In an era of ever expanding uses for our smart devices, we know that we rely to some extent upon cloud based services. (I almost said smartphones until I responded to a text on my Huawei Watch while typing that sentence). These come in many flavors such as software-as-a-service (SaaS or “sass”) platforms like Office 365 or Gmail or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS or “I don’t have any idea how to pronounce this so I call it i-a-a-s”) platforms like Amazon Web Services. But explaining the differences between these tools can be tough. Continue Reading Don’t SaaS me! – What exactly is Software-as-a-Service?

I recently discussed an important victory for farmers in the case of Branton v. Nicholas Meat, LLC. The Branton case also had another interesting discussion that should help all agricultural operations, even those that do not generate or use food processing waste (“FPW”).

One of the requirements to be protected under the Right to Farm Act is that an operation must be “lawfully” in operation for more than one year. During the operation of the farms that spread FPW, the DEP issued a couple of notices of violation (“NOV”) to the farmers. The NOVs complained of spreading FPW without an approved Nutrient Management Plan, spreading FPW during winter months and spreading within 150 feet of a stream.  Continue Reading A Legal Victory for Farmers (Part 2)

Lancaster CountyPennsylvania Courts just announced an important victory for farmers in the case of Branton v. Nicholas Meat, LLC. This case helps farmers that generate and use food processing waste (“FPW”).  It also helps any agricultural use that is subject to any sort of state or federal permit.  In the case, the farmers operated a slaughterhouse which generates FPW.  The farmers applied the FPW to nearby farms.  They also constructed a new 2,400,000 gallon storage tank to hold the FPW. A number of neighboring property owners filed a lawsuit, saying that the spreading of FPW is a nuisance.  The farmers claimed that their operation was protected by the Right to Farm Act.

The Right to Farm Act provides that a neighbor cannot bring a nuisance action against a “normal agricultural operation.”  Most of the cases under the Right to Farm Act focus on whether a certain practice is a “normal agricultural operation.”  In a previous case, Gilbert v. Synagro, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that the Court, and not a jury, was able to decide whether a practice was a normal agricultural operation.  The Court in Gilbert determined that the application of bio-solids was a normal agricultural operation.  In Branton, the Court found that the application of FPW is a normal agricultural operation. This means that the spreading of FPW is protected by the Right to Farm Act for all agricultural operations across the state.

The way that the Superior Court arrived at this decision is just as important as the holding itself.  First of all, the Court noted that the DEP regulates the spreading and storage of FPW as an agricultural operation. The Court said “we conclude that DEP’s experience and expertise in dealing with the regulation of FPW use and enforcement of the Right to Farm Act also supports a finding that the spreading of FPW is an accepted, well-regulated farming practice.”  This is very helpful because DEP regulations include a number of substances that are not traditionally seen as “fertilizer” by non-farmers.  In this decision, the Superior Court is saying that Courts and other tribunals should defer to the DEP’s judgment on these matters. Continue Reading A Legal Victory for Farmers (Part 1)

Lancaster’s business and technology community continues to get noticed on the national stage. Earlier this month, it was announced that the Rise of the Rest 6.0 Tour will be coming to Lancaster on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Rise of the Rest is a pitch competition for entrepreneurs, sponsored by AOL co-founder Steve Case, that gives startups the opportunity to win a $100,000.00 investment. Continue Reading Attention Central PA Entrepreneurs: Startup Pitch Competition Coming to Lancaster

Two of the most common complaints I hear as a litigation attorney are “why is it so expensive” and “why does it take so long.” Part of the answer to both questions are the procedural rules for discovery which often end up being both a blessing and a curse. The upside is that parties can fully investigate the factual basis for their claims. The downside is that the exploration comes at a cost of time and money.

