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Local municipalities note increase in new building permits, construction values

Last year was busy in terms of permitting and construction for local municipalities.

Data collected from Ottawa County, the cities of Ferrysburg and Grand Haven, Grand Haven and Spring Lake townships, and the village of Spring Lake shows the local governments have mostly kept pace or increased their new building permits and the construction values of those permits in 2019, compared to 2018.

“When it comes to the number of permits, single-family homes and commercial permits have increased in number, while mobile home and multi-family permits have decreased, on average,” said David Kurili, research and data analyst for Ottawa County. “Permit values have increased in all categories – besides industrial, which has been zero since we started collecting the data.”

For the five local municipalities, the number of permits for single-family housing increased by 17 to a total of 142 last year. The construction value for the permits also increased by more than $3 million to a total of $48 million.

The number of permits for mobile homes decreased by eight to 92 permits last year; however, the construction value increased by $1,377,512 to bring the total to a little more than $2.9 million.

Similarly, permits dropped by one for multi-family dwellings – which include apartments, condominiums, duplexes and townhouses – bringing the total to nine this past year. The construction value of the multi-family dwellings totaled $18,424,014, an increase of $14,778,374 from 2018.

As stated by Kurili, the industrial category remained zero for all municipalities over the past two years.

Another category of permit type tracked by the county is “all other nonresidential construction,” and includes retail, office, commercial, religious, education and government. From 2018 to 2019, the number of permits in this category increased by three to a total of 12. The construction value also increased by $5,991,805, to bring the total to $13,764,006.

While some communities also kept track of the number of permits for additions, property owners reinvesting in their homes, remodels and more, as well as the construction values of such, this report focuses on the data collected for new buildings.

City of Ferrysburg

With about $2,975,000 in construction value in 2019, Ferrysburg has kept close to the same value as in 2018.

The city kept pace in the single-family housing category with seven permits in both 2018 and 2019. In 2019, Ferrysburg had four permits for mobile homes, with none the year before. However, in 2018, the city had two multi-family home permits, and none in 2019.

With two more county-collected new construction permits than the year before, 2018 included a construction value of $3,489,000, a little more than the construction value of this past year.

Other permits being issued for construction in the city, though, has brought values up.

“Due to the economy, and from homeowners building and reinvesting in their properties, property values have increased each of the last six years, and is expected to increase in 2020,” City Manager Craig Bessinger said.

City of Grand Haven

Numbers of permits in Grand Haven last year lagged a bit behind the numbers for 2018 in each of the categories except single-family housing.

In 2019, there were a total of 12 single-family housing permits in the city, compared to 2018’s nine. However, this past year included fewer permits for mobile home (nine to the 18 in 2018), multi-family dwellings (three compared to 2018’s four) and other nonresidential construction (one less than the six in 2018).

With fewer permits, the construction value for 2019 nipped closely at the heels of 2018’s value of $11,299,543. The construction value of the city’s new building permits in 2019 totaled $11,239,299.

Grand Haven Township

Grand Haven Township noted a jump in new construction and the values of such in all but the other nonresidential construction category.

“It is interesting, and will lead to more people to count in the 2020 Census,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said.

Sixty-seven new single-family housing permits were issued in 2019, an increase from the 49 issued in 2018. Mobile home and multi-family dwelling permits also increased from 54 to 56 and from four to six, respectively, between 2018 and 2019.

Other nonresidential construction permits dropped by one from 2018 to 2019, with a total this past year of two permits.

However, with the higher number of permits this past year, the construction value for 2019 reached approximately $39,709,138 compared to $21,022,808 in 2018.

“The economy is strong, so construction is strong,” Cargo said. “Construction is often the first to feel a drop with economic activity. The township population is continuing to grow. We estimate an additional 2.9 residents for every single-family dwelling and 1.5 for every apartment unit.

Spring Lake Township

Although Spring Lake Township had a slight dip in the number of new building permits in 2019 from 2018, the total value of construction last year stuck closely to the value of the year before.

“We are pleased with the continued investment in Spring Lake Township,” Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said.

Fifty-one permits were issued for single-family housing in 2019, while 54 were issued in 2018. Similarly, the total number of permits for mobile homes in 2019 lagged behind the number for 2018, with 23 and 28 permits respectively.

However, the township noted an increase in other nonresidential construction, with two permits being issued in 2019 and none the year before.

In 2019, the township had a construction value of permits totaling $19,991,128, and in 2018 the value reached $20,685,537.

“It is good to have a robust building economy,” Gallagher said. “It keeps our traded people working and promotes the overall economy of the community.”

Village of Spring Lake

In the village, multiple categories of permits and their construction values remained the same from 2018 to 2019.

