Pittsburgh Renting Rates Rising Quickly

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If it seems as though rental prices in Pittsburgh have been in a bull market over the past several years, that’s because they have.

While large metro areas like New York and San Francisco have grabbed headlines for their sky-high rental prices, Pittsburgh’s rental market is actually rising at a faster rate than New York’s, according to a study from personal finance website NerdWallet.

“We were looking at growth rates, rather than cities with the highest rents, and Pittsburgh is in a rapid economic growth period now,” said Divya Raghavan, a senior analyst for NerdWallet in San Francisco. “While New York and San Francisco are already well-established top cities in the U.S., Pittsburgh is considered an up and coming city.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/finance/2014/04/18/Pittsburgh-renting-rates-rising-quickly/stories/201404180004#ixzz2zGE35Ub1

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Bridgeport Addresses Issue Of ‘Amateur Landlords’

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BRIDGEPORT, PA — Over the past year, many residents and landlords have complained at borough council meetings about overcrowding of and conditions at rental properties.

In response to these complaints, borough council has provided funds in the 2014 budget for a program to help resolve the issue of amateur landlords.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, council discussed hiring a third-party inspector to handle rental properties in the borough.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140214/bridgeport-addresses-issue-of-amateur-landlords

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In Downtown Scranton Residential Boom, No Sign Of Slowing

Picture 062Four years ago, there was no residential life along the unit block of Franklin Avenue. By the end of this year, more than 55 apartments could be located along Franklin, between Lackawanna Avenue and Spruce Street.

“It’s about quality of living,” former Mayor Chris Doherty said earlier this month before he left office. “I said from the beginning, fail or success, we will go after downtown living.”

Scranton building contractor and redeveloper Art Russo bought into Mr. Doherty’s concept and his latest downtown project is one of his largest.

He is constructing 21 apartments on the three upper floors at the Bittenbender Building, a four-story, 48,000-square-foot structure at 126-132 Franklin. A sports bar, seafood restaurant and speakeasy-themed jazz club will occupy the 9,000-square-foot first floor.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/in-downtown-scranton-residential-boom-no-sign-of-slowing-1.1615299

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FOX29 Investigates Local Property Manager

FOX29 investigative reporter Jeff Cole interviews Katy Jackson, a Pottstown civic activist, while trying to get to the bottom of why Affinity Property Management Company, formerly located on High Street in downtown Pottstown, owes their clients thousands of dollars.  The office closed in May.

To watch this segment, click here: http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/23939642/fox29-investigates-local-property-manager#.UoGxgbf9ra0.facebook

Wilkes-Barre Council OKs ‘One-Strike’ Rental Ordinance

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — One strike.  Two readings.  Three speakers.

Mayor Tom Leighton’s plan to crack down on problem rental properties in Wilkes-Barre passed a second and final reading during a special council session Thursday night attended by a handful of residents, of whom only three spoke about the “one-strike” amendment to the city’s rental ordinance.

The ordinance will allow officials to shut down a property for six months if landlords and tenants know of criminal activity on the premises and fail to alert authorities.  It will take effect Sept. 1.

“The intent is not to penalize landlords, but to increase dialogue,” said assistant city solicitor William E. Vinsko Jr., who drafted the legislation, which he called “another tool to curb drug activity and violence.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/article/20130823/NEWS/130829985

Landlords question Wilkes-Barre’s ‘One-Strike’ Rental Policy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — A proposed ordinance to “get tough” on crime by targeting problem rental properties passed the first reading by City Council on Tuesday night, and drew a mixed response from residents and landlords.

The amendment that sets a “one-strike” limit for landlords or tenants who know of gun and drug crimes committed on the property still needs a second reading at council’s Sept. 12 meeting before it can be enacted 10 days later.

But landlord Chris Puma of Ashley cautioned against proceeding with the amendment and suggested that instead of “punishing the landlord” the city hire more police and code enforcement officers.