To streamline the discovery process, many courts have adopted form interrogatories (i.e. written questions) and document requests for certain kinds of cases. For example, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has form discovery requests for use in premises liability and motor vehicle accident cases. These form requests avoid wrangling between the attorneys over whether a request is too broad. They can also be answered more quickly since attorney’s who expect the requests will tailor their intake forms and client questionnaires to get the information they know they will need for discovery. Continue Reading Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Program Aims to Help Save Time and Money

Lancaster OnlineLancaster County recently discussed the property tax rates for the 2018-19 tax year for all Lancaster County school districts. Since your school tax is usually much larger than the municipal and county tax, the increase in the school tax rate is going to account for the majority of the increase in your property taxes. With this information, you can start to determine how your property tax reassessment will affect you.

If you live in the Hempfield School District, for example, the 2018-19 school tax millage will be 20.33.  Even if the municipal and county taxes remain the same, a change in the assessed value of your property will mean an increase in your property taxes.  For example, if the value of your property in the Hempfield School District was increased by $100,000.00, your taxes will increase at least $2,033.00 per year.  Because most school districts increase their tax rates every year (unless you live in the Manheim Central School District, anyway), the effect that your reassessment will have on taxes will get greater every year.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

As summer vacation hits its peak, we sometimes start thinking about estate planning before we board the plane for that long-awaited getaway.  We’ve put it off for one reason or another but is it time to just take care of it?  Figuring out your estate plan can seem overwhelming but a qualified and thoughtful estate planning attorney will answer all of your questions and help to make it easy.

What paperwork do I need?  Who do I appoint?  What do I need to appoint someone for?  What documents do what?  Do I need a trust?  Over the last few years, we’ve published several blog articles to help you sort through it all.  Here are a few posts that will help you feel more comfortable with the process of completing your estate planning. Continue Reading Is your Estate Planning Ready for Summer Vacation?

By now you should have received your final assessment for your home’s value.  After opening the dreaded notice, it likely goes one of two ways – hopefully, the assessment is accurate and it’s no big deal, but if your jaw hit the floor, don’t fret, we are here to help!

Over the past few months we have posted a series of blog articles explaining the reassessments and outlining the process of an appeal.  Now that the time has come, here’s what you need to know in a nutshell.

  1. Final notices were either mailed out June 9 or June 14, which means that you only have until either July 19 or July 24 to get your appeal in. You can find the appeal deadline listed on the assessment.
  1. If you appeal the assessment value within forty days, the appeal application fee is waived. How often can you do stuff like this for free?
  1. You, as the filing party, are responsible for providing proof that your home’s market value is not what they think it is.

If you fail to provide the documentation you need to substantiate your appeal, your appeal will undoubtedly be denied.  No harm, no foul, right?  I mean you didn’t have to pay the $40 appeal fee. Well, chances are that if you had just put some time and effort into researching what you need and gathering enough evidence, you would be enjoying a lower value and tax bill.  Continue Reading Lancaster County Assessment Notices are Out…Now What?

We have written a series of blog articles dealing with property tax assessments.  Since the final reassessment notices have gone out in the past few weeks, I have talked with a number of people about appealing their assessments.  Two questions come up in every conversation. They are:

  1. Do I need to get an appraisal of my property?
  2. How much will this cost?

For a commercial or industrial property, you nearly always need an appraisal in order to reduce your assessment.  I have spoken with a number of commercial real estate appraisers, and even former members of assessment appeal boards. They (and I) believe that the Assessment Appeal Board will not even consider reducing the assessment of a commercial or industrial property without an appraisal report from a qualified commercial real estate appraiser. Continue Reading How Much Will a Property Tax Assessment Appeal Cost for Commercial Properties?

According to this worldatlas.com report, Pennsylvania has the fifth highest percentage of residents over the age of 65. As the Pennsylvanian population ages, senior citizens face a myriad of issues they may not have thought of or planned for such as living longer than their retirement, increasing health insurance costs, being the target of scammers looking for some quick cash, needing help with their finances and health care decisions, and navigating the confusing world of Social Security and Medicare.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) recently released “A Guide to Legal Issues for Pennsylvania Senior Citizens.”  In an effort to ensure this guide is made available to anyone who may benefit from it, the PBA provides this information free of charge and did not copyright the documents. Continue Reading Legal Issues for Senior Citizens- A Guide