Building continues to surge in county

October 26, 1997


Staff Writer

When the economy is good, people want to build. So it's no coincidence that Washington County has issued more building permits every year since 1993.

The number of building permits has increased 28.3 percent in the last five years.

In the budget year ending July 1997, the county issued 3,055 permits valued at $134.2 million.

"I see it as the county's attracting people to build in Washington County," said Paul Prodonovich, director of permits and inspections.

About the same time permits began to climb, the unemployment rate began to fall, said Sharon Disque, economic development coordinator at the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.


The turnaround marked the end of the recession in Washington County, which came later than the end of the national recession, she said.

"We were slow to enter the recession and we lingered a little longer," she said.

County residents continued to build pools despite the economic slowdown.

In the budget year ending in July 1992, the county issued 120 pool permits. The yearly average in the last six years was 98.

Overall, the number of building permits reflected a healthy economy, said Planning Commission Director Robert Arch.

The building boomlet is consistent with a population increase of about 1 percent a year, which is a manageable growth rate, Arch said.

"Generally, overall, the infrastructure is keeping up," he said.

One notable exception is the I-81 and Halfway Boulevard interchange, which needs to be improved to keep up with commercial and industrial development in the area, he said.

It is important for business development to keep pace with the number of new houses being built, Disque said.

Housing developments can be a drain on the tax base because people moving in require more government services than businesses, she said.

Washington County still gets a healthy chunk - 22 percent - of its tax base from businesses, said Tim O'Rourke, supervisor of assessments in the county.

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