Summit County construction building on last year’s boom
May 8, 2015
For the second year in a row, construction is booming in Summit County.
First-quarter data from the county’s building department shows 181 building permits issued from January through March, which represents a 47-percent jump from the same period last year. It is a 99-percent increase compared to 2013.
Building inspections in the county nearly doubled last year over 2013 and that trend has continued into this year. The county performed 3,746 inspections through March, a 37-percent bump from 2014. Robert Taylor, Summit County’s chief building official, said the spike in activity is indicative that the county’s economy is flourishing.
"It looks to me like at least our little economy here in Summit County has really recovered back to pre-recession levels," he said. "People are confident and building homes. A lot of the permits being issued are for homes and high-end condominium buildings."
"There were a lot of projects that had been developed and obtained approval before the recession that kind of laid shallow in the field and nothing happened with them since 2008," he added. "A lot of those projects have now been bought up and they’re now being completed."
The data shows that the majority of the increased activity is happening in the Snyderville Basin. Permits were issued to 55 new dwellings in that area since January, including a handful of townhome developments. Construction in the rest of the county has remained relatively steady, Taylor said.
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"We’re seeing fireworks in the Snyderville Basin," he said. "There aren’t really any fireworks going on anywhere else or anything extraordinary. The rest of the county is seeing just normal, steady growth."
The valuations of the building permits issued also rose in the first quarter. The cumulative valuation of just more than $32 million represents a 32-percent increase from a year ago. However, while Taylor expects valuations to be higher than last year due to the sum of the increased construction, he said the average valuation will likely normalize by the end of the year.
Matt Russell, president of the Park City Area Homebuilders Association, said the boom has many builders booked up for the next year, or even two. However, that comes with downsides, as well. Put simply, there aren’t enough qualified workers to go around.
"Labor is a challenge right now just because everyone is busy and trying to keep up with the workload," he said, adding that the price of materials has remained steady with the market. "It’s hard to find skilled or talented labor right now."
One downside last year’s construction boom caused was delays for building inspections, with homebuilders reporting waits of up to five days. To meet the demand this year, the county hired an additional inspector and is in the process of hiring another one.
However, finding a second inspector has proven to be a challenge, as Summit County is not the only area in the state where inspectors are in demand. Taylor said that has forced the building department to expand its search for another inspector to a national level.
"Getting one hired has been a tough thing to do because everyone else in the state is trying to hire one, too," he said, adding the position was first advertised in January.
The county also included money in the building department’s budget for a contract inspector, who is working twice a week to help meet the demand, which Taylor expects to increase in the summer months.
"I expect that we’re going to be operating at 100 percent of capacity, that’s for sure," Taylor said.
To help make the process easier, the building department has also instituted other changes. For instance, a new inspection scheduling system allows people to call in to request inspections rather than visiting the office.
Russell said the county’s efforts to meet the demand for inspections and permits has had the desired effect.
"The county has been very receptive to our concerns," he said. "They’ve been very good to work with."
While it’s still early in the year, Taylor said the construction boom could continue for the foreseeable future.
"The next few years look really good for us," he said. "There are thousands of residential lots and single-family things that are being talked about that are slowly churning their way through the development process. From what I can see, it looks like the forecast will be for pretty strong growth the next four or five years."
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