He presented a scenario in which the six-month shutdown of a property as stated in the amendment cuts off the revenue for a landlord who has no knowledge of his tenant’s criminal activity.  From there, the landlord conceivably can’t pay the taxes, the property ends up at a sheriff’s sale and the city loses tax revenue.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/752677/Landlords-question-one-strike

Under The Gun: Increase In Crime In Norristown Can Be Traced To Economic Decline

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is Part One in a series examining crime in Norristown and possible answers to stem the tide.

NORRISTOWN — Renee Goldman remembers one of the sheer simplicities of Norristown’s golden age: leaving the door wide open on warm days.

She also remembers when crime — largely petty and non-violent, initially — slammed shut the door of her dad’s Main Street business and locked it for good.

“Eventually we went from keeping the door open when the weather was nice to keeping the door locked and opening it only when the customers came,” recalled Goldman, who began working at her father’s Custom Hearing Aids office in the 200 block of East Main Street as a teenager in the 1960s.

Back then she felt safe walking down to Woolworth’s on Main Street on whatever errand her dad, Henry Ginsberg, sent her on.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130601/NEWS01/130609968/under-the-gun-increase-in-crime-in-norristown-can-be-traced-to-economic-decline#full_story

State Legislators Respond To ACLU Lawsuit Against Norristown

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — Rep. Mike Vereb (R-150th Dist.) and Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151st Dist.), along with Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman urged Norristown officials to repeal or modify its controversial nuisance ordinance to protect victims of domestic abuse and discussed possible legislation to ensure that those victims would be protected statewide at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

The ordinance, which is currently being challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union, was adopted in 2008 and permitted the suspension or revocation of a rental license if the police are called to the property three times for disorderly behavior.

“For me, the most important part of today is speaking directly to the victims of domestic violence who are in the community,” said Ferman.  “I think it’s so important that they know that they can call the police.  They should call the police.  They should call for help.  We will not allow anything to stand in their way and we will be here to support them.”

“We’re here for victims, to let them know that we’re not going to allow any borough, municipal, or city ordinance get in the way of their access to help,” said Vereb.  “We should focus on the goal here.  The goal is to get the thugs off of the streets and out of the rental properties.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130430/NEWS01/130439974/state-legislators-respond-to-aclu-lawsuit-against-norristown#full_story

ACLU Sues Norristown Over Landlord Ordinance

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Norristown ordinance that penalizes landlords for the alleged behavior of their tenants was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The Norristown ordinance penalized landlords and encouraged them to evict their tenants when the police are called to a property three times in four months for “disorderly behavior,” including responding to incidents of domestic violence.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP against the municipality, former Municipal Administrator David Forrest, Interim Municipal Administrator Robert Glisson, former Police Chief Russell Bono, Interim Police Chief Willie Richet and Code Enforcement Manager Joseph Januzelli.

“We are planning to file a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent Norristown from enforcing the December 2012 ordinance while the case is pending,” said Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.  “We hope we will have a hearing soon.  We hope this will be resolved quickly.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130424/NEWS01/130429765/aclu-sues-norristown-over-landlord-ordinance#full_story

For Shame, Lousy Landlords

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Thumbs UP!

That’s what they’re doing in Pittsburgh.

City council voted recently to reinstate a public-shaming program aimed at irresponsible landlords.

The new law requires the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection to identify the 10 most dilapidated structures and the Department of Public Works to put up signs with the owners’ names, addresses and phone numbers.

Under the “Operation Red” program, the signs will say, “Don’t Come Here.  Don’t Invest Here.”

The signs are intended to shame landlords, but some critics predict they will embarrass tenants more.  Other critics say the signs may hasten the demise of particular streets or neighborhoods.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/796288_For-shame–lousy-landlords.html#ixzz2Fz0gnkXC

Pottstown Borough Authority Adopts New Policy In Wake Of Water Theft Case

POTTSTOWN,PA — If a silver lining could be said to exist in the case of the landlord accused of stealing borough water at multiple properties, it could be said that it brought the problem to the attention of the authorities.

