While new home construction in Columbia County saw a slight decline in 2011, there was a rise in commercial building permits.
The number of single-family residences and townhomes permitted in the county for 2011 dropped by 13 from last year to 1,088, according to figures released by the county.
However, new commercial construction increased by 10 to 25 permits issued last year.
County Development Services Director Richard Harmon attributes the commercial growth to the county’s efforts to streamline permitting procedures.
“We’re making it easier to get through the process of permitting in order to attract and give an incentive out there for businesses to come in,” he said.
“At the same time, our quality is going up with development.
“We eliminated a lot of asphalt. ... We cut the costs of development. We helped the environment, and we added more landscaping.”
New churches, schools, restaurants and medical offices accounted for much of the new commercial buildings, Harmon said.
New out-parcels last year included a Mi Rancho Mexican restaurant at Riverwood Town Center in Evans, and a furniture store, Verizon Wireless and Jersey Mike’s Subs to the Gateway shopping center next to the Grovetown Walmart.
A new strip center on Washington Road in Evans that brought a Five Guys Burgers and Fries to the county, and construction on the TaxSlayer building in Marshall Square, also made up commercial permits.
Residentially, permits were down from 2010, but the 2011 figures exceeded those in 2009 at 962 and in 2008 at 632.
Harmon said housing permits typically follow a trend each year in that they start rising in January, peaking in the summer months, before decreasing once school starts back in August.
Considering the nationwide housing market, Harmon said it’s impressive that the county has maintained such activity in residential construction.
“It shows that this is a place that people really want to live,” he said. “This is where they want to raise a family.
Home builder Matt Ivey echoed that belief, adding that the county’s prime location and high quality of schools make it attractive to buyers.
Ivey, an owner of Ivey Residential, builds in several neighborhoods within the county, but said Canterbury Farms, a master-planned community off Chamblin Road near Grovetown, accounts for about two-thirds of his company’s business.
In previous years, much of the new home construction was contained to the Grovetown area.
“There’s a lot of growth in Grovetown right now,” Ivey said. “That’s where the price points are that most people can afford.”