Summit County breaks records with 915 building permits issued, $234 million in property value created |

Summit County breaks records with 915 building permits issued, $234 million in property value created

The ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony for the Village at Wintergreen. Wintergreen was one of hundreds of building permits approved last year amid another record-setting wave of building in the county.
Hugh Carey /

Most might not be aware of the adventurous life of a Summit County building inspector. It is not your typical building inspection job — often requiring the use of lifts, ATVs and Snowcats to get to inspection sites in remote areas of the jagged, snowbound mountains.

The Summit County Building Department must handle those unique jobs along with a typical workload of 50 to 90 inspections a day. That number will just keep on climbing as the county rides another building surge.

The department released its 2018 building inspection report, and for the second year in a row the county hit a record high in inspections, permits issued and net worth of property evaluated.

Last year, the building department approved 915 building permits and performed a total of 17,205 inspections on property valued at over $234 million. All were records for the county for the second straight year, marking the ramping up of another big building uptick in the county.

In Summit, there are particular quirks and challenges to building codes, such as having substantial foundation depth to account for the amount of snow the area gets, as well as provisions for wildfire mitigation.

Chief building official Scott Hoffman said that his staff members have been up to the task with the increased workload.

“We pride ourselves to do every inspection every day they get scheduled,” Hoffman said. “If we’re not able to do this work in a timely fashion, it slows down a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of the local economy.”

The building frenzy has included a number of workforce-housing projects. The Village at Wintergreen near Keystone got permitted in March 2018 with 196 rental units planned on more than 28 acres. The West Hills projects are progressing into a second phase, offering deed-restricted, for-sale townhomes and condos in the Snake River Basin. Smith Ranch is offering a mix of single-family homes and townhomes in Silverthorne.

In 2019, Hoffman said the department expects a similar level of work to last year.

“We have a bunch of different projects on the radar, and if they all go, we’ll have another all-time high,” he said.

However, legislation at the state level is threatening to make his job harder. One provision calls for fees for electric permits to be cut by half, something Hoffman said his department won’t be able to operate effectively with.

“We do 60 electric inspections a week, and cutting those fees doesn’t allow us to recoup the costs of keeping electricians on staff,” Hoffman said. “We want fees to be set to what is appropriate for our area.”

Another provision called for only licensed plumbers to do inspections on plumbing work. For a resort community like Summit County, with so few skilled tradesmen available, that’s a big ask. However, Hoffman said that particular provision has been amended out and is no longer a big concern, but something to keep an eye on if it pops up again.

Hoffman said the special challenges his department faces, and thanked the county for their tireless efforts.

“Summit County’s high alpine environment and resort economy combine to create unique challenges for designers, builders and the regulators steering them through the complex permitting process,” Hoffman said. “We are very grateful for the support of the board of county commissioners, town councils and senior management, as we work to ensure the quality, safety, accessibility and sustainability of the built environment in Summit County.”

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