Or, in this case, the Pottstown Borough Authority.

In June, landlord Frank McLaughlin of East Coventry was arrested  by Pottstown police and charged with theft of services after devices designed to by-pass water meters were found inside multiple properties he owned.

That case is still working its way through the courts, but the borough authority’s board wasted no time in acting at its Nov. 27 meeting and adopting a policy designed to minimize the loss once such a by-pass device has been discovered.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121202/NEWS01/121209923/pottstown-borough-authority-adopts-new-policy-in-wake-of-water-theft-case#full_story

An Editorial Follow Up – Activist Invites Pottstown Council To See Poor Living Conditions In Permitted Rental

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday, June 30th, the Mercury published a piece on Pottstown’s first Open Slum House Tour. Members of Pottstown Borough Council were invited to come and see first hand the horrific living conditions in a rental unit at 501 King Street.  The rental unit was issued a permit by Pottstown’s Codes Department. 

An open house was held on Saturday afternoon from 2:00pm to 3:30pm and hosted by Katy Jackson, a King Street resident and community activist.

What I am about to report is typical and totally disheartening.  Only one Borough Councilor showed up!  Fifth Ward Councilor Dan Weand!  Councilor Weand was accompanied by his wife Polly (a Pottstown School Board member).  John Armato, Pottstown School District Director of Community Relations also attended the open house.  Thank you Dan, Polly and John for taking time out of your Saturday to give a damn about Pottstown!

(The elephants in the room)

  1. Where in the hell was Pottstown Borough Council President, Steven Toroney or First Ward Councilor Mark Gibson, whose ward contains the offending property????????????????? 
  2. Pottstown’s Codes Department apparently deemed this property A-OK and issued a permit for the owner to rent the property.  Considering the horrific state of the property in question, does this not make you wonder exactly what metrics borough codes employees are using?  Would you want to live in a house of horrors like this?  Is this not a huge red flag that there might be a problem?  Is this not indicative of a broken process? 
  3. As an elected official, whose job it is to serve the taxpayers of Pottstown, taking an hour out of your Saturday to get first hand knowledge of a serious problem should be a top priority.  It would have been prudent to notify Mrs. Jackson that you had a prior commitment that precluded your attendance so as not to appear indifferent to the plight of the people who elected you into office!

Based on the pictures and description of the property, it sounds like it should be condemned and torn down, not given a rental permit!

Steve, if you aren’t up to the task of being Pottstown Borough Council President, we think you should step down.  We see no evidence of leadership, no vision and no way forward being presented.  Sitting in your North End home and ignoring everything south of Wilson Street isn’t much of a strategy. 

Pottstown is spiraling out of control.  Key employees are leaving, councilors are resigning, crime is high, poverty is high, slumlords and Section 8 housing are pulling Pottstown down while property and school taxes go up, up, up…  Is the goal here to become the next Pennsylvania community accepted into the Act 47 program for financially distressed municipalities?

There was just a home invasion in the 800 block of Queen Street.  There are too many shootings.  There are hookers and drug dealers lurking in the alleys of the core neighborhood.  There are tumbleweeds blowing down High Street.  Borough Council does not support the few struggling businesses downtown nor does Pottstown enforce laws for loitering and panhandling which deter shoppers, diners and theatre patrons.  There is a homeless problem you refuse to deal with and the list goes on and on.

Pottstown deserves a Borough Council who is willing and ABLE to lead the community down the road to prosperity.  Those who can’t should step aside and let those who can DO! 

Sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring all the warning signs is not what you were elected into office to do.  People expect action.  People expect and want change for the better.  Status quo is not an option.  Neither is taxing people to the point of having to choose between paying taxes or buying food and medicine.  Look at all the for sale signs around town.  Look at the abandoned properties where homeowners have simply walked away.  All is not well!  Get a clue!

Either lead or get out-of-the-way!

