In Part I, we discussed what the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is, when it applies, and the consequences of failure to comply with the law. Below, we’ll discuss further questions and answers regarding an overview of what’s required when COPPA applies to your website, app or online service. Continue Reading Your Website and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – Part II – Compliance Overview

Whenever a farmer needs zoning approval for an agricultural project, they cannot leave any detail to chance.  If anyone opposes the project – be it the Zoning Hearing Board, the Board of Supervisors or a group of neighbors – anytime the farmer misses even the smallest detail, it could be grounds for getting the project denied.

In Berner v. Montour Township Zoning Hearing Board, the Zoning Hearing Board (twice) and the County Court of Common Pleas (twice) approved the farmer’s zoning application for a swine nursery barn.  The Zoning Hearing Board in particular put a lot of faith in the work of Todd Rush from my friends at TeamAg. Unfortunately, there was an organized group of neighbors that opposed the application.  The Commonwealth Court eventually ruled that the Zoning Hearing Board was wrong, and that the farmer should not have received the approval for the swine barn.

Most of the Commonwealth Court’s denial dealt with very small differences between the language of the Zoning Ordinance and the Nutrient Management Act.  The Zoning Ordinance required the applicant to “submit facility designs and legally binding assurances with performance guaranties” to ensure that the operations will be “conducted without adverse impact upon adjacent properties.”  Since this sentence appears to deal with the design of manure storage facilities and manure and waste water management, the Zoning Hearing Board decided that these requirements were preempted by the Nutrient Management Act. After all, the NMA does not allow a municipality to regulate practices related to storage or application of manure or the construction or operation of manure storage facilities.

On a closer look, however, the Court decided that the preemption only applies to operations where a Nutrient Management Plan is required.  A NMP is only required for a concentrated animal operation or a concentrated animal feeding operation – a CAO or a CAFO. In this case, the use was neither a CAO nor a CAFO, so the farm only needed a Manure Management Plan, and not a NMP.  Because a NMP was not required, the preemption in the Nutrient Management Act did  not apply, and the Zoning Ordinance could require anything that it wanted. Continue Reading Zoning for Agricultural Projects: Every Detail Matters

Ever run across an idea so good you cannot imagine why you didn’t come up with it before? I found one of those last Friday when reading Lancaster Newspaper’s article Northwest Regional Police Department sets up safe zone for face-to-face exchanges.

When I read the article’s title, it sounded like a middle school dispute resolution plan for two classmates to meet face-to-face and talk through their differences. The reality is much cooler. The safe zone is a publicly maintained safe space with 24-hour video recording for two (or more) people who may not have complete trust in each other to meet. When would that happen? Well, one situation is if you are dropping off your child to your ex-spouse per a custody arrangement. But how about if you just arranged a deal on craigslist? Now you have a secure space to exchange money for that TV stand (and just in time for the big game!).

Kudos to the Manheim Borough Police Department and the Northwest Regional Police Department for setting up such spaces. It provides another example of the marriage between 21st century technology and practical thinking that makes me love Lancaster County. Now excuse me while I go off to think about the next great idea so obvious I didn’t think of yet…

Brandon Harter is an attorney and technology guru at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from William & Mary Law School and advises clients on issues of Business LawCivil Litigation & Dispute ResolutionMunicipal Law, and Information Technology & Internet Law.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, is a federal law that gives parents and legal guardians control over the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information. The goal of COPPA is to protect children’s online interactions and to make sure that parents consent to the collection and use of such data, since children under 13 are considered incapable of understanding the potential consequences of sharing such information.

Here are a few frequently asked questions and answers regarding COPPA, its application and consequences for failure to comply.

What information is considered personal information under COPPA?

 As defined under COPPA, personal information is information that is collected online and identifies an individual, including but not limited to:

  • First and last name
  • Physical address that includes street and town or city name
  • Email address
  • Online identifier that permits an individual to be contacted directly (for example, a username)
  • Telephone number
  • Social security number
  • Image, video or audio containing an individual’s image or voice
  • Information sufficient to identify the home or other physical address of an individual
  • A persistent identifier such as a cookie number, IP address, unique device number
  • Any other information collected from a child that is either about a child that can be used in combination with other personal information to identify the child

When does COPPA apply to a website, app, or online service? Continue Reading Your Website and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – Part I – Does It Apply?

We have spent a month trying to study The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reading analyses of the new tax laws, and talking to accountants, bankers and business owners about what the laws really mean. The most important thing that I have learned is that there are dozens of provisions that may be important to you.  Some of these changes overlap – you lose a deduction for one item, but gain on your standardized deduction.  Your top five things to know are going to be different from someone else’s top five, depending on their income, occupation, marital status and other factors.  It is nearly impossible to write a top five or even a top ten list.  The advice that I am giving to everyone I know is to pay attention to all of their finances, and ask lots of questions. Continue Reading The Top Five Things to Know About the New Tax Laws

The Pennsylvania Support Guidelines contain provisions with regard to payment of unreimbursed medical expenses when parties have a support order through their local domestic relations office. The procedure for reimbursement of unreimbursed medical expenses by the party not receiving support can vary from county to county in Pennsylvania and for many, the process can be confusing.

