Government can be an intrusive, bureaucratic nightmare. But a recent idea floated by some in the development community for Barrow County to lower its building standards is not a solution to that problem.
The proposal was discussed at a Barrow County Board of Commissioners meeting last week as a way to “jumpstart” the building industry in the county. The idea is to help developers lower their costs by getting rid of some county requirements for building new homes.
Among the proposals were to lower the minimum home size to 1,350 sq. ft; to get rid of storm water infrastructure requirements; to reduce buffer requirements; to remove open space requirements in subdivisions; to remove sidewalk requirements; to increase the housing density in R1; and to reduce water and sewer tap fees.
But such a proposal is short-sighted. While doing those things might help put money into the pockets of developers who want to flood the county with starter homes, it does little to help homeowners or the county in general.
It’s true that a lot of developers lost money in the housing bust, but it was their gamble that led to that situation. It’s not up to the Barrow County government to now subsidize new construction by cutting fees and waiving requirements, a move that would only shift the cost to other taxpayers.
And in any event, the local market is flooded with homes that sit unsold due to foreclosures and overbuilding. Even if the county cut corners, that wouldn’t jumpstart the local construction industry.
Barrow countians have made it clear that they don’t want the kind of unbridled, hyper-growth that defined the community over the last decade. The intense speculation and over-building of that era is one reason the county took such a hard hit when the market declined.
To lower building standards in Barrow County would result over the long-run in a community of cheap, dense housing over the coming decade. Is that what Barrow countians want?
Great points! I still think the BOE needs to weigh in on this topic. At a minimum the BOE need to send a letter to the BOC expressing their position.
Reduced fees and building requirements will be supplemented by the tax payers.