Activist Invites Pottstown Council To See Poor Living Conditions In Permitted Rental

 

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  We can not stress enough the importance of Mr. Toroney and his fellow Councilors taking an hour out of their day to see this in person.  This is the tip of the iceberg and we think it is HIGH TIME that Pottstown Borough Council starts walking the talk and demonstrating in a tangible way that they have some inkling of interest in the citizens they respresent!  You all could use some street cred!

Thank you to Katy Jackson for continuing to stand vigilant and taking on a job that nobody else is willing to tackle!

POTTSTOWN — It’s supposed to be a warm Saturday afternoon, how about taking in a nice open house?

Well you might find it interesting, but it seems unlikely anyone would use the word “nice” to describe it.

From 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, activist Katy Jackson is inviting anyone interested — and the members of borough council specifically — to come and see the conditions in which a resident of Pottstown has been living at 501 King St.

“Monday I was invited to see the living conditions that a couple have endured for several months,” Jackson wrote in her invitation to council members, which was copied to The Mercury.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120629/NEWS01/120629312/activist-invites-pottstown-council-to-see-poor-living-conditions-in-permitted-rental

Pottstown’s MOSAIC Community Land Trust Highlights Successes, Goals

Editor’s note:  Here’s some nice press from the Fishwrap about Mosaic Community Land Trust.

POTTSTOWN, PA — The   Mosaic Community Land Trust    means many things to many people.

To most, it means the newly established community garden.To others, it means an art gallery and Open Mic Nights at the group’s 10 S. Hanover St. headquarters.

But if its plans pan out, the land trust may also soon mean “the people who sold us our house.”From the beginning, Executive

Director Sue Repko told borough council during a recent work session, the group has targeted the core neighborhood in Pottstown, which it defines as being bounded by Hanover Street to the west, Beech Street to the north, North Adams Street to the east and High Street to the south.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120614/NEWS01/120619673/pottstown-s-mosaic-community-land-trust-highlights-successes-goals&pager=full_story

Landlords Vent Over Reading’s Quality-Of-Life Program

Reading City Hall on the NRHP since April 13, ...

Reading City Hall on the NRHP since April 13, 1982. At 8th and Washington Streets, Reading, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer walked into the lion’s den Tuesday night, answering hardball questions hurled by local landlords in the Real Estate Investors Association.

They were angry at the $505 cost of a half-hour codes inspection for a rental property.

They were livid at what they called the Gestapo mentality of city inspectors, and warned that sooner or later some landlord will hurt them because of their attitudes.

But they vented mostly about the quality-of-life program, with its $25-and-more tickets, which began in early 2011.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=383644

A Petition To Control Blight In Pottstown

If you are interested in building a better Pottstown, please click on the link below and sign the petition to control blight!  The petition will go to the following people:

  • Governmental persons that can control blight in Pottstown, PA! (Pottstown Judges and Pottstown Codes Dept.)
  • PA State House (Rep. Tom Quigley)
  • PA State Senate (Senator John Rafferty)
  • Agency responsible for subsidized housing violations (Montgomery County Housing Authority)

http://www.change.org/petitions/governmental-persons-that-can-control-blight-in-pottstown-pa-prosecute-slumlords-within-the-pottstown-borough-using-pa-state-law-act-90?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=own_wall

Spotlight On Local Business: Valley View Apartments

We are starting a new feature as a public service to Pottstown area residents and businesses.  Our goal is to help promote existing local business and to showcase what the Pottstown area has to offer to new or existing residents.

I met with Brenda Hand, Community Manager of Valley View Apartments, to learn more about her apartment community and what it has to offer potential residents.  Brenda told me she loves her job and looks forward to coming to work every day.  It certainly shows!  A+ on the office staff!  Valley View has a seasoned maintenance staff that will make sure your apartment home is always in great shape!

The Valley View Apartment community is conveniently located on Route 724, directly across the street from Coventry Mall in North Coventry Township.  The complex is near Routes 100 and 422, which provide easy access to King of Prussia, Reading, Exton and Allentown.  Pottstown Borough is directly across the river and offers more shopping, dining and entertainment options along with Coventry Mall, Town Square and Suburbia Village Shopping Centers in North Coventry Township.

