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Winter weather chills home construction in Dickinson

Building permits issued in the first three months of 2013 are 14 percent of what they were in the first three months of 2012, according to the March 2013 code enforcement report. Last year's was a mild winter, and this year has been more "normal," Dickinson Community Development Director Ed Courton said.

"Normal" winter weather and some early spring storms have caused lags in home construction and sales, but a thaw coming soon and big projects could change that.

Compared to last year, Dickinson is far behind in single-family residential permits issued. As of the end of March the city had issued 24 permits for single-family houses. At the same time last year it had issued 169.

"Last year was a very mild winter," Dickinson Community Development Director Ed Courton said. "This year is a comparatively normal winter and building permit totals are reflective of that."

A comparison of the code enforcement reports released in June, compiling data from the first five months, will more accurately decide if construction has slowed down in Dickinson, he said.

"I would anticipate that we probably won't exceed at this rate," Courton said. "We would either be close to matching it or be a little under from last year, but the June building permit reports will be the big indicator."

Values are expected to be similar to 2012, which was just less than $400 million, because of several large projects that will begin this year, Courton told the Dickinson City Commission at its April 16 meeting.

Most builders slowed down a bit through the winter, but True Style Homes, which is building in the Country Oaks Estates subdivision in northwest Dickinson and the Painted Canyon subdivision in east Dickinson, decided to get some ground heaters and plow through the winter, said co-owner Greg Douthett.

"Some of the builders have, in fact, slowed down -- they're waiting for the weather to break," he said. "We chose to do things like put down ground heaters and thaw the ground so that we could dig through it."

There is a possibility that weather could slow down the housing market, Douthett said.

Good weather will bring more people to look for new homes, said Dick Theurer, a realtor with The Real Estate Co. in Dickinson.

"Things don't look as good, things aren't greened up like they generally are," he said of snowy weather. "As soon as the sun starts to shine and the weather warms up, people are back out. They want to go look at homes a lot more. Everyone's attitude improves when the weather improves."

If contractors plan for it, weather doesn't impede construction much, Theurer said. As long as the outside is up, work can continue on the inside.

"There may be a small delay," he said, "but I don't foresee a great delay because of the extended winter."

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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