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December building permits cap down year for Lee

By Staff | Jan 5, 2009

Lee County officials released the number of construction permits issued for single-family homes for December on Monday, painting a picture of unincorporated Lee that is, at the very least, bleak.
A grand total of 28 permits were issued in December, coming in just below the 32 permits issued in December 2007.
Those 32 permits in 2007 were then thought of as a record low. It held until October, when only 30 permits were issued, then nearly bottomed out in November, when a mere 14 permits were sought for construction.
The city of Cape Coral did not fare much better. In December, the city issued only seven building permits compared to the nine it issued in the same month in 2007. Overall, the city issued only 175 building permits during the 2008 calendar year, according to city officials.
Lee County Department of Community Development Communications Manager Loan LaGaurdia said officials are not surprised by the numbers, yet found them encouraging following November’s dismal returns.
“You can’t predict what’s happening next month, but we’re definitely bouncing along the bottom,” LaGaurdia said. “We were very happy to come up to 28 (permits) in December, which is a short month in terms of business days.”
Numbers for January will not be available until late February, and LaGaurdia said the DCD could not “predict” what the outlook may be.
She added that she was “surprised” by the number of multiple permit requests from builders for December, but would not get too far ahead of herself.
“It kind of suggests they (the builders) have some encouraging feelings (about the industry),” she said.
Collectively, there were 482 permits issued for single-family dwellings in unincorporated Lee County in 2008, a steep decline from the 2,243 permits issued in 2007.
Also in 2008, permits were issued for 230 duplex and apartment units — including four in December — compared to the 1,386 in 2007, according to a prepared statement.
Commercial permitting did not fare much better in 2008. A total of $81.8 million was recorded for 2008, an outright free fall from the $491.4 million recorded for 2007.
LaGaurdia said 2007’s amount was due largely to a rush of commercial contractors trying to get projects going before a deadline that would bring higher road impact fees.
“That took care of a lot of permitting they were going to do in the future,” she said. “But it’s not clear how much of that they actually built. They might not have done anything with it.”