County sees housing growth

FRONT ROYAL – Housing construction boomed in Warren County last year, continuing a slow climb from the recession.

The Planning Commission’s annual report for 2016 shows the county saw an increase in the number of housing units and building permits issued. Planning Director Taryn Logan presented the report to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting this week.

“You can tell the economy has picked up just by the applications we’ve been taking in,” Logan said Wednesday.

The county issued 432 building permits totaling $50.65 million in new construction – up $20.13 million from 2015, according to the report. The county also issued 145 new housing unit permits in 2016, 14 of which were for homes in Front Royal and 131 outside town limits. The county saw an 11-year total of 1,409 for an average annual increase of 128 units.

Data included in the report showed the county, including the town, experienced a high of more than 350 units in 2006. That number dropped steadily to about 250 in 2007, 125 in 2008, 75 in 2009 and 50 in 2010. The number began to climb in 2011 with about 60, then 70 in 2012, 80 in 2013 and 90 in 2014. The county saw roughly 120 in 2015. New housing starts in 2016, as in 2015, were spread across the town and county.

The county’s approved housing units totaled 16,737 in 2016. The number has increased gradually every year since 2006 when the county had approved roughly 15,600 units.

The county Comprehensive Plan recommends a maximum, annual growth rate of 2.5 to 3 percent, Logan said. The county experienced a growth rate of 0.87 percent last year, she said. The growth rate reached a high of 2.93 percent in 2004 – around the time the Board of Supervisors started its review of the Comprehensive Plan and included the goal.

The increase in construction gives the already busy county department more work, Logan said.

“There’s never been a time when we weren’t busy,” Logan said.

The department recently started using new software and staff plans to work with county Building Inspections and the town’s Planning and Zoning Department to unveil the part of the service the public will use in the permitting process, Logan said.

The county Planning Department didn’t have a software system that tracked applications and other documents until now, she said. The new software should help the department keep track of applications and will link the agency with its counterpart in the town. The Buildings Inspections Department’s software became outdated, Logan said.

The county Planning Department’s revenue continues to increase, she noted.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com