New home starts down 61% in Fayette; Tyrone, F’ville also hit hard

Tue, 12/30/2008 - 4:56pm
By: John Munford


The housing sectors’ woes have hit Fayette County, with new residential construction in the areas outside cities down 61 percent from a year ago.

While the slowdown in residential building has hit Fayette County and its builders, it has also caused some changes for the building inspection departments of local governments.

In September, October and November this year, the county issued just 19 building permits for new housing in all of unincorporated Fayette County, Brooks and Woolsey. In the same time frame last year there were 77 building permits issued.

For this year so far, through the end of November, the county has issued slightly over one-third as many building permits as the previous year — just 58 building permits for new housing in 2008 compared with 150 for the same time frame last year.

Fayette County’s permits and inspections department has left two building inspector positions vacant, leaving four inspectors to do the job. Interim Director Joe Scarborough said the department is still able to do quality work in large part because each of the four inspectors has his own “specialty” construction task to focus on such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC and structural issues.

Thus the county has four different sets of eyes inspecting buildings, Scarborough said. All four are capable and certified to handle all aspects of the building process, he added.

“It’s important to us to have four different guys who are experts in their field,” Scarborough said, noting that many Fayette homes are of the larger variety with very few “starter” size homes.

Even with the lower housing starts, there has been enough other building activity going on to keep inspectors busy, such as house additions, renovations, basement finishes, detached units and swimming pools, Scarborough said.

Through it all the department is making an effort to “go the extra mile” with courtesy inspections and the like to help builders who are fortunate to be still working and who are often under the gun in pressure type situations for closing dates and similar situations, Scarborough said.

Sometimes that means offering a chance to do a re-inspection on the same day to make sure an issue is corrected to the county’s satisfaction, Scarborough said.

The department conducts building inspections in not just the unincorporated area but also in the rural towns of Brooks and Woolsey.


The recession clearly evidenced in communities across America is perhaps most obvious in the area of new housing starts. Such is the case in Fayetteville in recent months, where permits for new home construction are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Fayetteville’s residential permits from September through November of this year compared to the same period in 2007 showed one permit for new housing during the period this year compared to six permits issued during the same three-month period in 2007.

For the period of January through November this year, the city issued a total of 13 new housing permits, with seven of those coming in May. For comparison, the city issued 59 permits for all of 2007.

In terms of other categories of residential permits issued for September-November this year, there were two home additions, one storage shed, three decks/porches, two basements finished, three re-roofing jobs and one pool house.

Similar permits during the same three-month period in 2007 showed two home additions, two new garages, three storage sheds, one deck/porch, one retaining wall and two finished basements.

Fayetteville Building Inspector Tony Haponski said, including himself, the city has two full-time inspectors and a shared part-time staff.

Though commercial permits have not seen the same dramatic slowdown as residential permits, Haponski said the downturn in residential permits has provided time for other issues, such as more code enforcement work and scanning commercial construction plans. With two full-time staff, the department has always been understaffed, he said.

Haponski said inspectors also do some stormwater maintenance inspections, erosion control for subdivisions not yet completed and proactive code enforcement inspections relating to quality of life issues such as monitoring graffiti.


by Ben Nelms

Permits for residential construction are down significantly in Tyrone in the past few months when compared to the same period in 2007.

What is widely considered a downturn in new home starts is beginning to look like almost a dead stop.

In Tyrone, Zoning and Development Coordinator Dina Rimi said the town from September through November this year issued two permits for new home construction, compared to seven permits issued for the same period in 2007.

During the period of January-November this year permits were issued for 17 homes.

For the same period last year, Tyrone issued 41 permits for new houses.

And during September-November of this year the town also issued two permits for swimming pools, two for decks, one to finish a basement and one to construct a shed.

Rimi said Tyrone subcontracts inspection work, which it pays by the job.

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Submitted by PTC Avenger on Wed, 12/31/2008 - 12:29pm.

This is great news. Overbuilding was a legitimate problem here, and though this recession is painful for the economy and for families, it will allow us to return to a more sustainable building strategy.

Same goes for commercial development. I for one am tired of seeing empty strip malls everywhere. It's about time these developer types came back down to earth.

Submitted by Split Decision on Wed, 12/31/2008 - 3:04pm.

I totally agree with you, although I'm very irritated the developers have already clear-cut hundreds of acres in anticipation of slapping up more strip malls, now they leave those areas butchered and battered looking, with nary a tree left.

ATTENTION DEVELOPERS: old growth trees are an asset!!! Planting all the Crepe Myrtles and Bradford Pear trees around new construction is ugly, the Crepe Myrtles need annual trimming and those stinky Bradford Pears are extremely brittle in the least bit of weather.

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