Building report shows new construction is up in Grand County

Construction in Grand County is on the rise, according to the most recent data from the Grand County Building Department. In his annual report to the Grand County Council, building inspector Jeff Whitney said his office has issued permits for $13 million in new construction projects so far this year, outpacing the first quarter of 2016 by 200 percent.

Part of that early boon, Whitney said, can be attributed to warmer weather in early 2017, which allowed a quick start to building projects.

Whitney said he expects construction overall this year will continue to increase as it has the past several years.

In 2016, Grand County and Moab city had $64.3 million in new construction, approximately $20 million more than 2015, which closed at $43.8 million.

“I don’t see any signs of slowing,” Whitney told The Times-Independent.

The office is also busy doing inspections in San Juan County, after an interlocal agreement was reached in February. That agreement requires Grand County to perform all plan reviews and building inspections in Spanish Valley, the west slope of the La Sal Mountains and the Bridger Jack Mesa area. San Juan County did not have a qualified, licensed commercial building inspector to perform those services in those areas.

So far this year, the county has tracked $745,000 in construction in San Juan County.

“Basically what we try and do is stay in the black, which we have a pretty easy time doing, and that’s why we told [San Juan County] we wouldn’t go any farther past Bridger Jack because then it would probably become an expense,” Whitney told the Grand County Council. “They asked us to go past La Sal, and that’s not an animal we really feel we can handle in our office.”

Grand County also seems to be surpassing Moab city when it comes to development, Whitney said. Last year, the county had $37.7 million in new construction, compared to $24.9 million in the city.

“I would have thought the city would be much higher than the county at this point. We keep projecting that it’s going to be, but still we see more growth in the county than we do in the city,” Whitney said.

Whitney attributed part of that growth to available land in Grand County.

“For the most part, because residential is still the bigger part of construction, the availability for lots is in the county,” he said.

Of the $64.3 million in new construction in 2016, $34 million was residential building and $28.5 million was commercial construction.

“The county’s residential construction is far and away the largest portion of our workload,” Whitney said.

Residential construction does not include hotels and motels, Whitney said. However, it does include condominiums, “which [are] basically overnight rentals in Moab,” he said.

Tracking the percentage of overnight rentals included in residential construction is difficult, said Mona Pompili, Grand County permit technician.

“We don’t have a way to measure it because they pull those permits just as houses,” she said.

However, Pompili has been following the issue, tracking residential projects that become mostly overnight rentals, such as Red Cliffs Condos and the Entrada development on 400 North.

“We’ll have some fairly good numbers on that next year,” she said.

ByBy Molly Marcello

The Times-Independent