In Lancaster County, all support orders contain a provision that the individual receiving support is responsible for the first $250 of any out-of-pocket medical expenses before the individual paying support has any obligation to contribute to unreimbursed medical expenses. This $250 amount is often referred to as “the cash medical deductible.” If you are receiving support and you have incurred an out-of-pocket medical expense, what should you do? First, have you paid $250 out-of-pocket?  All expenses must be submitted to the insurance provider and only what is not covered by the insurance provider is considered out-of-pocket. You must pay $250 in a calendar year to meet the threshold.  Then you are able to request reimbursement of the amounts that exceed $250.

Requests for reimbursement are best made on a quarterly, biannual or annual basis.  Submitting requests every time a bill is received can create an unnecessary hassle.  Typically, I advise clients to keep track of all of the unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed the $250 deductible and request reimbursement from the other party on a schedule that works for your financial circumstances. The request must be made in writing with proof that you have paid $250 out-of-pocket, include the amount that has been incurred and paid above the $250 amount and then include the calculation of what the other party owes according to the terms of your support order. For example, your support order would say Payor (the person paying the support) is responsible for 53% of all unreimbursed medical expenses and Payee (the person receiving the support) is responsible for 47% of all unreimbursed medical expenses. Those percentages are then applied to the unreimbursed medical expenses above $250 to determine the amount which should be reimbursed to you. Continue Reading Support Guidelines and Unreimbursed Medical Expenses

Yes, this is a tongue twister and I’ll be impressed if you can say it five times fast, but parking is one of the biggest problems that community associations face.  No matter how the developer sets up the community, sooner or later there are either too few parking spaces, people parking where they don’t belong or parking vehicles that nobody wants to see out their front windows.  Too often developers don’t think about these issues or, if they do think about them, do not have a way to come up with a perfect solution.  The same is true of association boards.  Either they do not want to consider a plan to get a handle on parking problems or, if they do, their parking regulations don’t help the problem.

The lead article in the CAI Common Ground for September/October 2017 is titled “Park That Thought.”  It discusses some of the problems that associations have with parking.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t give many answers on how to solve the problems.  While there might not be a perfect solution to parking, some advance planning by both the developer and the association can help reduce parking problems. Continue Reading Proper Planning Prevents Parking Problems

A recent blog post from the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapter of the Community Associations Institute discussed the danger of condominium and homeowners’ associations requiring criminal background checks for renters of units.  In the blog post, Marshal Granor discusses a Department of Housing and Urban Development guidance paper on this subject.  HUD warns that most criminal background checks by housing providers have a discriminatory impact.  This means that the criminal background check policy is very likely a violation of the Fair Housing Act.  This violation of the Fair Housing Act could cause real legal trouble for associations.

The CAI blog post and the HUD guidance follows exactly the advice I have given association boards for years.  If an association requires renters to submit criminal background checks to the board for board approval, this requirement could very well be a Fair Housing Act violation.  Even though the policy is neutral, the actual effects are likely to affect minorities more than other races.  This is what the HUD calls a “disparate impact.”  And, even if the Association means well, this “disparate impact” is a Fair Housing Act violation.  Continue Reading The Danger of Using Criminal Background Checks to Screen Tenants

As an avid podcast listener, one of my favorite year-end activities is reading through the “best of” lists of the best podcasts and episodes of the year. Below are a few of my favorite lists of favorites (meta, right?) to get you started:

The Atlantic – The 50 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

IndieWire – The 50 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

My typical approach is to review the lists and their descriptions, then add episodes that sound interesting to a new playlist in my preferred podcast app, Overcast.

This year, I thought I’d share my own list of some of my favorite podcasts: Continue Reading My 2017 Podcast Picks

For those of you looking for your weekly myth, sadly, our myth series has run its course.  Now that we have covered commonly asked questions and the top 10 myths, I wanted to leave you with a few helpful tips- these tips are universal and not just for selecting an estate planning attorney.

  • Be open and honest with your lawyer
    • Your attorney is trained to know what is important. Chances are if they are asking about it, they need to know about it.  It might not seem like a big deal to you, but it could completely change their advice to you.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer
    • Feeling comfortable with your lawyer will significantly increase your ability to be open and honest with him or her. This is key for you to get the best advice and for your own piece of mind.  Even if your attorney gives you the best advice in the world, if you are not comfortable with him or her, you may never fully trust what they’ve said.
  • Don’t price shop
    • Cutting corners now can cost you big time in the end. We are seeing a rash of people trying to do things on their own or do things piece meal because they are trying to save money.  While I will be the first to wait for a sale, cut coupons, and look for the best deal, legal dealings are not always the best place to do so.  Certainly you should inquire as to fees and not blindly hand over your hard earned cash.
  • Ask family and friends for referrals if you don’t know who to go to
    • Asking someone one who has actually worked with an attorney if they liked them can be far more effective than picking a name out of a random list. However, keep in mind your friend or family member’s personality.  If you are nothing like your cousin, will the same attorney work for you?  Ask the person what they liked and disliked about the person they are recommending.  Then decide if those are qualities you are looking for as well.
  • Have a trusted financial advisor or accountant? They can make referrals as well
    • Accountants and financial advisors work with attorneys all the time. They have seen the attorney in action and can make a referral based on real interactions.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.