DCBIA meeting attracts 60 participants | RecordCourier.com
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DCBIA meeting attracts 60 participants

by Linda Hiller

More than 60 people attended the year’s first general membership meeting of the Douglas County Building Industry Association, held in the back room of the JT Basque Bar & Dining Room Wednesday evening.

Representatives of Douglas County’s building industry heard county building official Norm Denny and economic development planner Mimi Moss talk about changes in the county building codes and the master plan.

“I left my crystal ball at home,” Denny began, as he led members through building statistics for the last four years with a glance toward the future. Denny showed that for both commercial and residential construction, the rate of building permits issued has been relatively even.

n The statistics since 1996. For commercial projects, in the fiscal year 1996-97, 38 building permits with a valuation of $20 million were issued; in 1997-98, 46 permits valued at $33 million were issued. In 1998-99, 37 permits totaled $36 million; and so far this fiscal year, 19 building permits have been issued with a value of $21.2 million. Denny projected the final number would be 35 to 40 permits.

For residential projects, Denny told the crowd that in 1996-1997, 443 building permits with a value of $64.7 million were issued; 1997-1998, 440 permits worth $65.9 million; 1998-1999, 456 permits with a value of $76.6 million; and in 1999-2000, 261 permits valued at $44.5 million. Denny said he expects that number to climb to 445.

Trends in residential building have reached new highs, Denny said, with more million dollar homes being built, and a record $50 million private residence in the works.

“At the Lake, we’re seeing more people tearing down existing homes and putting up high dollar homes,” he said, explaining that this “footprinting” is a way around that community’s moratorium on new homes. Because new homes cannot be built, existing homes are being demolished so a new home can be built in their “footprint.”

n Changes coming. Denny informed association members that the new international building codes will be going into effect July 1. The codes are being standardized by the International Council of Building Officials to provide safe structures across the globe. Denny invited builders to attend the county’s Tuesday morning meetings to learn more.

Denny also discussed the general requirements for another change that builders need to be aware of – the Design and Development Standards Ordinance 99-902 in compliance with Senate Bill 323. This ordinance regulates the design and construction of all new single family dwellings and manufactured homes in all residential zoning districts, he said.

“What this means is that mobile homes can’t necessarily be restricted from being put up in stick-built communities,” Denny said.

n Master plan is blueprint. Mimi Moss, the county’s planning and economic development manager, discussed the growth vs. no growth issues facing Douglas County, pointing out that a master plan is a blueprint of how a community should look when it reaches buildout.

The master plan for Douglas County, adopted in April 1996, has had only 12 approved requests for amendments, with six requests denied, Moss said. So few amendments and amendment requests seems to indicate the pan is pretty solid, she said.

Among the issues facing the county, Moss cited open space/agriculture preservation as one of the most pressing. Moss pointed out that much of the open space land in question, around 25,000 acres, is within the 100-year flood plain designation.

Builder Jim Woods expressed his objection to the Lincoln-Douglas Exchange (formerly called the rural lands initiative), where property owners can sell their development rights for cash right now, guaranteeing their land will always remain in agriculture, or at least undeveloped, and thus “open space.”

“I think the rural lands initiative should pay its own way,” Woods said, citing, among other things, building permit fees, real estate taxes, and population-driven funds including senior care, police and school funds that are lost when land isn’t allowed to be developed.

Woods said that restricting checkerboard areas for “development” and “no development,” could lead to leapfrog development, with expensive roads and infrastructure needed to link them together. Moss cited the existence of more than 6,000 available lots throughout the county in areas designated “urban development” on the master plan map.

“The master plan projects a 2 to 3-1/2 percent growth rate to 2015,” she said. “There’s still a lot of area for development.”

n Big concern. Denny told builders that to keep the Valley’s favorable Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) insurance rating, there would now be three flood elevation certificates – given at different stages of construction, costing them $250 each – required of each construction project in the county.

In response to an audit by FEMA, Denny said 50 properties in the county were in violation of this new requirement, and were being modified to pass.

Builders were concerned about the lack of elevation benchmarks throughout the Valley so they could comply with the new requirements without spending thousands of dollars on surveyors.

Denny commiserated with the builders and recommended they write to Washington, D.C. to voice their concerns about the new requirements.

“We don’t want to lose our FEMA rating, though, because then everyone in the Valley will see their insurance rates go up,” he said.