Development down for most of 2010

Local municipalities and Mesa County are cautiously optimistic 2011 will bring more development to the Grand Valley. But no one is declaring a full recovery is right around the corner.

The number of development applications received by the city of Grand Junction has declined every year since 2006, a trend that likely will continue this year. The city needs to receive 81 development applications in December this year to tie the number of applications it received in 2009 for annexation, property subdivisions, residential and commercial subdivisions, and conditional-use permits and site-plan reviews for building expansion or construction.

City Planning Manager Lisa Cox said that tie is not likely to happen.

“It does look like it’s going to be down this year, which is not surprising considering the local economy,” Cox said. “Banks are not loaning quite as generously as in the past.”

Cox is optimistic the trend will turn around next year, although she’s mostly aware of continuing projects, not new ones, developing in 2011. It may take a few months before any progress can be measured.

“Typically, things are slow this time of year because of the temperature and pick up in the second quarter,” she said.

Linda Dannenberger, Mesa County director of land use and development, said 2010 has been better for business and commercial development but slow for residential. The number of development applications submitted to the county decreased from 260 in all of 2009 to 229 so far in 2010. While conditional-use permits increased from 16 to 18 and concept plans went from 10 to 11, most areas fell or stayed about the same. The number of accessory dwelling-unit applications decreased from 23 in 2009 to 13 in 2010, for example, and total minor-subdivision applications plummeted from seven to one.

Dannenberger expects the weak residential and improved commercial development trend to continue next year.

“I don’t believe we’ll see large residential developments next year, but we will see commercial and business development, which is good. It’s good to see development of any kind,” she said.

Economic insecurity has hurt development, Dannenberger said, and part of the application decline can be explained by the simple reality that some development and consulting businesses have closed in the past year. Dannenberger agreed with Cox that getting a loan for construction is tough. She said the county has extended deadlines for some developers because getting financing took longer than expected.

Palisade Town Planner Dave Thornton said he doesn’t have a prediction for next year, but he is hopeful development activity will improve in the town.

Across the valley in Fruita, activity has improved. The city took in 71 residential construction applications in the first 11 months this year, up from 58 housing starts in all of 2009, and it processed 13 commercial permits before the end of November, up from 10 permits collected in the first 11 months of 2009. Thirty-four conditional-use permits were approved, as well as 21 concept plans.

Fruita has projected 40 to 50 housing starts for 2011, but City Manager Clint Kinney said he expects to remain flat or do better than 2010. The numbers are set low only so the city doesn’t have a budget shortfall in the event activity declines, Kinney said.

More people moving to town, more activity at local businesses and “a higher energy level” are what make Kinney optimistic the city will at least see an uptick in commercial applications next year.

“We’re absolutely hoping for the best but preparing for the worst-case scenario just to be prepared,” he said.


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