeline, 26 inches in diameter, will affect 180 landowners in the pipeline’s right-of-way once construction for the project begins, which is anticipated for April 2015. Once they have entered into the prefiling process, Columbia representatives will notify the public through open houses and other informational events. Those types of meetings will be ongoing throughout the project until the pipeline is operational.
Source: Daily Local; 2/11/2013
Johnsontown train station’s fate uncertain
A new train station in Downingtown leaves the fate of the old Johnsontown station in Downingtown unclear. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced the new Brandywine Avenue location in the middle of the borough for the future train station on Feb. 6. According to Deputy Secretary for Local and Area Transportation Toby Flauver, the entire project is estimated to cost $30 million. The River Station Combination, as the proposal is called, combines previous station proposals on the east and west side of Brandywine Avenue, for a total of 95 acres for the railroad and parking. While pushing for a new station, Borough Manager Stephen Sullins said the administration and Borough Council have expressed concerns about the future of the Johnsontown station. The existing station was not considered an acceptable site for the new station because it does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and needs repairs. The renovations of stations along the line are part of a joint federal, state and local initiative. The station is located in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, areas of the state that are targeted for redevelopment. Manager Sullins noted that the Johnsontown site has development potential.
Source: Daily Local; 2/11/2013
Townships honored for communications
East Brandywine resident George Holmes’ work editing the township newsletter, the Milemarker, was recognized recently as East Brandywine again took first place in the 45th annual Township Citizen Communication Contest for Class 2 townships by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. Four times the Milemarker has won first place for its newsletter for townships with a population of 5,001 to 10,000 residents, and East Brandywine was twice a runner-up. West Bradford and East Caln also scored first-place awards for newsletters in other categories based on population. Charlestown was chosen as the top township website overall.
Source: Daily Local; 2/11/2013
Land-use plan anticipates Kardon Park
Downingtown Borough’s comprehensive land-use plan anticipates a favorable court decision and the sale of Kardon Park. The plan states that the borough will continue its ongoing support for redevelopment of a portion of the property into new housing and remaining land available for public recreation. Kardon Park is east of Wallace Avenue on both sides of East Pennsylvania Avenue. Located in both the borough and East Caln, the borough’s portion consists 22.9 acres. Plans for the next one to three years include borough government and administration protecting and integrating the Lions Trail with any plans for future development in Kardon Park. During that time, the borough also intends to commission a study to examine the practicality of connecting Kerr Park to Kardon Park through a more formalized East Pennsylvania Avenue connection or through Caln through the Struble Trail in the Norwood Road area. The borough is attempting to sell the land to a private developer, who would construct townhouses on a portion of the parcel, reroute the Lions Trail and leave part of the park for passive recreation. Due to the borough’s intentions, the future land-use plan within the borough’s comprehensive plan designates a majority of Kardon Park north of East Pennsylvania Avenue for medium density residential development. The proposed plan, which sets overall policies for both community preservation and development for the next 10 to 15 years, is available for public viewing online, www.downingtown.org. A meeting to discuss the document with the public is scheduled for Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.
Source: Daily Local; 2/13/2013
Middletown looks to change sign ordinance
Middletown Council introduced an amended sign ordinance to regulate the use of manual and electronic changeable copy signs in the township’s institutional, business, special use, office and manufacturing districts. Among its provisions, it limits the square footage of any changeable sign to a maximum 50 percent of the freestanding signage permitted in the applicable zoning district. It stipulates that a changeable free- standing or ground sign, including its support structure, cannot exceed 6 feet above the ground. It allows the message portion of the sign to be displayed on both sides, but limits the display area to no more than 50 square feet. The message on the sign can contain words, numbers, pictures and/ or symbols, but no animation. The ordinance specifies that such signs can be illuminated only during normal business hours, not 24 hours a day. The sign’s message must be displayed for a minimum of 30 seconds before changing and it can’t change in intensity or color during the 30 seconds. The proposed changes will be reviewed by the county and township planners before being put to a vote of council at a later date. In a sign- related matter, council unanimously approved an amended zoning ordinance that applies to signage for existing and future buildings on the former Franklin Mint property that’s zoned SU- 1- A for mixed- use development. It clarifies such provisions as the allowable distance of a free- standing sign to the nearest public roadway, the distance between two walls signs, the dimensions of a wall sign and the number of signs permitted for multitenant office building use, based on gross leasable area.