Valley View offers spacious one and two bedroom apartment homes with many amenities.  Units are fully carpeted, have fully equipped kitchens and are air-conditioned.  Other features include laundry facilities in each building, storage areas, a swimming pool, a community center, a playground and a fitness center.  Pets are conditionally accepted and require a pet deposit and monthly rental fee.

Valley View has plentiful parking for residents and visitors.  The complex sits atop a small hill and offers a panoramic view of Chester and Montgomery Counties.  The Leasing Office is in the Community Center, which also houses a fitness center, a cyber café, tanning and a community room.  The Community Center is relatively new and a great asset for residents.

Valley View Apartments are professionally managed by RP Management, Inc.

If you are looking for a new apartment home and would like more information about this complex:

Voice: (610) 326-4223

Internet: http://www.rpmgt.com/Portfolio/ValleyView/

Physical address: 600 W. Schuylkill Rd., Pottstown, PA 19465

If you would like to have your business in the spotlight, send an email request to:

pottstownsuper@gmail.com

Pottstown Council Meeting Highlights – 10/12/10

The meeting was called to order by President Toroney.

Councilors Allen and Gibson were not in attendance.  (Councilor Allen arrived late, after the roll call was taken.)

Minutes were approved.

Comments from the peeps (full house tonight)

A member of the Human Relations Committee requested locks on doors and file cabinets.  Currently they have neither and sensitive documents are stored at committee member’s homes.  They also requested a computer and a database. (Now there’s a thought in 2010!!)

A condo owner from the Light Foundry complex told council that the condo owners pay their association fees each month to a manager who is supposed to be paying the bills for the complex.  This person is not doing that.  Their water is scheduled to be shut off this month.  They cannot afford to pay their bills twice.  They owe the borough $13k!  They are paying $200 a month for association fees that should cover water/sewer/trash.

A resident from E. Second St. said there is trash everywhere and the rental/Section 8 people make a mess.  The street is mostly renters.

A property owner spoke against the new rental ordinance.  He said he feels the Sunshine Law was broken and that the ordinance content has changed since being presented to the property owners.  He also stated that the ordinance does not meet the plain language guidelines as dictated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

A Pottstown landlord and realtor said she hears all the time that Pottstown is too difficult to work with from investors and prospective homeowners are also not interested in Pottstown.  She also objected to some language in the new rental ordinance.

Another landlord said he felt the Sunshine Law was broken by Council and the Borough Manager.  President Toroney vigorously defended Council and Jason by stating that this has been discussed at the last 5 or 6 public meetings and in many committees for months.  Council has been continuously advised and given drafts of the ordinance in progress.  Pottstown’s new rental ordinance is based on the Gettysburg Pennsylvania ordinance. 

http://www.gettysburg-pa.gov/applications_forms/regulated_rental_unit_application.pdf

http://www.gettysburg-pa.gov/applications_forms/regulated_rental_unit_addendum.pdf

Another opponent of the rental ordinance spoke.  She said she doesn’t think Pottstown has sufficient code enforcement officers to enforce the new ordinance.  The new ordinance gives Codes the power to direct landlords to evict tenants.

Jeff Leflar (Code Blue) read an excellent and fact-filled prepared statement outlining Pottstown’s current demographics and spoke against the low-income riverfront senior housing proposal. 

Mary Beth Lydon (Code Blue) spoke against the low-income riverfront senior housing project.  A petition was presented to council with over 70 signatures opposing the senior project.  Many people Code Blue talked to at the River Festival on Saturday were not aware of this project and did not support it.  She also outlined this demonstrated a lack of communication from the borough to its residents.

Another investor/landlord spoke against the proposed rental ordinance.  He referred to it as heavy-handed.

