'Recession extensions' approved

The Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to grant "recession extensions" to developers who have secured building permits but have delayed construction due to the economy.

In a 5-1 vote, the commission recommended that the City Council adopt the extension into city policy.

"This provides an applicant that additional 18 months to get financing in place," said Brandon Goldman, senior planner with the city. "We all hope the economy turns around enough so that that is feasible."

The extension would give developers 18 months, on top of the 30 months already offered, to begin construction.

Between 35 and 40 projects could be eligible for the extension, depending on when the council decides to set the application cut off date, Goldman said.

Taking the commission's recommendations into account, the council is scheduled to make the final decision on the matter at its Feb. 16 and March 2 meetings.

If the council approves the extension, it would likely go into effect in early April, Goldman said.

To receive the extension, developers will have to demonstrate "the conditions that necessitated them not completing their projects in the allowable time were out of their control," he said.

For example, developers could claim they were unable to get financing for their projects because the credit market was constricted during the recession.

Developers will also have to show that recent changes to the city's land use rules don't apply to their projects, Goldman said.

Commission Vice Chairman Michael Dawkins cast the dissenting vote Tuesday.

At a previous meeting on the issue, Dawkins said he felt that changing the city's building rules now would be catering to large-scale developers, who assumed risk when they began their projects.

Commissioner Dave Dotterrer was absent from the meeting. Commissioner John Rinaldi excused himself from the proceedings because he is involved in a project that could be affected by the extension.

City planning officials are hopeful that the extension could help the local construction industry recover from the recession.

"This is just opening that window a little bit wider," Goldman said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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