Optimism Building in Region’s Construction Industry
by Gus Jarvis
May 16, 2013 | 1297 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BUILDING OPTIMISM – Tom How (left) and Daniel Key of Sjoden Wood Designs worked on a new home in the Cobble Creek Golf Community Tuesday morning. The spec home is being built under the direction of contractor Bert Welz, who said he’s optimistic for the region’s construction trade. (Photo by William Woody)
BUILDING OPTIMISM – Tom How (left) and Daniel Key of Sjoden Wood Designs worked on a new home in the Cobble Creek Golf Community Tuesday morning. The spec home is being built under the direction of contractor Bert Welz, who said he’s optimistic for the region’s construction trade. (Photo by William Woody)

2013 Sees Increase in Building Permits

WESTERN SAN JUANS – With new project starts on the upswing across the region, a sense of optimism is growing that construction may be on the rebound after slumping for more than five years.

“I have been through slumps and ups and downs in the state of Colorado over the past 40 years,” semi-retired builder Burt Welz said on Tuesday. A Montrose resident, Welz is building a new spec home in the Cobble Creek Golf Community subdivision and has confidence that the most recent construction slump is behind us. “I am pretty optimistic for the future.”

Welz is not alone in his optimism, as other members of the building trade in the region are seeing more work as well. New building permit numbers taken from municipalities across the region suggest a positive trend that could mark the end of a years-long construction slump.

Through the month of April in the City of Montrose, 12 new single-family home permits were issued by the city’s building department. That’s only seven fewer than the 19 permits issued for the entire year of 2012.

“If we have as many permits in May as we did in April, we will be nearly to the number of single-family permits in all of 2012,” City of Montrose Community Development Director Kerwin Jensen said. “I’m not willing to call it a trend yet but we are having an upswing in both commercial and residential construction.”

The Town of Mountain Village is, perhaps, seeing one of the largest increases in new construction starts in the region. Through March, the Mountain Village Community Development Department has issued 49 building permits (for all construction-related activities), marking a 277 percent increase from the 13 permits the department issued during this same time period in 2012. Based on Design Review Board approvals, Mountain Village officials are expecting an additional seven new single-family home starts this year, at least.

The Town of Telluride’s building department has issued 34 permits through April 25 marking a 62 percent increase from the 21 permits issued in that timeframe in 2012. Telluride’s Interim Building and Planning Director Michelle Haynes said the valuations of those permits issued have also increased significantly, from $41,136 in 2012 to $168,275 in 2013.

“We are a lot more active,” Haynes said. “There is a higher number of real estate transactions this year, and we are seeing a lot more people pursuing development.” 

Peter Garber, vice president of Telluride-based Bone Construction, said his company was lucky over the past few years because it has stayed pretty busy. But while they have remained busy, Garber said they are becoming increasingly busy now.

“We were able to keep our base crew employed, and we have started hiring in the last couple of months,” Garber said. “We may even be hiring more in the future. In general, I do see a lot more activity. It looks good.”

John Baskfield, owner of the small Ridgway-based architecture firm Conterra Workshop, echoed much of what Garber said.

“I am certainly busier this year than I have been in past years,” Baskfield said. “My general impression is that more people are busy right now and that there has been a steady growth over the past year.”

In the Ouray County municipalities of Ouray and Ridgway, the picture isn’t as rosy. Administrators from Ridgway and Ouray are reporting somewhat flat new construction numbers.

“We have seen more interest lately but it has not translated into numbers,” said Ouray City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli. “We have one single-family house on the books right now. That would equal what we did last year. Just recently, we had another individual come to us about another home. That would double us from last year.”

So far in Ridgway there has been only one single-family residence permit issued, which is half of what was issued in 2012. Those numbers remain a significant decrease from the 75 single-family permits issued in 2005.

“We are holding steady but it’s nothing like it was,” Ridgway Town Manager Jen Coates said. “We have a few commercial units and a few residential units going on. The fact that we are issuing permits is optimistic.”

In Montrose, Jensen said another reason to be optimistic is the significant new construction going on over on the Front Range.

“They are really going big again in new single-family housing,” Jensen said. “What I have learned is that we are generally a couple of years behind the Front Range. One woman I spoke to in Weld County said they are doing well for single-family construction.”

Jensen still cautioned that while current numbers may suggest a trend, he’s not going to call it a trend until it lasts for two or three years. He also said that while the news is positive, it will still take a long time for new housing projects to use up the surplus of vacant lots in Montrose.

For now, at least, the mood in construction seems to have shifted to the positive.

“I feel like we have bottomed out as far as foreclosures go,” Welz said. “I can’t see anything but going up in the next three years.”



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