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Construction permits of new homes spikes

The COVID-19 pandemic upended much of life in 2020.

But, interestingly, county zoning officials saw increases in permit activity across a broad range of activities — the most significant being new home construction.

The Warren County Planning Commission discussed the findings during a Tuesday meeting.

Construction of single family homes was up 29 percent, commercial construction was up 38 percent and recreational camps saw a “dramatic increase,” according to Zoning Officer Michael Lyon.

It’s important to remember that the county’s zoning ordinance doesn’t cover the entire counties. It only covers Clarendon, Sugar Grove and Tidioute boroughs and Columbus, Conewango, Deerfield, Eldred, Elk, Glade, Mead, Pine Grove, Pleasant and Southwest townships.

The City of Warren and Youngsville handle zoning on their own while the remaining municipalities have no zoning regulations.

The county’s zoning ordinance covers about 35 percent of the county’s population, meaning the raw numbers for statistics such as new home construction are likely significantly higher county-wide.

Lyon speculated that the numbers would have been likely higher but for the pandemic as building supply issues in the fall resulted in a slow down.

He told the Commission that he issued more pool permits in 2020 than in the previous four years combined in addition to four or five already this year, a likely result of the pandemic limiting travel.

Permits for recreational camps he said were up 86 percent.

Put it all together and 2020 saw the county Planning & Zoning Office process a total of 256 permits, the highest of any year for data going back as far as 2016.

Lyon’s report indicates that the total value of the new construction is estimated at over $2.3 million but said “those numbers are actually misleading” because home value is self-reported. He said the total value number is likely higher.

Deerfield Township formally joined the zoning ordinance in 2020, as well.

Lyon said that went through in July. So far, there has been “not a lot” of permits from the township, he said, but also not many violations either.

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