Building in Chaffee County

Following a slump in the latter half of the past decade, building and construction activity continues to increase across Chaffee County.

Chaffee County issued 2,255 building permits – the largest number in the past 3 years – in 2014, compared to 1,851 in 2013, according to data from the county’s Development Services Department.

Of those permits issued, 1,979 were for residential projects, while the remaining 276 were for commercial projects, including large-scale projects such as Town & Country’s new combined-manufacturers dealership facility and Longfellow Elementary School, said Dan Swallow, director of development services.

The permits, which had a total valuation of $65.8 million, netted the county $655,583 in revenue – $166,131 more than in 2013.

Overall, Chaffee County and other communities are experiencing a boost in building activity since a drop-off around 2007.

The financial crisis in the latter half of the decade really hit the industry hard, and since then it has been steadily coming back, said George Wadsworth, president of Maysville Builders Inc., a company specializing in custom homes and remodels in Chaffee County.

The recovery has progressed to the point where “everyone is swamped with work,” Wadsworth added.

The number of permits issued in 2014 was 443 more than 2012, while the revenue from those permits is up $292,541 from 2012. Along with an increase in permits issued, permit fee increases approved by Chaffee County commissioners in March 2013 also contributed to the spike in revenue.

Swallow attributes the resurgence, in part, to low interest rates allowing people to borrow money at a lower cost.

“There’s certainly a direct correlation,” he said. “Lower interest rates do stimulate more development.”

Many of the projects Wadsworth’s company bid on in the past year were for remodeling, additions and other home improvement developments, rather than building all-new structures, he said.

“The majority of my work and my bids right now and for the last year have been smaller projects like remodels and additions,” Wadsworth said.

In 2014, 27 permits were issued for single-family home additions and seven permits for commercial additions, according to county data.

Other companies, such as Bird Construction Inc., are directing most of their efforts to building new homes. Other than several small remodeling jobs, such as installing new kitchen cabinets, nearly all the jobs Bird Construction Inc. does involve new construction, said Eric Bird, owner.

Countywide, 114 new single-family homes were constructed and 19 new commercial buildings were built in 2014.

Both Wadsworth and Bird said the majority of their projects are in incorporated parts of the county – Bird estimates 90 percent of his jobs are within Salida city limits. Despite what some people might believe, there is a significant amount of new construction activity in incorporated areas of the county, Bird said.

“There’s more than you think. I’m currently building a house in the (Salida) city limits,” he said.

There is a general desire to live in cities and towns, Wadsworth said.

“The trend is everyone is moving to the cities or towns, the reason being because it’s so much more convenient,” he said.

More than half of the 2,255 building permits issued in 2014 were in unincorporated Chaffee County, Swallow said. Of the 1,256 permits for projects in unincorporated Chaffee County, 1,146 were residential and 110 were commercial.

Salida led all incorporated parts of the county with 677 permits, 586 of which were residential permits. Buena Vista had 238 permits, while Poncha Springs had 84 permits.

“I think the general trend is permits are up countywide. I don’t see anything that would say one area or region is doing better,” Swallow said.

As for whether or not the trend will continue, Swallow said building activity is cyclical, but if interest rates continue to remain low, he said he does not see anything that would signal a reduction in building activity.

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