The numbers of new residential construction started in Columbia County by the end of 2009 amazed some county officials.
Applications for single-family building permits jumped 52 percent, from 632 recorded in 2008 to 962 permits issued the following year.
"I was surprised," said Columbia County Development Services Director Richard Harmon. "I would have thought we would have probably maintained what we did in 2008."
June appeared to be the busiest month, when 108 single-family permits were issued. In 2008, just 84 permits were recorded for the same month.
Harmon attributes the recent residential construction boom to the county's quality of life and school system, as well as the decrease in housing prices.
Areas near Chamblin Road, such as the High Meadows subdivision, continue to be the county's fastest-growing residential region, Harmon said.
"That's probably where you're going to see some more commercial, too," he said.
Though permits for residential construction rose in 2009, commercial construction didn't follow suit.
The number of new commercial building permits decreased 32 percent, dropping from 110 in 2008 to 76 in 2009.
Harmon predicts a different outcome in 2010.
"That's beginning to show a little bit of increase," he said. "I think we're going to see better commercial than we did in 2009."
In the city of Harlem, 29 residential and four commercial building permits for new construction were submitted in 2009. The 2009 numbers were nearly identical to those of the previous year.
"It's been so many years since Harlem has seen new growth, and in the last couple of years, it's moved here, I think, just as a result of spreading in Columbia County," said Denise Carter, Harlem's planning and zoning coordinator.
A new subdivision, called Phillips Crossing, recently was built on South Louisville Street. Plans for another neighborhood on Forrest Street also are in the works.
"In the future, I think we're going to have even more growth out here because there's a lot of area to develop," Carter said.
Inside the city of Grovetown, building permit numbers for new construction dropped significantly in 2009, with 134 townhomes and houses permitted compared to 243 in 2008. No commercial permits for new construction were issued in 2009 and one -- for O'Reilly Auto Parts -- was submitted in 2008.
"It's because of the economy, it's gone down," said Grovetown Planning and Zoning Director Connie Smith.
Five years ago, Smith said the number of new homes was nearly triple of what it was in 2009. She does believe, however, the city will see new commercial development in 2010 with a CVS pharmacy possibly coming this year.
"I know it's going to pick back up, but it's hard to say when," she said.
For residential development in the remainder of the county, Harmon foresees a trend in 2010 similar to the one in 2009. In January, 89 residential and three commercial permits were issued.
"The building permit applications are coming in significantly, so it appears that the trend is continuing on into this early part of 2010," he said.
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