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Dickinson building permits are down, values are up

Crews form Kuntz Construction work on houses in west Dickinson on Wednesday evening. Permits for single family homes are down for the first seven months of 2013 compared to the same time period last year, but permit values are up, thanks to big-ticket commercial and public projects, like the Sanford Clinic and St. Joseph's Hospital, both north of these to-be houses.

If 2012 was the year of single-family home construction in Dickinson, 2013 is the year of commercial and public structures.

The overall number of new building permits in 2013 as of the end of July are down compared to the same time frame in 2012, but permit values have increased, according to the July 2013 building permit report for the city of Dickinson.

"We have a lot to build in this community," City Commissioner Gene Jackson said. "We have lots of homes to build, lots of commercial buildings to build just to catch up with our growth."

In the first seven months of 2012, the city issued 442 new building permits -- 363 of which were single-family structures, 32 were commercial structures and the rest were multi-family structures. Permit values were $150.3 million, less than half the record-breaking $389 million seen in 2012.

From January to July this year, the city has issued 245 building permits -- 193 of which are single-family homes, 41 commercial structures, three public buildings and eight multi-family structures. The value of these 245 structures is $233.6 million.

"When you permit the hospital, obviously that's going to drive our average number up quite a bit," said Brian Bachman, vice president of Meyer Real Estate Group, a Minnesota-based commercial and residential developer with offices in Dickinson.

This spring's late winter storms combined with the onslaught of rain early this summer delayed the construction of single-family homes, Bachman said.

"The weather certainly had a big impact on the housing market this year," he said.

Other major projects include the Sanford Health Clinic, Menards and several municipal buildings.

With so much construction and very little staff, there are delays within the city engineering department, City Engineer William Watson recently told the Dickinson City Commission.

"The building permit process here is definitely a little more challenging than it is in other areas simply because of the volume of all the permits that are being submitted to the city," Bachman said. "We've worked pretty hand-in-hand with the city ... to try to keep our projects moving."

The city recently offered the assistant city engineer position vacated by Nathan Peck to a gentleman from California, who turned it down because a three-bedroom apartment, which he needed to house his family, cost more in Dickinson than it did in San Francisco, City Administrator Shawn Kessel told Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., at a business roundtable last week.

One solution is to contract with engineering firms, Watson said. But even then there is a learning period before those firms are moving at full speed.

"And then we just need to continue to review our own processes to make sure they're efficient as possible," Jackson said.

While the city should look at speeding up permit turnaround, it should not sacrifice quality, Jackson said.

"By and large I think our staff is really doing a great job in the midst of some real challenging times and we just need to keep having a conversation as a city and as a community as to how we keep these projects going in a good, quality way," Jackson said.

Calls to Community Development Director Ed Courton and Watson were not returned Wednesday.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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