Source: Daily Times; 2/13/2013
Lowest- achieving list sparks ire in Delaware County
A Pennsylvania Department of Education release listing the lowest- achieving schools in the state includes 27 in Delaware County from seven districts, enabling students to apply for scholarships to better- performing schools. Only Allegheny and Philadelphia counties, home to the state’s two largest cities, had more low- achieving schools, with 43 and 177, respectively. The report contains schools that performed in the bottom 15 percent in the state according to combined math and reading scores on 2011- 12 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. Locally, six high schools made the list. Penn Wood, Chichester, Chester and Academy Park high schools were on the list for the second year in a row, while Interboro and Upper Darby were on it for the first time. Elementary and middle schools in Chester Upland, Ridley, Southeast Delco, Upper Darby and William Penn school districts were also included on the list. Students living within the boundaries of one of the schools, of which there are 406 in Pennsylvania, can apply for Opportunity Scholarships as part of a program administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program was implemented in the summer of 2012. It allows qualifying businesses to donate money to recognized organizations that will distribute that money to students in low achieving schools as scholarships to better performing schools. The businesses will receive tax credits for their donations up to $ 400,000. The program is capped at $50 million, though much of those credits are still available. In Delaware County, 53 schools accept Opportunity Scholarships, none of them public.
Source: Daily Times; 2/11/2013
Villanova’s new use amendment mulled by Radnor planners
Radnor Township planners got their first official look at Villanova University’s petition to amend the township zoning ordinance to provide for a new use, a Comprehensive Integrated College Development, within the Planned Institutional Zoning District. Villanova officials explained the project and zoning amendment to the members of the planning commission and more than 50 residents. The presentation emphasized there would be less traffic and pedestrian congestion at the Lancaster and Ithan avenues intersection because of less parking density and a pedestrian bridge. Residents who spoke during the public comment period repeated previous concerns about the size and density of the project.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 2/6/2013
Chester Heights zoner resigns; council selects replacement
Chester Heights Borough Council accepted the resignation of Joseph Kerry from the borough zoning hearing board, and the council appointed Thayer Schroeder as his replacement. Schroeder, 40, is a Chester Heights native and a Wawa Road resident. He graduated from Westtown School in 1991, and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Penn State University in 1995 and an MBA from Drexel University in 2003. Schroeder is employed as a finance auditor with Wawa Corp.
Source: Daily Times; 2/10/2013
County commissioners discuss housing in Pottstown
As part of a county-wide listening tour, Montgomery County Commissioners participated in a three-hour meeting at the Montgomery County Community College West Campus in Pottstown. The discussion included issues ranging from county housing to human services, from infrastructure to elections, transportation to economic revitalization. A discussion about public and low-income housing programs prompted Commissioner Josh Shapiro to roll out some numbers to provide a statistical basis for the discussion. Shapiro said that 90 percent of Montgomery County’s 62 municipalities have housing choice (formerly known as “Section 8”) vouchers; less than 15 percent of those vouchers are used in Pottstown with 70 percent of that number living in Pottstown already and one-quarter coming into town from other communities; and less than 8 percent of Pottstown housing is housing choice. Joel Johnson, head of the Montgomery County Housing Authority, stated that the voucher program is a federal program run by the authority and outside the direct control of the county commissioners. Johnson said that landlords who accept housing vouchers enter into a legal contract and are required to keep the apartments up to code. An inspection can be triggered if there are complaints about a voucher property, but the housing authority has no authority to enforce codes if the property is not a part of the program. The final stop on the commissioners’ tour will be Monday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Upper Perkiomen Valley School District Education Center, 2229 E. Buck Road, Pennsburg.
Source: The Mercury; 2/13/2013
Army Corps of Engineers present Tookany Creek flood study in Cheltenham
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted a meeting to update the Cheltenham community on the progression of the flood study it is conducting in the township. The ACOE study was approved in April 2012 by Cheltenham commissioners and focuses on the flooding issues within the township in connection with the Tookany Creek and parts of Abington and Springfield townships, as well as Jenkintown and Rockledge boroughs. Phase one of the study focuses on evaluating the watershed, collecting data and forecasting future flood conditions and developing solutions. The complete study is expected to take 18 to 24 months with the cost being split between the township and the federal government.