Yet another investor spoke against the rental ordinance.  He said it was draconian.  There are provisions for jail time for infractions.  He feels this ordinance is a turn-off to investors.

A previous Pottstown landlord spoke against the proposed rental ordinance.   It gives Code Enforcement too many powers and Pottstown doesn’t enforce the code already on the books so why are we adding more?

Another speaker was against the proposed rental ordinance, especially the security deposit language (he wants that deleted).  It’s open season on landlords.  The ordinance is heavy-handed and favors owner occupant vs. investors.

Another Pottstown landlord requested common language be used.

Katy Jackson (Code Blue & CPR) spoke about a property at 117 Washington St.  The police have been there 10 times since January!  Three police visits occurred between 9/10 & 9/11 (fight).  The renters are dangerous and have weapons.  The neighborhood needs stabilized.  She again called for a Task Force to be created to handle this problem.  Katy stated that Code Blue & CPR want the good landlords to stay in Pottstown!  She also spoke against the low-income riverfront senior housing project stating that Pottstown already has enough of this type of housing and adding more will create a stigma.  We can do better!

A North Charlotte Street resident complained to council about illegal activity (drug use, loitering and a shooting) in her neighborhood.  The police are called but if they don’t see it, they can’t write up a report.  Between January and June of this year she called the Pottstown Police Dept. 20 times.  The problem is a rental unit and the tenants.

A resident spoke in favor of the low-income riverfront senior housing project.

The Rector of Christ Episcopal Church spoke in favor of the low-income riverfront senior housing project.

A neighbor of the woman on N. Charlotte Street said he wishes he could move.  Ever since the shooting, right in front of his house, he feels unsafe and is very worried about his children.  He won’t allow them to be downstairs and they avoid windows.  They were home the night of the shooting, which occurred right in front of their living room window.  He stated he now owns a gun.  He has gotten into altercations with the rental tenants.  He stated no police came after the shooting was called in.  He said it was caught on surveillance tape.

Whew!  That was a LOT of speakers!

Mayor’s report – Puppies and sunshine everywhere.  All is well.

Manager’s report – Construction has begun on the Norfolk Southern bulk transfer station on South Keim St.  We can expect the railroad crossing to be upgraded as the result of construction (Hallelujah!).

There will be a store front wiindow decorating contest downtown for Christmas.

There is a cooperative effort between PSD and the borough to rehabilitate 22 E. Second Street, using PSD students.

There is a group that uses the Schuylkill River to promote tourism and marketing for towns in our area.  Jason attended their meeting.

As a result of the First Suburbs initiative Pottstown, Norristown and Coatesville are talking about Section 8 housing issues such as vouchers and inspections with HUD.

If all goes well in November they can advertise for the new PAID Director position.  That won’t come SOON ENOUGH IMHO!

Due to declining attendance, Jason is looking to have one last joint Ward meeting on November 10th at the First Church of the Brethren on York St.

On October 20th, Norristown and Pottstown will have a joint council meeting here in Pottstown to discuss common issues.

Jason is trying to organize a meeting between Council and PDIDA to work with existing business owner’s downtown.

It’s budget time.  One item Jason mentioned was that for years 3, 4, & 5 it was hoped that Rickett’s would have become self-sustaining. Until he speaks with Olivet about the borough’s contribution for Rickett’s, that is a gray area for the budget.  Money was not budgeted for those years hoping Rickett’s would not need assistance from the borough.

The Pottstown Authority wants a review of the water fund budget.  They want costs moved into the general fund.  This will be discussed further at Finance.

Motion to adopt the new rental ordinance passed unanimously.

The low-income riverfront senior housing project passed unanimously.  The Lincoln underwear factory property, where the riverfront low-income senior housing will be built, was appraised at $470,000.  The two lots are 1 ½ acres.  Welcome to Pottsamucil.

The motion to authorize the joint venture between PSD and the borough passed unanimously (22 E. Second St. rehabilitation by PSD students).

