Norristown Takes A Giant Step Forward

Norristown Borough Council took a giant step into the light Tuesday evening.  The council unanimously voted to end multi-family apartment conversions for single-family homes!  BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The measure does allow for mixed-use meaning commercial use on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors.

Council has wisely decided to stop the madness.  By curbing the carving up of single-family homes into high density apartments, Norristown is demonstrating their desire to attract homeowners and shore up their tax base.

This is a big step in the right direction.

We applaud Norristown Borough Council for walking the talk!

Massive Brownfield Reclamation Project In York City

The City of York is undertaking the largest economic development project in that city’s history.  The Northwest Triangle project will span 29 acres and cost $50 million dollars.  The project will be paid for by a $7 million dollar state grant, $12 million dollars in public funds and $14 million dollars in private funds.  Enterprise Homes will contribute $18 million dollars.

The project is varied and includes a residential component, commercial space and a charter school.  84,000 square feet of new and rehabilitated space will be available for professional, office, entertainment, restaurants, retail, townhouses and condominiums.  The project will create 300-500 jobs and add 250 new city residents.

The York Academy Regional Charter School is being created and will be part of this massive project.  The building is being renovated and will be completed in July 2011.  Phase one will be kindergarten through second grade.  Within five years the school will be K – 12.  York Academy Charter will be York’s fifth charter school and will feature an International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Enterprise Homes is the residential part of the project.  85 to 125 homes will be built based on a market study to be conducted.

Four existing buildings are part of the redevelopment project which will also include extending the York County Heritage Rail Trail through the city to the Northwest Triangle.  A streetscape project is also expected to be approved and will be paid for by an $890,980.00 federal grant.

To recap, we have a state grant and a federal grant being combined with money from public and private developers to reclaim 29 acres of blight!

Interesting Website For Those Concerned About Revitalization

The website link below is a wealth of information and resources about urban renewal, smart growth, urban planning, sustainable communities, economic development etc… that can be applied right here in Pottstown.  Some Code Blue peeps are attending the Building One Pennsylvania event in Lancaster today.  This would be a great group to network with!  Good things are happening north of Pottstown that are worth emulating IMHO.

New Blight Legislation In Pennsylvania! A Tool For Communities Like Pottstown

This news is too awesome for words.  If you read my blog, you know that blight is something I post about along with brownfield reclamation.  These issues are pivotal to places like Pottstown and their redevelopment.  We need to attract middle class taxpaying homeowners and business/industry to reestablish the tax base.  Getting rid of run-down properties is certainly one way to do that!  Nobody wants to live in or locate a business in a blighted neighborhood.

The Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act, Senate Bill 900, unanimously passed in the PA Senate and is under review by the House Urban Affairs Committee.

This bill is aimed at slumlords and their neglected properties.  If passed, the bill gives municipalities the ability to place liens against the property owners TOTAL ASSETS, not just the property in question.  It also gives municipalities the power of extradition against out-of-state slumlords to face charges here in PA!  Property owners can be denied permit applications if they are behind on taxes, municipal charges (i.e. sewer/water) or have code violations.  County Commissioners would be given the power to establish a “housing court” that would only deal with housing related offenses!


Of course, there are those opposed because of the total asset seizure provision.  IMHO good landlords do not have anything to worry about.  They take care of their properties, pay their bills and are an asset to the community.  For those who do not play by the rules it is about time there are some real consequences!

If you feel passionate about this bill becoming law, contact your Pennsylvania State Representative and urge him or her to vote yes on this important bill when it comes before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Pottstown Borough Creates Intermodal Transportation Center Using Federal Stimulus Grant

If you have been downtown lately, you will notice there is construction going on next to Harleysville Bank First Niagara Bank.  The old SEPTA train platform area is being renovated and transformed into an intermodal transportation center.  This is a much-needed improvement for Pottstown.  Currently, PART’s main transfer point is right in front of Argento’s restaurant and in the middle of the very busy High & Hanover Street intersection.  Those big buses take up a lot of room!

Wisely, our borough government has applied for and been awarded a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create the intermodal transportation center.  A transportation center makes SENSE!  If you have ever been to Norristown’s transportation center you will see how organized this makes using mass transit.  Pottstown is unique as we are the only municipality in Montgomery County to have our own mass transit system.  Pottstown also has SEPTA service along with PART. 

As I am constantly posting and hinting around about Pottstown getting grants to pay for improvements, I feel it is only fair that we give public recognition to the borough for obtaining one!  Nice going and let’s get some more :).

Lehigh Valley Cities To Receive Development Grants From The Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania

Communities in the Lehigh Valley have actively pursued and received development grants from the Rendell administration that will convert brownfields, attract industry and provide jobs!

$4.5 millions dollars will be received to convert the former Dixie Cup factory in Wilson (Easton) into an apartment and condominium complex.

$2.5 million dollars will be received to create a waste-to-energy plant (sludge burning) in Allentown.

$10 million dollars will be received to lure a yet to be named Fortune 500 Company to the Lehigh Valley.

$1.5 million dollars will be received toward converting the Farr building in Bethlehem into an Irish pub and apartments.

In other news, Allentown is promoting green energy by placing solar panels on industrial roof space.  420 solar panels were placed on the roof of the Bridgeworks Industrial Center in March.  Since their installation, the panels are generating enough energy to power five homes for a year (112,000 kilowatt hours a year)! 

There are millions of square feet of roof space that solar panels can be placed on in the Lehigh Valley.  This project was funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority.  Can anyone think of another community that has a vast amount of industrial roof space that could benefit from a grant like this? 

Excess energy is sold back to the power company.  The city will make about $15,000.00 a year from selling the excess energy generated by the solar panels.  Solar panels reduce the reliance on power plants and fossil fuels. 

Another hint here… the state has funded 1,500 other projects across the state.  What a neat way to use brownfields.

Bucks County Borough Takes A Tough Stand On Rental Properties

The small borough of Trumbauersville, Bucks County, is ensuring their rental properties are up to snuff!  Trumbauersville Council has approved annual rental inspections and property owners are required to have a residential rental license (yes, there is  fee) for each unit.  Much larger Quakertown has similar ordinances on their books.  Trumbauersville is located in Milford Township over near Quakertown.

These new regulations are a direct result of problems which have been reported to the borough and in some cases involved out-of-town property owners (absentee landlords).  There are 50 rental properties in this .4 square mile borough of 1059 souls.

Recently, a fire inspection of a vacant rental property found maggots in the refrigerator and 5 dump trucks full of trash inside.  The Code Enforcement Officer will use a checklist and report his findings to the property owner who in turn has a set amount of time to make corrections or appeal them to Borough Council.

This ordinance has some teeth to it (imagine that).  Landlords living more than 20 miles from town must has a property manager living or working within 20 miles of the borough or a license will not be granted.  If tenants have three disruptive conduct reports on file within a twelve month period, they will be evicted (disruptive conduct includes public drunkenness and fighting for example).  Violations of the new ordinance can lead to fines or imprisonment!

Some food for thought if we are serious about cleaning up slumlord and rental property issues in Pottstown.  If tiny Trumbauersville can do it, why can’t Pottstown!?!