Burgeoning residential and commercial growth has been a prime theme of late, within the City of Zephyrhills.
Thousands of new homes are on the books, and there’s an influx of new businesses, too.
The city now claims a Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Wawa, too.
The surging growth is keeping the city’s building department busy.
Longtime building official Bill Burgess shared just how busy they’ve been — during an Aug. 9 Zephyrhills City Council meeting,
The department issued 1,765 permits, from Oct. 1 through July 30, according to Burgess’ report.
General residential building accounted for the bulk of the work — with 788 permits issued for miscellaneous home upgrades like screen rooms, roofs, sheds, air conditioning changeouts and solar panel installations. That represents 44% of total permits issued.
“We’re getting solar permits left and right,” Burgess said.
There’s also been significant demand for new residential building construction — with 407 permits issued for single-family dwellings and multi-family units. That represents 23% of the total permits issued.
Residential additions and alterations accounted for 162 permits, representing 9.2% of the total; electric service replacement, 159 permits, for 9% of the total; general commercial building, 104 permits, for 5.9% of the total; and, new fire systems, 77 permits, representing 4.4% of the total.
The department also issued 20 new commercial building permits. However, he was quick to point out that those permits don’t necessarily mean that many brand-new buildings are coming aboard.
Some of those permits, he explained, are for signage and other ancillary items.
The building department handled 6,227 site inspections during the October to July timeline, which equates to roughly 35 inspections each business day, Burgess said.
Given the level of activity, the department’s seven staffers — who handle permitting, inspections, code enforcement and other duties — have had their hands full, Burgess said.
“We’ve been busy,” Burgess told council members, noting it has been good for the city and the city’s finances.
“It has been a good year,” he said. “I think it’ll help the budget.”
Times certainly have changed, noted Burgess, who has worked for the city since 1990.
He recalled, with a chuckle, how he used to know just about every person who came into the building department for a permit, inspections and other matters.
“That’s not the case anymore,” he said.
Still, the department tries to maintain its “hometown” feel, he said.
“As we get bigger, it gets a little harder,” Burgess said.
In the discussion with council members, Burgess acknowledged the need for succession planning and boosting departmental staffing in the near future — perhaps in fiscal year 2022-23.
“If things continue the way they are, I will be coming to you all to talk about staff,” Burgess told the council.
“We were comfortable this year, I think this coming fiscal year we’ll be OK…so I think we’re in good shape and we can handle it for another one,” Burgess said.
Councilman Lance Smith, however, noted the cyclical nature of the real estate market and cautioned that the city’s growth may slow in coming years.
Burgess agreed that outcome is possible, but he posited the East Pasco community’s nearby distance to Tampa likely will equate to measured growth for a while.
“I think we’re going to be in a good place for several years, just my feeling, just because of our proximity to Tampa and everybody pushing out,” he said.
Councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson queried Burgess about the department’s ongoing code enforcement efforts and legal resolutions.
The building official said the coronavirus pandemic “put a damper” on the time frames of trials and arraignments to settle outstanding issues. This included about a six-month lull in such court system meetings, he said.
Though activity picked up in recent months with the courts, Burgess said, questions remain if measures again will begin to slow down amid the surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.
“Who knows with this new variant if they’ll make a change again,” Burgess said.
After Burgess’ presentation, Councilmen Alan Knight and Charles Proctor commended the building department’s overall level of professionalism and proactiveness in dealing with the public at large.
City Manager Billy Poe echoed those sentiments, sharing a positive testimonial from the owner-operator of the new Chick-fil-A on Gall Boulevard, which celebrated its grand opening late last month.
Poe relayed how the Chick-fil-A manager “had nothing but praise for the building department and how well the building department worked with them.”
Poe also mentioned Chick-fil-A officials being satisfied with the efficiency of the city’s site plan review and permitting process, compared to locations in other municipalities: “They said, that if they were building anywhere else, (the grand opening) would’ve been two weeks to a month later, because the hassles, I guess, they get from other municipalities, so I thought that was good to hear and needed to be passed along.”
Published September 01, 2021