Permit activity shows strong building year in Johnstown
JOHNSTOWN The city of Johnstown is on track to having one of its best years for commercial and residential construction starts and renovations, based on the latest permit fee figures for November, said the city’s top code enforcement official.
Bruce Heberer, who is also the city’s fire chief, said the city recorded 38 construction projects with a combined estimated value of $1.2 million in November, compared with 51 projects worth $242,000 a year ago.
The city charges a flat rate for projects, based on a scale, so the actual amount in fees collected for November was less than $500, he said.
As for 2012, the city is on track to seeing a strong year in growth, Heberer said. In addition to the high November permit fee totals, he cited June’s total of $1.1 million spent on 84 projects. He is in the process of producing his annual report, which will contain a full accounting of figures for both commercial and residential starts and construction.
The majority of November’s $1.2 million is for three major projects: renovation of Lexington’s former sheltered workshop at 465 N. Perry St. into offices; the start of preliminary expansion work at Fage’s Greek yogurt production plant in the Johnstown Industrial Park; and the construction of two townhouses on Madison Avenue.
The Lexington project involves converting a former workshop and warehouse into a professional job and skills training center for people with disabilities.
The Fage project involves the company adding two milk delivery bays onto the existing facility, bringing the total number of bays to six. The company is also doing exterior excavation site work and renovations to the laboratory inside, Heberer said.
“It is all related to the expansion of their production line,” he explained. “When the weather breaks in spring, they will work on the 180,000-square-foot addition.”
Fage is proposing to build a $100 million addition to its only Greek yogurt-making plant in the United States. When fully operational, the expanded plant will produce 160,000 tons of yogurt annually, double the plant’s current capacity.
The expansion would add 150 workers to the 240 now there. Fage opened the 220,000-square-foot facility in the Johnstown Industrial Park in 2008.
“They are moving ahead,” Heberer said.
Saratoga Funding and Development Co. is proposing to build 16 townhouses near Madison Street. The project will be called River Run Town Homes. The company is building two demonstration models for the project, Heberer said.
The city has seen about 24 townhouses built over the last seven years, he said. It has also seen several single-family homes built on vacant lots.
The $1.2 million November total also consists of permits taken out by homeowners to renovate their homes, which Heberer called a positive sign for the city.
“It means they are not leaving,” he said.
The city allows people to make certain renovations and improvements to their homes, such as the installation of roofs, windows and siding, without seeing an increase in their assessments. This encourages people to maintain their properties without worrying about having to pay more in taxes, officials said. Heberer said the city will increase a home’s assessment if a person expands the domicile or installs an outlying structure.
He said Johnstown has seen consistent growth in construction and housing starts during his tenure since 2006 as the city’s chief code enforcement officer.
“We’ve done really well in Johnstown, with lots of housing starts and lots of renovations and commercial starts. There is growth in Johnstown,” he said.
The city added $8 million to its total property value in 2012. This allowed the city to maintain a relatively stable tax rate of $17.49 per $1,000 assessed value. In 2004, for example, the tax rate was $17.28 per $1,000.