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A ‘steady stream’ of rebirth

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneConstruction crews with Ben The Builder, INC.. build a home off of Willow Way in Talent on Friday.
Permits approach 20% mark for rebuilding from the Almeda fire

The rebuilding process from the destruction and devastation of last September’s Almeda fire continues to get stronger, according to the latest figures released by Jackson County.

Permits issued in Talent, Phoenix and other county land for rebuilds of structures damaged by the Sept. 8 fire stood at 18% of losses for both residential and commercial properties as of July 3, according county statistics.

Figures show that of 2,382 residential structures lost, there are 429 permits issued for rebuilding. The county numbers differ from other damage assessment figures due to the way multi-family units are counted.

Meanwhile, there have been 33 building permits issued from the 178 commercial structures that were lost.

Phoenix has issued the highest percentage of residential permits at 28% with 154 permits for 550 losses. These include 65 single-family homes, 84 multi-family units and five buildings in mobile home parks.

Talent has issued 154 permits after losing 700 residential structures, a 22% rate. In unincorporated areas 121 permits had been issued for residences out of 1,132 structures lost, for an 11% rate.

In Talent, 14 permits for commercial buildings have been issued out of 60 burned, a 23% rate. Phoenix has issued commercial rebuild permits at a 12% level for five of 41 structures lost. In the county, permits have been granted for 14 commercial buildings, a 22% rate for the 77 structures lost.

Talent, Phoenix and the county development offices continue to see increased activity as property owners rebuild.

“It’s slowed a little bit, but we are getting a steady stream, it’s just less large,” said Joe Slaughter, Phoenix community and economic development director.

Kristen Maze, Talent community development director, said her office is working steadily every day to issue permits as quickly as possible.

“It’s still a pretty steady stream, but it’s up and down,” said Ted Zuk, county development services director.

Anecdotally, Zuk said the lack of contractors and materials and the higher price of materials may be a factor holding back permit activity.

A total of 124 permits have been issued in Talent for one or two-family dwelling units to replace lost structures. Some applicants are choosing to replace single-family residences with duplexes, triplexes, or multi-plexes where the zoning allows such changes, said Maze. Otherwise, people are building “like for like” meaning they only have to get a permit and do not have to submit new plans to the city

“We are getting quite a lot of multi-family duplexes, triplexes, multiplexes,” said Maze. “They are maximizing their density. I would guess everyone who has the ability of going up in density, if they don’t plan on living on the site, they will do that,” said Maze. “It makes sense financially.”

“For the commercial side, they generally are expanding their commercial use,” aid Maze.

A total of 30 residential manufactured dwelling permits have been issued in Talent. Some of those were for FEMA trailers placed at the Totem Pole Park, while others are for units in other parks or stand-alone units.

“I would say the businesses who plan to rebuild what they had before are the owners we have been dealing with, issuing permits,” said Slaughter. “We are talking to a lot of people around changing the use of their permits, putting something different there.”

Unlike Talent, most single-family residence rebuilds in Phoenix don’t have the option to go to multiple units due to zoning, said Slaughter. A few applications have been received to add additional dwelling units on properties. About half of those rebuilding homes are planning on larger structure while the other half are remaining at the same size reside. Only one permit has been issued for a smaller residence so far.

Talent and Phoenix are seeing brand new housing projects that include 50-plus multi-family developments in addition to the Almeda rebuilding.

Talent has one new subdivision of about a dozen homes going in, said Maze. A 72-unit affordable housing project in Talent has received $7.5-milllion in state grant money, but an application for permits has not yet been sought.

In Phoenix, permits have been issued for a new 55-unit apartment complex located north of the Jack in the Box where a strip mall was previously sited, said Slaughter. A pre-application conference has been held for development of an 82-unit, two building apartment complex at Pacific Plaza, where the Garrison’s furniture store was located prior to the fire.

“It’s exciting … that people are considering doing that level of development here,” said Slaughter. Approval has also been given for development of five homes on a one-acre site on Dano St. that already has a historic home which will be retained.

The slower pace of residential replacement in the unincorporated Almeda fire area might be due, in part, to the loss of many manufactured homes that may not have had the level of insurance as other structures, said Zuk.

There’s been a mix of people rebuilding to the same size or going larger, said Zuk. Replacement of “like for like” does not require new plans, but many are submitting them to take advantage updated building techniques.

In the South Obenchain fire area east of Eagle Point, 49 residences were lost, but 18 building permits had been issued as of Thursday for a 36% rate.

“We were busy before the wildfires with new development. Now we have the wildfire on top of that,” said Zuk. Wildfire rebuilding permits are expedited, he said.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.