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Increase in permits in county

By Staff | Jun 2, 2009

Builders pulled 50 permits for single-family home construction in unincorporated Lee County in May, according to a report released Monday by the county’s Community Development Department.
Valued at more than $16 million, the number of pulled permits is up from 39 in April and 47 in May 2008.
Community development spokeswoman Joan LaGuardia warned that the slight increase, while positive, is probably not indicative of an industry that is on the verge of rebounding.
She said the increase could be due to the rise in permit fees, which changed Monday.
“Some of that was builders coming in with 10 or 20 (projects) trying to get them permitted before the fees went up,” LaGuardia said. “It’s hard to tell what was tied to increase exactly, but that did influence it.”
Permit fees doubled in unincorporated areas of Lee. Before the rise permit fees for single-family homes were 10 cents per square foot or a $100 minimum on average. Following the increase, fees now start at 25 cents per square foot or a $200 minimum.
LaGuardia said the county worked closely with the Lee Builders Industry Association when deciding to raise fees.
She said the increase still keeps Lee County in the lower echelon of fees across the state. Neither the county nor the association fears the increase will chase away new construction.
Lee Builders Industry Association Executive Vice President Michael Reitman said the fees, while doubling, will not hamper new construction once the industry picks back up.
“They are still less than almost every other area in Lee and the state of Florida,” he said. “We still have the lowest fees in the state.”
In addition to single-family homes, there were 10 commercial permits pulled in May.
Totaling $14.2 million, a new Hospice facility in Lehigh Acres constitutes much of the figure at $10.5 million. Numbers are up from $2.7 million in commercial permitting in April and $5.7 million in May 2008.
While Reitman and the association feels May’s increase is in no way tied to the rate hike, LaGuardia fears permitting for June will be down.
She said she is remaining optimistic, but May’s numbers do not say much about the future of construction in Lee County.
“It’s nice to have a month where numbers are up, but it’s not indicative of a trend,” LaGuardia said.