Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ketchum wants remodels, additions

City waives building-permit fees for small projects

Express Staff Writer

Almost all of Ketchum's construction this year has been small projects: remodels, additions, reroofings and the like. For that reason, the city is temporarily waiving building-permit fees for projects of $50,000 or less to persuade people into improving their properties now.

The Ketchum City Council unanimously, and without much debate, approved the action on Monday, affecting anyone who submits building-permit applications by Dec. 31. Construction must start within six months of a permit's approval.

Lisa Horowitz, Ketchum's director of community and economic development, said the average permit fee for projects $50,000 or less is $672.

Ketchum also waived half the permit fee for projects valued between $50,001 and $100,000.

All in all, the loss to the city should be a few thousand dollars, according to Ketchum Building Official Dennis Keierleber.

"I think it's a great gesture and won't make or break the budget either way," he said.

The city has seen an average of about $41 million in construction a year, according to building-permit data back to 1983. Construction of new homes, commercial buildings and condominiums usually account for 81 percent of this spending, with minor projects to repair, remodel or add bringing in the remaining 19 percent.

But the business has shifted in 2010 with small projects accounting for 58 percent of all construction spending.

Small projects have totaled $8 million in work, $100,000 more than the average for this kind of work. And the year's not even over yet. Surpassing a construction-industry average is a feat considering that all Ketchum construction—whether erecting a building or remodeling an existing one—totals $13.7 million so far this year, one third of the $40.9 million norm.

New construction spending has amounted to a mere $5.7 million this year, far from the average $33 million.

While small projects have brought in more dollars to the industry than new construction in 2010, it takes a lot of them to have an impact. The city has seen 96 small projects this year and three new buildings erected; however, the split—dollar wise—is about 60-40. That's because the average alteration or addition cost $83,200 this year, while the average new building cost $1.9 million.

Councilman Larry Helzel said he completely supports the waiver, but it's only for two months and during the late fall and winter. He suggested extending it to a year.

Horowitz pointed out that people have half a year after obtaining their permits to start work. Plus, she said, extending it would have a dramatic fiscal impact requiring budget changes for the city.

Councilwoman Nina Jonas suggested keeping the waiver as it is, available until Dec. 31. The council could then consider extending it if the waiver's well received. The other council members agreed.

Trevon Milliard:

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