Dale Franks, of Duckels Construction, uses an excavator in July to remove what remains of an old house, which was owned by the Holy Name Catholic Church to make way for the church's planned expansion. The value of building permits issued in Routt County through the first three months of 2013 is up 33 percent over the same period in 2012.

Photo by John F. Russell

Dale Franks, of Duckels Construction, uses an excavator in July to remove what remains of an old house, which was owned by the Holy Name Catholic Church to make way for the church's planned expansion. The value of building permits issued in Routt County through the first three months of 2013 is up 33 percent over the same period in 2012.

Routt County building permit valuation up sharply through first quarter of 2013

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— The value of building permits issued in Routt County through the first three months of 2013 is up 33 percent over the same period in 2012, leading to cautious optimism about the state of the local construction industry and whether this year will see modest growth in new building projects.

Routt County Regional Building Department official Carl Dunham said Monday that the first quarter of 2012 saw permit valuation of about

$14 million. The first three months of 2013 have brought a permit valuation of

$21 million. He attributed this year’s increase in part to the approximately $4 million permit valuation of the final building permit for the major addition to Holy Name Catholic Church on Oak Street, a project that is poised to go vertical this spring.

Dunham also is counting the $3.5 million permit valuation for the new Four Points Lodge announced by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. last week, as well as an eight-unit apartment building being built this year in Old Town by Horizons Specialized Services.

Dunham said the $21 million in permit valuation for the first three months of this year also includes a couple of high-end single-family homes. And he anticipates more of those types of projects could be forthcoming.

Wes Dearborn, of Dearborn Construction Inc., said he is in conversations with several prospective builders about new home starts, but nothing has been finalized yet. He theorizes that there are a number of people with the intent and the means to build new custom homes here who deferred their plans because of the economy. It’s now to the point that it’s becoming harder for them to continue to delay the realization of a new home.

“I feel like there’s activity out there, but it’s yet to be seen” how many people actually move forward with construction, Dearborn said.

The latest figures from the Routt County Regional Building Department do not include any of the $21 million in permit valuation for Casey’s Pond senior living community, which propped up 2012’s numbers. The project at Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40 will continue to be built out until late this year. However, Dunham said the permit for Four Points Lodge might not show up in the official March report because it has not technically been issued.

Permit valuations are not the same as the retail value of a new building and do not include the value of appliances and fixtures, for example. The full cost of Holy Name Catholic Church’s project was placed at just more than $6 million by the owners, and Ski Corp. described Four Points as a $5 million-plus project.

Based on historical trends, Dunham told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Monday that the numbers for January, February and March paint an optimistic picture for the rest of 2013, because the first quarter has fairly consistently during the past two decades produced only about 15 percent of the year’s total permit valuation.

Extrapolated that trend over the remaining nine months of the year would mean $133 million in building permit valuation this year, compared to $79 million in 2012. But Dunham wondered if the historic trends can hold up.

“I don’t think we’re going to get there,” Dunham said.

He said the final quarter of 2012 was unnaturally slow, and he questioned whether building permits that otherwise might have come through late last year were held back until the outcome of the national elections was known.

“We were cruising along pretty well late last year and then it just got dead,” Dunham said.

Still, he said, he is hearing informally from draftsmen and architects who tell him they are drawing projects intended to go forward this construction season.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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