Construction decline has RDKB reviewing building service

According to the RDKB's building summary, there were zero building permits issued in the city last year.

Comparing commercial to residential construction is like comparing apples to oranges.

But a downward trend of big builds over six years means much less green in the regional district’s building permit basket.

During the years of boom, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) built up reserves when the service’s building inspectors were occupied with engineering or architectural plans, and on the road field checking industrial and commercial sites stretching from Ross Spur to Big White.

With that money stream drying up, save for mostly homeowner renovations, the regional district is looking at ways to sustain its building inspection service.

The department provides building inspection services to all five electoral areas and on a contract basis, to six municipalities.

Two RDKB building inspectors are based in Grand Forks, and three in the Trail office.

The regional district is contracted by each municipality to ensure that all buildings conform to the B.C. Building Code and applicable bylaws.

“A sizeable revenue reserve was established to offset taxation when construction activity was very high at Big White and elsewhere in the region,” explains Mark Andison, RDKB’s general manager of operations. “But, with lesser building activity over the past few years (since 2008), that reserve has been depleted.”

The service’s year-end report shows a decrease of 50 permits since 2013. The combined total construction value amounts to $16.6 million compared to $33.8 million the year previous, within RDKB’s rural areas and municipal participants in Fruitvale, Montrose, Trail, Warfield, Greenwood and Midway.

While that number appears dramatic, locally there’s more to the service than dollar signs.

“It’s difficult to compare the year-to-year overall building value for Trail,” says Michelle McIsaac, the city’s corporate administrator. “As the building value is heavily influenced by projects at Teck and the construction undertaken there in any given year.”

According to the RDKB’s building summary, there were zero building permits issued for the industrial, commercial and institutional markets in the city last year. Total building values for Trail in 2013 topped $13.9 million compared to  $4.1 million in 2014.

However, nearly $10 million in overall permit construction value the previous year is attributed to projects at Teck Trail Operations, specifically, the No. 1 Acid Plant.

“Comparably in 2014, projects at Teck accounted for only $200,000 in overall construction value,” McIsaac explained. “Construction at Teck in 2014 was significantly reduced, although it’s important to note that construction of the No. 1 Acid Plant continued in the first half of 2014, even though the permits were issued in 2013.”

If Teck’s permits are taken out of the equation, then construction value in Trail actually increased by about $100,000 since 2013, McIsaac clarified.

Similarly in Fruitvale, 2013 saw several new constructions with 39 permits translating into an increased building value of $2 million. Because the larger projects carried into 2014, values aren’t reflected in the recent building report summary. Instead, the 27 permits issued last year for upgrades to existing village builds amount to $800,000 in total.

“So there may be a timing difference between the permitting and the construction phases,” says Lila Cresswell, Fruitvale’s chief administrative officer. “Commercial construction is higher value than residential and most of the 2014 permits were for renovations rather than new construction.”