Construction slacks off in Garfield County | AspenTimes.com
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Construction slacks off in Garfield County

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY ” The nation’s economic slow down has hit western Colorado’s Garfield County, as evidenced by a substantial drop in building permits, yet some of the county’s largest projects in decades are moving forward.

The construction business has been booming in Garfield County over the past five years, as energy workers flocked to the area, and home and commercial construction markets surged.

Building permits for the western Garfield County communities, including Rifle, Silt, New Castle and Parachute, had increased drastically since 2004. Rifle went from 109 building permits issued in 2004 ” covering everything from residential construction and commercial projects to additions and home renovations ” to 280 permits for 2007.

Rifle issued 79 permits for single-family homes in 2004, plus nine multifamily buildings with 57 units. Fast forward to 2007, when single-family home permits fell to 48, but multifamily permits for condos and townhomes rose to 47 permits for 137 units.

But the boom days are over, at least for now. Building permits have dropped significantly around the county.

“Building permits from June ’07 to June of ’08 are down 30 percent,” said Fred Jarman, Garfield County Building and Planning director.

Building permits for areas outside of municipalities within Garfield County fell from 200 residential units through August 2007 to 128 residential units through August 2008.

Rifle issued eight single-family home permits and only two multifamily permits for six units through July 2008. Compared to the same period in 2007, those numbers are down significantly. Rifle issued 39 single-family permits and 28 multifamily permits for 84 units through July 2007.

New Castle also saw a drop in building permits. Ninety-three single-family home permits and 70 multifamily permits were issued through September 2007, compared to 51 single-family home permits and eight multifamily permits issued through September of this year.

Oddly, despite the slowdown, Garfield County is seeing development plans for some of the largest subdivisions proposed since Battlement Mesa sprang up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jarman noted.

“When you compare us to the national and world economy it seems very odd that these massive developments, the biggest the county has ever seen, are happening right now,” he said.

Projects like Cattle Creek Crossing ” a nearly 1,000-unit development with 20,000 square feet of commercial space, proposed between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, and the proposal for Sunlight Resort ” Exquisite Development’s ambitious plans to build 830 residential units and 110,000 square feet of commercial space to revamp the aging ski area outside of Glenwood Springs, are moving ahead despite the regional and nationwide economic downturn.

Still, recent economic events are something to be considered, according to Jarman.

“I would say it’s odd in the sense from the planning side,” Jarman said. “These are major developments ” the largest the county has seen since Battlement Mesa ” and it surprises me even more only given the current climate in the financial markets in the U.S. and the world markets.”

Jarman noted a similar project, Spring Valley Ranch ” 577 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space that was already approved for development by the county ” was recently granted a one-year extension as a result of the nation’s economic state.

“The developers asked for an extension and the board approved it because the economy is not where they wanted it to be for the start of the project,” Jarman said. “That was the first real measure for us that the national economy is really starting to hit home.”


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