When it comes to building activity, Longboat Key is looking so 2007.
For the 2014 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the town projects building permit levels will reach the pre-recession peak totals of 2007.
According to Longboat Key Planning, Zoning & Building Director Alaina Ray, who ran permit numbers earlier this month with Town Manager Dave Bullock, the town is on track to process 700 to 800 more permits this year than it did two years ago.
“We knew we were busy, but we didn’t know we were this busy,” Ray said.
Although projects like the new 16-unit Aria and 11-unit Infinity condominiums and the planned renovation of the former Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort that will add 85 units have made headlines recently, they aren’t driving the increase in permits because each building receives a single permit.
The 16-unit Aria, for example, which unlike the other two projects is included in the current fiscal year permit projections, accounts for just one new construction permit, rather than 16 new construction permits.
So, what’s driving the increase?
“We’ve continued to see a lot of remodels, and more and more remodels going right up to the 50% rule,” said Ray, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) rule that if a remodel exceeds 50% of the home’s value, it must be brought up to the current floodplain code.
Permits for new homes are also on the rise, according to Ray.
Rusty Chinnis, owner of Rusty Chinnis Contractor Inc., said he has seen an uptick in remodeling over the past two years, ranging from full remodels to smaller projects, such as kitchens and bathrooms. He also points out the increase in new homes that are under construction along Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“I think now that the stock market is doing really well, people have more money and are really a little more willing to spend it on something they’ll enjoy,” Chinnis said.
Aria is expected to receive its building permit within a week and has started site work on the property at 2251 Gulf of Mexico Drive. According to project representative Amy Drake, demand for the new project sparked interest, even from local buyers.
“A lot of our buyers already have homes on Longboat Key or Lido Key,” Drake said. “I think it’s a testament to the fact that people want the latest and greatest, with new technologies, the security that comes with new coastal construction and the ability to customize their residences to make them their own.”
Infinity condominium agent Lee Rugh, of Michael Saunders & Co., said approximately one-third of the Infinity units are under reservation, and developers have made revisions to some floor plans.
Construction will begin after reservations reach at least 50%.
To keep up with the rising permit pace, the town’s four building inspectors are currently doing 13 to 25 inspections daily with support from one full-time and one part-time administrators. By comparison, the town had six inspectors and three full-time administrative staffers in 2007.
The town is putting out an RFP for a contractor to help on an as-needed basis.
The town’s building fund operates as its own separate entity, meaning the town can’t spend its funds on anything other than the building department. The Longboat Key Town Commission will discuss the possibility of using some of the department’s enterprise fund for additional personnel help at a June 30 special budget workshop at Town Hall.
Additional reporting by Managing Editor Kurt Schultheis.
This graph shows permit numbers from the past 10 years, with projected numbers through the end of the 2014 fiscal year.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]