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Home construction is on the rise in Farmington

Home construction is a common sight these days around Farmington.

Single family housing construction in Farmington is the busiest it’s been in nearly a decade. While that’s good, it also has city staff wondering how long the vacant lots will still be available for construction.

As of Monday — the end of the third quarter as far as the city’s building permit calendar goes — there were 302 available lots left in Farmington, assistant city planner Tony Wippler said. But if housing construction continues the way it has this year, those lots will be built out in about 2 ½ years.

“I hope that developers notice that and start to plat some additional lots,” Wippler said.

So far this year, the city of Farmington has issued 101 building permits for single family housing, Wippler said. In 2012, the city received 68 permits for single-family home construction. In 2011, that number was 52.

So far this year, a single development — Mystic Meadows, located south of 195th Street — accounts for 52 of this year’s permits. The Riverbend project in the northeast section is also filling out quickly, and Wippler expects that development to be complete sometime next year. Even the Hometown development, located off of 208th Street near the Corinthian Cemetery, is filling out with eight new homes.

There has been so much construction, Farmington building official Ken Lewis has had to put in some overtime just to be able to get through some of the plan reviews that land on his desk.

Lewis is doing what he can to return calls and do his other work at city hall, but he estimates he’s out doing inspections about 90 percent of his work week. Building inspector Ron Fedder is out on inspections almost all day, every day.

“It comes in waves lately,” Lewis said. “Sometimes it’s easy to keep up with them, and the next week we get bombarded with house plans.

We’re a little short on staff and I think administration knows that. As long as it doesn’t get much busier, we should be OK.”

All of the construction is helping the city of Farmington meet its budget goals as far as building permits are concerned. The city had budgeted revenue of $293,000 from building permits for 2013. As of last week, Wippler said, the city has received $421,921 in building permit revenue.

With that in mind, Farmington city administrator David McKnight is fine with the overtime.

“That’s a problem I’m happy to have,” McKnight said.

Both Wippler and Lewis think the housing construction trend will continue for a while. Between April and September, the city received between 11 to 18 building permits every month. Wippler expects to see 10 to 12 building permit applications per month for the rest of the year.

“You just never know, but it seems to be trending that way,” he said.

There are also several plats that have been inactive for a number of years because the original developers lost the land in foreclosure.

Swanson Acres on Akin Road and Executive Estates in the southeastern part of the city are two such developments that have available lots, but have a few loose ends to tie up legally before they can be marketed for construction, Wippler said.

The Fairhills development north of 195th Street and west of Highway 3 is still in the city’s future, although Wippler isn’t sure how long that future will be. He stays in touch with the developers who have rights to the 900-acre piece of land, but no new plans have come from them in recent years.

With less than three years until available lots are potentially built out, Wippler is hoping some developers come forward soon. New housing developments take several months to plan, he said, and the plans require planning commission and city council approval.

Still, it’s a good problem to have after so many years of minimal housing growth in Farmington. The last time the city topped 100 single family housing permits in one year was 2006, when the city brought in 118.

“The numbers are up, revenues are up, and the inventory is going down,” Wippler said. “All of it’s a sign of a good thing. Now we just need more lots.”

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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