Mount Carmel approves building permit fee waiver in hopes of sparking growth

Jeff Bobo • Jan 29, 2018 at 2:00 PM
MOUNT CARMEL — New home construction in Mount Carmel has been less than one-third of what it was during the building boom of the mid-2000s, a trend city leaders are hoping to reverse with a new economic incentive.

On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a one year waiver of building permit fees as well as development and stormwater fees.

City Manager Mike Housewright told the Times News that, based on recent new development statistics, the waivers might cost Mount Carmel between $2,000 and $3,000 in one year.

He noted, however, that if the one year waiver results in just one new home being constructed, the investment will eventually be returned through annual property tax revenue.

How many homes are built in Mount Carmel each year?

New home construction hasn’t been completely stagnant, but it’s nowhere near the level of the mid-2000s, when the city averaged more than 20 every year and hit a high water mark of 30 in 2003-04.

So far in fiscal year 2017-18, Mount Carmel has six new residential construction projects, and in each of the previous three fiscal years there were nine, 10 and seven respectively.

When the economic crisis hit in 2008-09, there were 13 new houses built in the city. 

Where is there good land to build in Mount Carmel?

In a memo to the BMA last week, Building Inspector Vince Pishner noted that there is a shortage of vacant affordable lots for new houses near Highway 11-W.

Mount Carmel’s newest subdivisions are Fox Ridge and Brookfield, which were started in 2006.

Brookfield is built out except for a few undesirable lots where construction would be difficult, Pishner reported.

However, Fox Ridge still has several vacant lots but is well off the beaten path.

Pishner added, “There is available property within a few miles of 11-W that can be developed, but most of the previous developers are no longer in business — some dead and some retired.”

Is there evidence that a fee waiver can spark growth?

“Kingsport did a similar program a year or two ago, and actually we modeled ours off of Kingsport,” Housewright said. “I don’t have any data in front of me, but I believe that program had good results for Kingsport.

“This is a long-term strategy. This waiver of fees is only for one year, and after that year we’ll reassess and decide if it’s something we want to continue.”

The board voted 5-1 in favor of the waiver with the only “no” vote coming from Alderman Margaret Christian.