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Betting on a building boom

Galt hopes reduced permit fees will bring homes to subdivisions

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Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 12:00 am

Galt is planning for a house building boom. An estimated 1,680 lots are on the development books, some of which are part of subdivisions abandoned when the economy took a downturn. And developers are beginning to take notice.

The city's Planning Department is hopeful that a building permit fee reduction program will draw in new developers to complete a number of city neighborhoods with vacant parcels.

Last May, the Galt City Council voted to temporarily reduce certain developer fees by 50 percent, not only to encourage building new homes, but also to create local jobs and stimulate other construction. The incentive program will remain in place through November.

The city's building division has published a map on its website and prepared fliers to distribute to potential developers. Cost savings average about $10,000 per parcel.

Senior planner Chris Erias said the city has been fielding many calls regarding residential development.

"The calls range from inquiries regarding the fee reduction program to development opportunities that would not benefit from the reduction program," he said. "We haven't quite put numbers to the inquiries, but they have been substantial."

City Manager Jason Behrmann agreed that the fee reduction program seems to be motivating builders to start building homes again.

Before the state's economic downturn, Galt averaged about 200 building permits annually for single-family homes.

In 2007, there were 46, and the number dropped to 30 in 2008. The following year, there was one.

Since the incentive program went into effect, eight housing permits have been issued.

There are currently 184 lots sitting vacant in seven partially completed neighborhoods throughout the city, ready to be built upon. This means that the streets and other infrastructure is already in place, awaiting subdivision house plans.

Among these is the Meadows Subdivision on East Stockton Boulevard, just north of Walnut Avenue.

Approval of new architectural plans for the remaining 27 lots in that partially developed subdivision will be requested at this month's Planning Commission. Beck Community Builders of Stockton has already applied for building permits for four lots in the subdivision.

Floor plans are for homes at 1,464 square feet, 1,672 square feet, 2,190 square feet, and 2,520 square feet. The developer's plan is to pull building permits immediately after receiving Planning Commission approval.

Beck is currently building in Oakdale.

Meanwhile, a new home builder is in the process of purchasing the remaining 26 lots in the Chancellor Estates Unit 6 subdivision.

The developer told the city he was attracted by the temporary fee reduction program and has received fee estimates from the city's planning department, according to Behrmann.

There are five other subdivisions, including three unfinished ones along the San Joaquin-Sacramento county border.

This housing activity is important for a variety of reasons, according to Behrmann.

"It creates jobs and generates economic activity in the community, it finishes half-built subdivisions, eliminating blighted vacant parcels, and (it) sends an important message to the community that we are finally starting to pull out of this prolonged recession that was triggered in large part by the collapse in the housing market," he said.

Although the property still needs to be annexed into city limits, planning staff has been meeting with a prospective developer for yet another area, the 358 acres generally bounded by Twin Cities Road on the north, the Ione Spur railroad line on the south, and between Marengo and Cherokee roads. It is the former YCH property surrounding Liberty Ranch High School and has been purchased by Galt Communities LLC, according to Behrmann.

The developer wants to build a community of 1,200 to 1,500 homes. Once plans are received, they will be presented to both the Planning Commission and city council for review and comment before the developer makes a formal application to proceed.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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