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    Builders line up for permits

    A wave of applicants appears shortly before new building codes take effect.

    By JUDY STARK, Times Homes Editor
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 1, 2002

    Crazy. Horrendous. People coming out of the woodwork. Don't ask.

    That's what employees in building permit offices around the Tampa Bay area said late Thursday about the last day of permitting under the state's old building codes.

    New codes that go into effect today require that homes be more hurricane-resistant and energy-efficient. That may require changes in building techniques and materials. Builders and homeowners were scrambling to get permits for their jobs under the old, familiar and possibly less expensive codes.

    Just after 4 p.m. there were only a few people in Pasco County's permitting office in New Port Richey, but "earlier in the day we had them lined up in the hallway," said Ralph Peterson Jr., the central permitting officer.

    He said that office had received 241 permit applications on Wednesday "and another couple hundred today." He didn't have an exact figure at day's end.

    In Pinellas County, assistant manager Jack Tipton said his office issued 110 permits and had another 135 waiting to go through review, "and that was down from earlier in the week. We probably did close to 500 yesterday. The previous three days were much busier than we were today."

    By late afternoon at the Municipal Services Building in St. Petersburg, the office had handled 110 applications, compared with a typical 45, said building official Milton Massanet. The office has handled 80 to 100 applications every day this week, he said.

    The applications there ranged from a new church, an 18-unit townhouse complex and the next phase of Echelon's Bay Isle Key apartments to a new adult living facility and an addition on a veterinarian's office.

    Massanet sheepishly admitted he missed his own deadline. He's planning a room addition on his own home, and Wednesday night he sat down to draw his documents. "I was stressing, and I finally said, "Forget it,' " he said.

    The flood of permits, he pointed out, represent a huge economic engine for the area: construction jobs, materials, loans. "What recession?" he asked.

    He and other officials predicted today will be much calmer, back to business as usual.

    "We'll see people who had previously planned to build to the new code, or they're changing out air conditioners or a water heater, things that aren't affected," Tipton said.

    Massanet expects to spend Friday starting to dig through the stacks of plans that buried his office. "We're ordering in pizza," he said.

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