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Permits indicate possible upward trend in home construction

If the number of building permits granted for single-family homes thus far in 2012 is any indication, an upward trend may be forming in Archuleta County.

According to information presented by John Ruyle during the second quarter report for the Archuleta County Building Department, 105 permits for single-family residences were taken out in the first half of 2012.

That number shows what could be a modest upward trend based on the number of permits taken out in the years since 2006.

In 2006, before the economic downturn, 490 permits were taken out. The next year, that number dropped to 369. It further dropped in 2008, down to 244. In 2009, the number again dropped to 212, and 2010 saw only 186 permits granted for single-family residences. In 2011, that number increased to 205.

Despite seemingly being on pace to be relatively equal to 2011’s permit total, the 2012 figure is above that for the same time period in 2011.

Ruyle said during the report that September is usually the department’s biggest month in terms of new residential permits, and 2012 has already outperformed 2011 in numbers of permits for each month.

Ruyle said it seems as though the homes being built are for families moving to the community, noting that it would be difficult to keep track of all the different area codes of the department’s clients.

But, Ruyle said, the number of permits granted by the county does not necessarily equate to additional revenue.

Ruyle said houses permitted this year are smaller family homes (compared to large second homes that were popular before the economic downturn), and, with permit prices based on the general valuations of homes used in the building industry, permit revenues are not growing as quickly as the number of permits.

Other permits, including commercial and permits for garages, decks and such, are also, overall, on pace with last year, though Ruyle said the department has seen a decline in the number of permits specifically for decks and garages.

A second quarter report on planning department activity further illustrated the land use picture of Archuleta County.

In that report, County Planner Cindy Schultz noted that the majority of permits dealt with by the planning department thus far in 2012 have been for lot consolidations, with nine in the first quarter and 15 in the second quarter.

Schultz said the lot consolidations tend to be pursued by landowners looking to eliminate additional expenses, such as property taxes, water district fees and others.

Total applications to the planning department sat at 39 through the first half of the year, according to information included in the report.

Through the first half of the year, the department is at 26 percent of its budgeted revenue, with a projected revenue for the year of $34,000.

Schultz indicated 2012 was budgeted based on historic trends and also based on meetings with BP that anticipated six minor gas wells and one major gas facility, for a fee total of $12,500.

Since those meetings, Schultz noted she has learned BP is not planning to follow through with the plans due to declining gas prices, and said that, without those fees included, the department has brought in 41 percent of its budgeted revenues.

Also in the report, Schultz discussed the division of staff time, with 27 percent of time spent on project-related customer service for projects with active applications; 17 percent on non-project-related customer service, which includes pre-application meetings, research, website work and more; general staffing duties take up 18 percent of the department time, including updating the land use code, preparing for planning commission meetings, and attending meetings; and administrative functions take 32 percent of staff time.

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