Good economy, but less development in unincorporated Garfield County last year |

Good economy, but less development in unincorporated Garfield County last year

Post Independent Garfield County news graphic

Garfield County’s economy kept improving through 2018, but that didn’t translate into a lot of new housing or commercial products in unincorporated areas last year.

The number of residential and commercial permit applications dropped considerably from 2018 to 2019, according to county planning staff.

The county received 92 planning applications for new developments in 2019 — 30 fewer than the year before.

“I don’t know if this is a downward trend, or if this is more settling out, but that’s what we saw in 2019,” planner Sheryl Bower told the county commissioners Monday.

Graphic: Garfield County Community Development

Bower told the Post Independent that there may be a number of factors leading to the decline in developments, and what happens in 2020 would help understand why it dropped.

But it’s fairly apparent that the economy is doing well, and even improving in the county.

“The economy in Garfield County continues to improve, in all sectors except the mining industry,” which includes oil and gas developments, county finance director Theresa Wagenman told the commissioners.

“The one that pays the bills,” commissioner Mike Samson of Rifle quipped.

The county receives less than half of a 1% countywide sales tax, 52% of which is distributed to the municipalities.

The revenue from the 1% tax in Glenwood Springs was the highest, followed by unincorporated Garfield County and Rifle.

Most of Garfield County’s budget comes from property taxes, but Wagenman projects sales tax will bring in $12 million in 2020, a 2% increase from this year.

The improved economy is also raising the average wage.

“Personal income is trending upwards, and Garfield County is now above the state average for personal income per capita,” county planner Patrick Waller said.

Graphic: Garfield County Community Development

The number of jobs is also increasing, and unemployment falling in the county, but the approximately 35,000 jobs estimated in 2018 is still 2,000 jobs short of the 2008 pre-recession figure.

“We’re sort of in an upward trajectory, but of note, we still haven’t evened out with 2008,” Waller said.

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