Growth swamps permit workers
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
They're working Saturdays. They're pulling in staffers from other departments. Pity the poor Pasco County central permitting employee.
So many requests for home building permits have flooded county offices that an alarm went off in January to shrink the backlog.
In its meeting with county administrators in January, the Pasco Building Association complained Pasco's permit processing wasn't keeping pace with homebuyer demand.
January's pile included permits applied for as early as November. And with prime building season upon them, builders were frustrated.
"It's mostly customers waiting and they're not happy," said Mike Carroll, purchasing manager at two U.S. Home Corp. projects in Pasco, Heritage Springs and Heritage Pines.
Pasco wasn't satisfied, either. County administrators on Saturday approved shifts for permitting office employees and brought in former staffers who had been transferred to other departments.
Bipin Parikh, the assistant county administrator in charge of permitting, shrugged off the extra staffing as business as usual in an era of frantic growth.
After trending upward for the past decade, Pasco home building increased 24 percent last year, powered by low interest rates.
Pasco issue 4,786 permits for single-family homes in 2002, compared to 3,859 in 2001. It was the second highest home total in the county's history.
And house hunters don't appear ready to cease their mad dash for Pasco lots.
Witness explosive growth in southwest Pasco's Trinity community and neighborhoods in Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel such as Lexington Oaks, Oakstead, Seven Oaks and Meadow Pointe.
"We feel it's going to be just as good a year," Carroll said.
Builders said they've noticed a quicker turnaround on permits since January's gripe session. A few permits that hit Carroll's desk this week were applied for in late December.
"They've gotten more out with the overtime employees," he said. "I would like to see them get to the point where they get permits out in 30 days or shorter."
-James Thorner covers growth and development in Pasco County. He can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4613. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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