The motion to authorize the submission of the Pottstown Skyline Lighting Project to the Montco Community Revitalization Board was approved and the project was made the number 1 priority as part of the vote.  (Think boathouse row downtown).

Motion to approve the submission of an EPA grant for Brownfield cleanup at Bethlehem Steel aka the Pottstown Industrial Complex was approved.

Council labored over the Mrs. Smith’s site again regarding the last mustard colored building (Foil Company) and what to do with it.  The options are: do nothing and keep the $85k, paint and keep $45k or do the mural and keep $45k.  They chose Option 2, paint and keep $45k.  $85k is in escrow from the developer for esthetics regarding this building.  Nobody likes the color much.

The bills were paid and the meeting was adjourned.

Editor’s note: Councilor Kirkland (Ward 7) felt the need to give a diatribe regarding opposition to the low-income riverfront senior housing.  Using a move from Tom Hylton’s playbook, Mr. Kirkland berated those opposed to this project as spreading misinformation and not caring about Pottstown.  Mr. Kirkland, have you been paying attention to people who use this methodology?  They end up like the Shade Tree Commission.  A word to the wise is hopefully sufficient.

Take Back Our Town Meeting Held At Pottstown Diner Thursday Evening

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County
Image via Wikipedia

A crowd of approximately 50 people attended a meeting with Pottstown attorney Adam Sager Thursday evening at the Pottstown Diner to learn what regular citizens can do to clean up Pottstown and take back our community.

Pottstown Borough Council President Steve Toroney, Councilor Jody Rhoads (6) and Councilor Dan Weand (5) were also in attendance.  I don’t recall seeing the councilors for Wards 1 & 2 (the core neighborhood). Code Blue (The Pulse) had a strong turn out along with representatives from CPR (Citizen’s For Pottstown Revitalization), bloggers Mo Gallant (Pottstown’s Blog) and Sue Repko (Positively Pottstown), and Brandie Kessler from the Pottstown Mercury.

Before Attorney Sager made his presentation, a Pottstown landlord described why he became a landlord in Pottstown 12 years ago.  He wanted to make a difference and offer moderately priced housing (less than $600 a month rent).  Now he is struggling under the weight of water/sewer/trash bills and other increased utility and service costs.  He can’t afford it!

This gentleman rehabilitated 3 crack houses into nice apartment buildings.  He said he feels the borough is his enemy.  He also stated he can get $200 – $250 more a month if he rents to Section 8 recipients.

We then listened to a presentation from Attorney Sager about a plan of attack being used in many cities across the nation. Filling civil lawsuits against offending property owners for code and nuisance violations can have the desired outcome of taking the bad property, getting rid of the slumlord and the criminal element tenants and replacing them with decent people.  We want to attract and retain good tenants while getting rid of the bad ones.

Attorney Sager said we should take a map of Pottstown and put pins in the map to pinpoint the problem areas and find a pattern.

Attorney Sager also discussed the possibility of taking property through eminent domain by the borough as another means of ridding Pottstown of undesirables.

A spirited discussion followed with many people asking questions like “Can we afford to pay the legal fees to sue people?” “Why isn’t the borough doing more?” and other similar questions.  Residents and property owners in attendance were frustrated and in pain over the recent flurry of gun activity in the “core neighborhood”.  Code Blue member Amy Francis said she no longer feels safe in her home.  A property owner from Lower Pottsgrove said he just lost two good tenants because of the recent rash of shootings.

President Toroney answered questions about what steps the borough is taking to deal with slumlords such as water shut off on delinquent properties, the sheriff sale of properties, Portnoff’s more aggressive collection efforts etc… His answers were not always met with enthusiasm. The discussion became quite heated at times due to the high anxiety level of residents in attendance.

Despite varied opinions and temperaments, a good first step was taken.  It was suggested that a Task Force be formed to tackle this escalating problem. Code Blue also mentioned they are developing a Community Land Trust that will help with this process along with the new rental ordinance the borough has developed.

IMHO it will take a multi-faceted approach to fix this problem.

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!?!