Moffat County, Craig building permits down in 2009

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As the weather warms, so the construction season begins.

Heading into this year’s construction season, Moffat County building inspector Pat Mosbey said the forecast of construction activity is clouded.

But Mosbey remains optimistic.

“Things are looking a little bit uncertain, but I’m hopeful because I’ve got plans on my desk right now, and I’ve had calls on a weekly basis of people wanting to introduce new projects,” he said.

Building permits issued in the county in 2009 declined by about 50 percent from 2008 — a sign of the tough economy, Mosbey said.

In 2006 and 2007, Moffat saw the largest number of building permits it had in recent years.

Since then, permits have declined steadily and have somewhat leveled off, Mosbey said.

“Things are still OK,” Mosbey said. “Things are still moving forward. We are not at the pace we were, but people are still spending a little money and doing a few things.”

The city of Craig took less of a hit than the county, seeing a 35-percent drop in building activity in 2009 from 2008 said Dave Costa, Craig community development director.

After the first three months of 2010, the city is doing better than the first three months of 2009, Costa said.

“It is really too premature to say that we are going to see a gain over last year’s numbers,” Costa said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, and the economy is pretty scary.

“The problem now is that people want to develop, but right now, they are having a real difficult time securing financing for some of these projects, and that is where the problem lies, in my opinion.”

Mosbey agrees.

“Despite everything the federal government has been trying to do to loosen up loans, I don’t think it has worked on this level yet,” he said.

He also said consumer confidence in the economy is a contributing factor of declining building permits.

“It is always an indication of a good, sound economy when people are willing to (build),” he said. “Let’s face it, most of them are borrowing money. They are speculating on the future, so if they feel hopeful about the future, they are a lot more likely to (build).”

Building permit numbers, Mosbey said, are a good indication of the economy at large.

“When consumer confidence is down, they don’t spend extra money, even if they have it, they are not going to spend it to build an addition or whatever,” he said. “When the building permits dropped off, the economy dropped off right along with it.”

Mosbey said he also had noticed a shift in the residential housing market.

He said there has been a shift from stick-built homes to modular or mobile homes and homes being built now are usually smaller and more conservative.

Vacation houses built in the county also have taken a hit, he said.

In 2009, the county issued about 10 permits for vacation homes, down from the usual average of about 25 per year.

“Apparently, if people are building vacation homes, they still have some money,” he said.

Instead of houses, the county is seeing smaller construction such as garage and housing additions, Mosbey said.

County Planner Jerry Hoberg said the county has not seen any larger development requests, and land parcels for sale are, for the most part, not selling.

“There are a lot of lots that are available for sale, and people are just not buying them,” Hoberg said. “People are just sitting and saying, ‘We’ll just wait until things turn around and maybe we’ll go buy a lot out in the county. We’ll just stay in the house we’re in. We don’t want to move now. We want to wait and see what is going to happen.’

“There are a lot of questions out there before people are willing to take the chance to buy a 5-, 10-, or 20- acre parcel and build a new house.”

Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or briansmith@craigdailypress.com.

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