City sees continued growth in new construction values

News-Argus Managing Editor
Friday, January 24, 2020
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City Manager Holly Phelps reads over a set of construction plans in her office Thursday afternoon. New construction in Lewistown in 2019 is valued at almost $11 million.

Photo by Deb Hill

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“We consider this our new normal.” 

That’s what City Manager Holly Phelps said about the nearly $11 million worth of new construction in Lewistown over the past year. 

Phelps said the number of building permits issued by the City for the past three years has been remarkably steady – 224 in 2017, the same number in 2018, and 227 in 2019. Of that 227, 146 were for residential projects and 81 were for commercial construction.

“These permits cover both remodels and new construction,” Phelps said. “It’s everything within the City limits.”

Phelps said she expects the level of new construction to continue, as there are already several large projects on the books for 2020.


County development harder to track

Outside the City, construction activity is tracked through Fergus County Planner Pam Vosen’s office.

“We issue a development permit when there is construction that needs a new physical address,” Vosen said. “In 2019 we issued 33 development permits, which is about the same as the two prior years.”

Vosen said the development permit, which is free, requires a person to describe what they are building.

“We don’t issue them for vacant land, but we do for anything people will live in, including a barn apartment,” she said. 

When Vosen receives a permit request, she contacts the Post Office, e-911 and the local fire department to inform them of the new address.

“People are supposed to get a permit prior to construction, but sometimes they slip through the cracks,” Vosen said. 

Subdivision activity in the County is down from the high levels of 2010-2012, Vosen said, probably because there are still a number of undeveloped lots in the existing subdivisions. However commercial construction may be slightly up just outside the City limits.

“We have those commercial lots at Hanover junction and a few others near the City limits,” Vosen said.


City sees increasing number of families

Inside the City limits, Phelps said much of the increased construction value is for home renovations. However there is also interest in new development.

“There’s been enough interest in the vacant lots within the City that we’ll be putting together a map of the available lots,” Phelps said. “We have a lot of residential lots in subdivisions such as Stonewood or up on Sage Hen.”

Phelps said she believes more young families have moved to Lewistown in the past few years, perhaps fueling the construction activity.

“I’ve seen the mean age (of residents) going down,” Phelps said. “When the census comes out, I think it is going to show that. Other places in Montana are growing older but Lewistown is getting younger. It would be interesting to find out why.”

Phelps said she has heard the schools are working this increase in young families into their planning process. However the growth in families hasn’t affected the City much.

“We haven’t seen an impact on City services, although I think we will see requests for Parks and Rec funding to increase at some point,” Phelps said.

Meanwhile, Phelps is pleased with the annual increase in new construction and value for the City.

“It’s not a boom, it’s more steady,” she said. “But slow and steady is fabulous.”



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