Source: Glenside News; 2/12/2013
Ardmore businesses prepare for June U.S. Open at Merion
Representatives from about 50 local businesses recently attended a meeting to learn more about the impact the June U.S. Open golf tournament may have on the community. The gathering was sponsored by the Ardmore Business Association and Ardmore Authority. The U.S. Open Golf Championship will be held at nearby Merion Golf Club this June 10-16. Officials said a full transportation plan will not be announced until late spring, but there will an emphasis on satellite parking with shuttles and a focus on using SEPTA’s regional rail. Although most of the transportation routes and remote parking will not come through downtown Ardmore, the businesses will see a benefit. The two business organizations are working together to attract visitors with a pocket guide to dining and businesses that will be distributed to U.S. Open volunteers. An Ardmore shuttle that will run from Merion Golf Club to the downtown will be sponsored by local businesses. For more information about local events leading up to the U.S. Open or how businesses can get involved, visit the Ardmore Initiative website at www.allaboutardmore.com.
Source: Main Line Times; 2/7/2013
North Penn School Board denies charter applications
The North Penn School Board unanimously voted to deny the approval of three separate applications to establish charter schools. The applications submitted by Montgomery Flex, Education for New Generations and North Penn Charter School Collaborative did not meet the requirements for charter schools set forth by the state. Approval of the charters could have had an estimated $7 million impact on the school district’s budget, although the Pennsylvania Charter School Law does not allow the school board to take budget impact into consideration when evaluating the applications. School board President Vincent Sherpinsky stated that the applicants “didn’t meet all of the requirements. They missed some pretty significant things.” Each applicant plans to appeal the school board decision.
Source: The Reporter; 2/14/2013
Council to examine issue of tax delinquents
A block on Philadelphia’s City Council wants to take a hard look at the issue of tax delinquency just as the legislative body is set to move forward with Mayor Nutter’s planned shift to a new property-tax system. Council members Bobby Henon, Cindy Bass, Mark Squilla, Kenyatta Johnson, Denny O’Brien and David Oh introduced six resolutions calling for hearings on the following issues: delinquent vacant property; understanding real estate tax delinquency; delinquent commercial property; delinquent residential investment property; delinquent owner-occupied property; and understanding national best practices and next steps. The group also plans public policy briefings and have launched the website www.taxpayerfairness.com to help taxpayers understand the system, the changes to come and ways to get onto a payment plan.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/7/2012
City revenues holding up
The latest monthly analysis from PICA, the state agency overseeing Philadelphia finances, says that the city’s tax collections in January continued to exceed last year’s figures and the estimates built into this year’s city budget. That’s good news for the city’s bean-counters, but also speaks well for an improving economic climate inside the city. Through January, the first seven months of the fiscal year, wage and earnings tax receipts were up 5.3 percent compared to last year, to $932 million. The city’s budget anticipated a 2.3 percent increase for the full fiscal year, ending June 30. Sales tax collections through January reached $147 million, up 3.1 percent from last year, compared to 2.3 percent in the city’s estimate, and real estate transfer tax collections reached $82.7 million, a 16.7 percent boost from 2012, compared to 4.3 percent in the city’s estimates. Both parking and amusement taxes are reflecting shortfalls. Income from other major taxes — real estate, business income and receipts and net profits — doesn’t usually reflect trends until March and April, when the bulk of the money falls due.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/12/2013
Some neighborhoods will bear brunt of property tax increase according to City Controller
An analysis of Philadelphia’s new property assessments from the City Controller’s office provides for the first time a clear picture of who wins and who loses under the new system. City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s analysis of the new property assessments finds that about 60-percent of single-family properties in the city will see some increase in taxes compared to this year, and the remaining 40-percent will likely see property taxes go down. Of those who will see an increase, about half will see a tax hike of $400 dollars or less. The hardest-hit neighborhoods, according to his analysis: Brewerytown, Germantown, the Graduate Hospital area, Mill Creek, Northern Liberties, Passyunk Square and Point Breeze. The individual assessments to all property owners will be mailed out on February 15, though City Council and the Mayor have yet to set a tax rate. Butkovitz’s analysis assumes a tax rate of 1.25%. The new system will take effect for the tax bills that will be due in February of 2014.
Source: KYW Newsradio; 2/13/201