By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
(Jan. 7, 2021) Once again, the Berlin Planning and Zoning Department saw an increase in permits for building-related projects and other town-regulated matters and pursuits, with 308 total permits issued in 2020 as compared to 232 overall in 2019.
“It just shows how we’re still a destination, and we’re still on the uptick when other areas are slowing down as far as activity,” said Planning Director Dave Engelhart said. “I think that goes to the health of the town and how well everybody’s working to keep moving forward.”
Normally, Engelhart and Carolyn Duffy, the town’s permit coordinator, present an annual report on permits to the mayor and council, but have yet to do so. With coronavirus concerns, town staff are working modified schedules.
“I just like to show them the trend,” Engelhart said. “When I started here seven years ago or eight years ago, it was half of that. So, we’ve constantly gone up.”
Engelhart attributed the uptick in overall permits last year to economic conditions.
“Some of the projects that are going to start here any time, like Wolfe Terrace, they have 35 new units to build, and they did 35 single permits, not one project covering all 35 units,” he said. “With the idea being that they can complete one, get final inspection and then let a tenant move in, instead of waiting for the whole project to be approved.”
Another factor is that many of the projects in town have been pending for a while, including Oceans East Phase Two off Seahawk Road, Isaiah Fassett apartments on Flower Street and Willows at Berlin at the current Wolfe Terrace location off Maple Avenue.
“I think like nationally the interest rates – borrowing money or funding sources – are a lot less expensive for any of these developers,” Engelhart added. “The time is now to do it.”
Engelhart has also learned from contractors and developers that materials prices are rising because of limited supply.
“Some materials are getting hard to come by for building, and I think that’s just because manufacturing is down because of covid,” he said. “So, the prices are going up, and there’s no stopping that right now. But the cost of borrowing funds to do the project is down.”
However, the town did see a decrease in single-family home permits with only five filed last year.
In 2019, nine permits were filed for single-family homes in town. Six permits were filed in 2018 as well as in 2017, Engelhart said.
Permits are required for roofs, signs, fences, sheds, decks, additions to homes, detached garages, new homes, any dwelling units and exterior renovations.
“Commercial applications are a little different,” Engelhart said. “If you’re building a new commercial building or if you’re [remodeling] another building, you have to have a building permit because it’s public occupancy.”