Between new subdivisions, updating building codes and discussing tiny homes, the Surface Creek area seems to be steering its focus toward development and growth. However, these conversations shouldn't come as a surprise to many given the amount of construction happening in the area over the last few years.
For example, in 2017 eight new homes were started in Cedaredge. In 2018, there were 12 -- a 50 percent increase. Orchard City, however, saw the opposite trend. While 15 homes were started in 2017, only eight were started in 2018.
Orchard City might have seen starts similar to 2017 had there not been a moratorium on taps due to the drought. "People tend to not start homes when they can't get water," said Bruce Stanley, Orchard City and Cedaredge building inspector. Still, that didn't completely stall the area's development.
For example, Clarke Ashby built three of those new homes in OC last year and is currently working on another.
Stanley noted that one reason why OC might have had more home starts overall in the last two years is due to costs. OC charges a permit fee only while Cedaredge has numerous fees such as permit, use tax, plan check, impact and park and recreation fees. "If you plan to construct an 1,800-square-foot home the permits for building in Cedaredge might cost around $7,000. That same home in OC for permits might cost around $1,600," he explained.
Compared to the Front Range, Cedaredge is still significantly less expensive. Stanley estimates that a home that size in the Denver area could reach around $30,000 for permits.
The overall lower cost of living is one reason why both Stanley and builder Tate Locke think people are flocking to the Western Slope.
"Word of mouth is strong fuel with people moving into the area," said Locke. "Many are retiring and wanting less traffic, a better environment with cleaner air and water, and locally sourced food. Delta County just happens to have all of that more accessible and at a lower cost than, say, California."
The types of homes being built vary. The numbers also include modular homes -- ones that are manufactured off site, brought in and then placed on a foundation. Stanley said homes built in OC mainly depend on what land is available.
In Cedaredge development is mostly concentrated around the golf course and the high school with a couple being built in the northwest part of town.
Each year Locke's business, Cristee-Meade Building Company, builds three to five new houses. The homes Locke specializes in are custom builds, like the ones near the golf course.
"Over the years we've seen people start heading toward smaller and more functional homes," said Locke, a builder in Cedaredge since 2004. The average square footage before the housing crash of 2009 was 30 percent larger than after the recession.
"People are more focused on energy efficient homes and making the most with their space," he said.
Over half the company's business, however, is in remodels. "We have lots of locals or people moving into the area who want to better their homes," he said.
Stanley said the number of permits issued per year for renovations and remodels has been around 40 each in Cedaredge and Orchard City.
In addition to custom and owner built houses, many builders are turning their work toward affordability, around the $150,000-200,000 range. The new subdivision being discussed in Cedaredge, Orchard Meadows, will capitalize on this need.
"During 2017 and 2018 a good focus has been brought to the affordable home market while the custom home market is continuing to grow," said Locke. "I'm glad seeing other builders meeting this need and I think the future growth will remain strong in both areas."
Overall, the boom in building is beneficial for all builders and contractors in the area. While many moved away at the time of the economic crash, those that remained are finding building to be a reliable income source.
Ashby decided to start building homes with his son a year ago. His son needed to get out of the coal mines and Ashby wanted something more to do in retirement.
Together the two build mostly spec homes which are ones that are completed, or nearly completed, before being sold. The layout, flooring and features are chosen by the builders.
With the stable economy and growth in the area, the two are able to construct homes in 2-3 months and sell quickly. "I've been building all my life and find this keeps my mind and everything a bit sharper," said Ashby, who's lived in the area for 18 years and used to own a store and shed business.
Locke's company provides wages for 10-12 families in the area. "We're focused on long-term employment," he said. "We love working in and on the community."
In addition to more employment opportunities, growth in Surface Creek is also good news for businesses. "The refurbished performing arts center in Cedaredge has been tremendously successful and restaurants are booming more than they have in the past," said Stanley.