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Permit values surge in Chambersburg

August 25, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The value of building permits issued during the first six months of the year in Chambersburg is nearly equal to the value of those issued in all of 2004, according to Assistant Borough Manager David Finch.

During a mid-year budget review at Monday's Borough Council meeting, Finch said building permits totaling $26.4 million were issued during the first half of this year, compared with $27.1 million last year. The figure represents a mix of residential and commercial development as the pace of development in the borough's remaining open spaces accelerates, he said.

The value of construction permits increased from $15.3 million in 2001 to $18.8 million in 2002 before contracting slightly to approximately $18.7 million in 2003, he told the council. Only about $600,000 in permits were issued during the first half of 2003, he said.

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In 2004, the value of permits jumped to $21.4 million during the first half of the year, a spike similar to those experienced by Franklin County's other 21 municipalities in advance of Pennsylvania's uniform construction code going into effect on July 1. Many homeowners and developers sought to get permits before the new regulations went into effect. In the second half of the year, however, the value of permits issued fell to $5.7 million, according to borough figures.

In 2005, however, Finch said he expects "a heavy construction season for the rest of the year." The borough has approved or is reviewing hundreds of residential and commercial subdivisions, primarily in the North End's Gabler tract and undeveloped areas in the South End, he said.

Council President William McLaughlin said he had heard of "considerable problems and complaints" about delays developers experienced in getting approvals from Commonwealth Code Inspection Services, the company hired by the borough to perform construction inspections.

"It used to take a couple of days, now it takes 30," McLaughlin said. The borough had its own inspector before last year, he said.

Finch said the company has been hired by almost all the townships and boroughs in Franklin County and, in most cases, manages to get the inspections completed and approvals issued within the time allotted by state law.

Finch also told the council the borough almost met its goal of inspecting all 3,415 rental units in Chambersburg within a three-year period. He said 3,056 units have been inspected since the program was initiated.

Landlords pay $20 a year per rental unit to fund the program, he said. Reinspections, if necessary, cost $20 or $35 depending on the number of code infractions found on a first inspection, he said.

Increasing the pace of inspections so that all are done every three years, would require the borough hiring additional personnel, something Finch recommended against.

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