On May 4th, 2020 ,the Governor’s Office issued new guidance for businesses as they become authorized to restart in-person operations pursuant to the Administration’s phased red-yellow-green plan.  The guidance, which can be found here, includes a series of mandatory protocols designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 between and among employees and customers.  These protocols are binding upon “[a]ll businesses in all industries and sectors of the economy (including non-profit entities), in the Commonwealth, that are permitted to conduct-in person operations…unless they are otherwise more stringently regulated under separate industry-specific guidance”.

Recently, the Governor’s Office announced that twenty-four Pennsylvania counties will transition to the “yellow” phase on May 8th, thereby authorizing businesses in those counties to restart in-person operations on a limited basis. 
Continue Reading May 8 Opening: Guidance (Portions Mandatory) From The Commonwealth For Businesses

On April 22, Governor Wolf announced an amendment to his standing shutdown and shelter in place order that permits construction projects to resume statewide on May 1st.  This news comes just days after the Governor’s office released its “Plan for Pennsylvania,” which authorized “limited construction” activities beginning on May 8th.  Per

Attending public meetings is a big part of any land use practitioner’s routine, and, if I’m being honest, one of my favorite parts of my job. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I traveled one, two, sometimes even three nights a week to meetings of zoning hearing boards, municipal governing bodies, and planning commissions. While I understand that a township board of supervisors meeting might not be everyone’s idea of a fun Thursday night, I like watching government at work. In today’s world, how many spaces exist where citizens can engage directly with their elected officials?

Of course, when COVID-19 cases began to appear in Pennsylvania, all of this changed. Businesses (including ours) started to adapt to social distancing requirements by replacing in-person meetings with audio and video conference calls. Municipalities, however, bound by the Sunshine Act and other open meeting requirements, faced a unique set of challenges. How could boards, councils and committees continue to conduct business and ensure public participation while protecting the health and safety of residents?
Continue Reading Public Meetings in Pajama Pants: Land Use in the Age of COVID-19

With protestors afoot outside the Capitol building in Harrisburg, Governor Wolf provided additional information on the Commonwealth’s plans to begin reopening businesses, including construction sites, within Pennsylvania.  Per the Governor, “limited construction” activities will be permitted to resume on May 8, to the extent such activities can occur in compliance with job site regulations the

Thank you to our friends at Capitol Buzz and the McNees Government Relations Group (MSSG) for a great update on bills working their way through the PA General Assembly, which affect public meetings and hearings, construction activities and more.  A few highlights are below, but you should read the entire Capitol Buzz post.

On Tuesday, along strict party lines, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored proposal to allow many businesses impacted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown order to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House passed Senate Bill 613, which includes language introduced by House Republicans last week to reopen the state’s workforce while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts outlined by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The legislation was sent
Continue Reading Updates On Public Meetings & Hearings, Construction Activities, and More from the General Assembly

Here is a headline most developers and builders would not want to see associated with their project: “’Life-sustaining’ casino? Construction continued in South Philly despite Gov. Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown. At least two workers have tested positive.”  Per the above Philadelphia Inquirer article, what has made matters worse for the developer are claims from many trades that the developer, a very large international development company, “wasn’t doing enough to protect them from being infected.”  Moreover, the developer’s “waiver” from the Governor’s Order, that essentially closed all non-life-sustaining businesses (more information available throughout this blog) to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus, is now at risk.

The story provides a great example of what not to do to if you want your business to avoid bad public relations, sick and upset employees and contractors, potential related lawsuits, and putting your waiver at risk.  Below are three short lessons pulled from the article:
Continue Reading A Story of Warning for Developers & Builders Operating in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of State has issued new guidelines for real estate transactions initiated on or before March 5, 2020.  Under the new guidelines, a real estate transaction for the sale of an existing home may proceed with in-person inspections, appraisals, final walk-throughs and title insurance activities if the home was under a signed contract as of March 5, 2020.  For new construction, the same in-person activities are permitted if a contract entered on or before March 5, 2020, provides for closing and delivery of the home to the purchaser on or after March 6, 2020.  The new guidelines reiterate that all remote real estate business is permissible, including virtual or telework operation for desktop appraisals and any appraisal that does not require entrance into a physical location.
Continue Reading New Guidelines for Real Estate Transactions from PA Department of State

If your head hurts, it might be because you are one of the many who have been thrown off the Life-Sustaining Business Roller Coaster, which has had more ups, downs, loops, and spin-arounds than any coaster at Hershey Park.

At 4:00 P.M. yesterday, Governor Wolf released an updated FAQ for Life-Sustaining Business (“Updated FAQ”).  Perhaps the most glaring change is that “[a]ll exemption requests MUST be submitted no later than 5:00 P.M. on Friday, April 3, 2020.”  (Emphasis added.) We have heard the more than 32,000 waiver applications have understandably overwhelmed the Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”), which is charged with reviewing waiver applications.

The Updated FAQ has been revised significantly
Continue Reading WAIVER DEADLINE & New FAQ Updates for Life-Sustaining Businesses

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”), which executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authorities to secure critical infrastructure, updated its guidance on “what is” and “what is not” essential critical infrastructure to include housing construction.  The addition is significant because Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations, including housing construction job sites, to slow the spread of COVID-19 (“Governor’s Order”).  Interestingly, the Commonwealth’s webpage that provides information on the Governor’s Order specifically references CISA.  It states: “Business guidance has been updated after conversations with businesses, stakeholders, and individuals and has been aligned with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advisory released.” 
Continue Reading Housing Construction: “Essential Critical Infrastructure” Says U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security

During the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate professionals have struggled to get documents notarized while respecting social distancing requirements. The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), after all, requires an individual making a statement or executing a document to “appear personally” before the notarial officer. Recent direction issued by the Department of State which can be found here, however, indicates that the physical presence requirement in RULONA will be relaxed on a temporary basis for certain types of real estate transactions.

For personal residential real estate transactions
Continue Reading **UPDATE: In-Person Notary Requirements Relaxed for Real Estate Transactions**