Increase in building shows positive economic trend
By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer
Residential construction has accounted for the majority of buildings projects so far this year in Chilton County.
However, building officials have also seen commercial ventures through renovations of existing buildings rather than new construction.
Buildings officials say positive changes in the economy are pushing local construction and renovations.
Such building trends are evident in the number of building permits that have been approved.
“Commercial and industrial development have been more than the residential in the year and a half to two years in the past. Here lately, residential has been more than industry, however the commercial is fairly prevalent, too,” Cecil “Gene” Martin, Clanton building inspector, said.
Martin said low interest loans and state grants that were available a few years ago helped to increase business development and industry expansion. Now, expansions of local industries and new business opening or relocating to Clanton have brought an increase in residential construction.
“These are new people to the town,” Martin said. “They wanted to locate here because they chose to come to Clanton.”
Existing, locally-owned businesses are also renovating or relocating to new buildings in other location in town.
From January to May 2018, building permits were approved for 58 residential projects, 36 commercial projects and eight renovation projects.
“I know our records show we had more residential but that flip flops so fast … I can tell you without any doubt that my inspections performed for commercial far exceed the residential,” Martin said.
This is partly because many of the renovation projects have been for businesses. Even a renovation project for a business can exceed a house construction project in cost and thus monetary value.
There are also more inspections that are required on a commercial structure than on a residential structure.
“Since the economy has improved, I think people are finally starting to see a difference,” Martin said.
He said people have steady jobs and are starting to be able to afford a house.
“The home industry in the last year escalated,” Martin said.
Residential projects have included both single family houses and multi-family housing, including town homes, and in past years, apartments. Martin said another multi-family project is in the works.
Additional new businesses have already started the approval process with the city. Some of these are out-of-town business owners looking to locate in buildings that have been empty for years.
There are many approval stages a project must go through with the city before a project is complete. This includes submitting a site plan, plans for needed infrastructure (sewer, waterline, etc.) ALDOT permits (when required) and inspections after the project is complete.
While new construction has been the most prevalent in Clanton, Jemison has seen more renovations to existing residential and commercial buildings.
In 2018 up until May, there were 12 permits for new residential construction and 30 permits for remodeling projects (including residential and commercial), compared to 10 commercial permits.
Jemison building inspector John Dennis has been in this position for the past six years and said in that time residential construction has accounted for the most development, although there has been several commercial projects in the area also.
“Now, I’m not talking just new construction, we have had 26 new commercial businesses open up in two years,” Dennis said.
Commercial projects in 2018 have mostly been renovations to existing buildings for new businesses.
“We had a pretty good spike last year in new commercial building,” Dennis said.
These businesses have been a mixture of retail, food and service-related businesses, Dennis said.
“I think as the economy has gotten better, people have more money to spend, folks are wanting to invest in businesses,” Dennis said.
He said many of the businesses have been started by local people.
Dennis said it is common for someone getting a permit for a remodel to have plans to renovate the home, sometimes down to the studs, in order to sell it, also known as flipping.
He said the time from issuing the permit to allow for renovation to when a certificate of occupancy is approved is usually 90 to 120 days in Jemison. He said many of these homes do not need a lot of structural work.
“It’s something I have seen a tick up in this year and last year,” Dennis said.
He said improvements in the economy are the reason for increase in house flipping in Jemison.
The process usually begins with a call to the building inspector, approval process for their plans and approval of the permit.
Dennis said there continues to be interest in the city from both residential and commercial developments.
Julie Adams of the Thorsby Building Department said there has been more residential construction than commercial construction thus far this year.
“Seems like the construction business may be a little busier than last year,” Adams said. “It is better, because of the weather, I think.”
From January to May, there were eight permits approved. This included six residential and two renovations.
She said the increase in residential construction was due to “people selling land that has been in the family for a long time and they no longer live here, so they are selling the land to builders.”
While house flipping is a trend in nearby Jemison, the trend has not spread into Thorsby.
“Thorsby has a lot of historical homes that people want to stay that way,” Adams said.
Both residential and commercial construction or renovation generates immediate revenue to the municipality in the form of a building permit fee. The amount of the fee is determined based on the value of the project. In Clanton from May 2017 to May 2018, residential fees generated $22,468.41 and commercial fees generated $46,295.67. During the last fiscal year in Jemison,
$17, 000 to $18,000 was generated through permit fees, according to Dennis. From January to May 2018, permits in Thorsby have generated $2,000.
Each project represents future tax revenues to the municipality, but also serves as a positive visual of how the local economy is doing.
The unincorporated portion of the county and the town of Maplesville do not require building permits, nor do they have a building official making building trends harder to track.