Differences included the number of single-family housing permits dropping from six to five between 2018 and 2019, and the number of other nonresidential construction permits increasing to three in 2019, compared to none in 2018.

These differences increased the construction value of the permits from $1,080,000 in 2018 to $9,264,000 in 2019.

“The village is obviously excited about all the commercial and residential development,” Village Manager Christine Burns said. “What this means for the village is additional tax revenue and residents. More residents ultimately equates to additional state revenue sharing dollars, as that formula is based on population.

“Staff has been extraordinarily busy with all the economic development inquiries,” she added. “Our volunteer boards (Planning Commission, Downtown Development Association and Village Council) are doing their best to make sure that the growth is thoughtful and well-planned. We are referring to this boom as Spring Lake 2.0 as we all work to make this community even better than it was.”

Life with Luke

ZEELAND — Dee Worley and her partner of 19 years, Stacy Van Dine, met their son, Luke, when he was 9 weeks old.

“We met him in the pediatric intensive care unit at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital after he had been severely abused,” Worley said. “He was lying in a crib that had sides. He had lots of wires and leads and things monitoring him.”

Little Luke had been admitted to the PICU just five weeks earlier with a traumatic brain injury. That’s where Caroline Rich, a nurse practitioner in pediatric neurology and neuro critical care, first met Luke.

“He had come in with severe trauma, hypothermia and malnutrition,” Rich said. “He had track marks on his abdomen from heroin needles. His skull was broken in many places and he was placed in a freezer as family thought it would ‘fix the broken bones.’”

The little boy went on to develop epilepsy, cognitive delay, vision impairment, spastic cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus, which required a shunt to drain fluid from his damaged brain to his stomach.

Rich said she had known Worley and Van Dine from working with their other adopted children.

“I met with them the moment they saw (Luke),” Rich said. “They did not want to know how he was injured, they just wanted to know his injuries. They never looked back.”

Worley remembers that day well.

“It was pretty scary, actually,” she said. “To know he had the injuries he had and the unknowns of what the future was going to be. That’s pretty scary. I remember just this instant feeling of love for him.”

Because of his traumatic brain injury, Luke had a full arsenal of specialty teams caring for him, including neurology, neurosurgery, neurodevelopment, ophthalmology, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

The Zeeland couple provided a foster home for Luke when he left the hospital at 11 weeks old. He joined their family of four other children, ages 8-22.

A ‘forever’ home

“I said, ‘We will foster until you can find a long-term home for him,’” Worley said. “That didn’t work out so well. We knew probably about three weeks after we had him home that if we had the opportunity to keep him, we would. All of our children are adopted. There are kids in the world that deserve to have somebody love them.”

Luke was an easy one to love, she said, even with an unknown future.

“Luke didn’t have a lot of personality because of his injury,” she said. “There wasn’t a whole lot there. The doctors just said, ‘We can’t tell you what he’s going to be like. Time will tell where he’s going to end up.’”

Time is telling. And the family is loving the story.

The now-6-year-old Luke has been learning sign language since age 2 and can play outdoors with his siblings.

He takes medication to control his seizures, wears sporty blue glasses to help his vision, and uses a wheelchair and walker for mobility. A G-tube in his stomach provides nutrition.

“Seeing the progress he’s made in a short amount of time is just huge,” Worley said. “When he first came to us, he had absolutely no vision. He sees now. Luke’s vision is greatly improved. He can see to track toys, he can see me smile at him and he can see the things his teacher writes on a white board at the front of his classroom.”

At a recent Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital outpatient therapy appointment, Luke signed to Worley.

“No, you’re not going swimming,” Worley said, laughing. “Can you say ‘Mama’? Can you say ‘wow’?”

Luke signed the words as his mom smiled.

Physical therapist Robin Linton-Fisher entered the room. She’s been working with Luke for six years.

“Are you excited to be here?” she asked him, as she massaged his calves and stretched his muscles. “Should we do the swing or the ball next?”

Luke shook his head: No.

“That wasn’t a choice, sir,” Linton-Fisher said. “Let’s play some basketball.”

With the help of Worley, Luke walked to the basketball hoop. He grabbed a green frog and threw it toward the hoop. Next, a blue turtle. He picked up an orange frog and lobbed it through the hoop with his left hand, then tilted his head back in laughter.

“In the last year he’s really gotten expressive with laughing,” Worley said. “When he was little, he was happy and there was a smile, but there was no sound. There was no laughter. He exceeds all of our expectations. When we started with him, we did not think that he would be this far. He’s walking and laughing.”

As if on cue, “Ha, ha, ha” Luke chimed in.

“He’s really full of it today,” Linton-Fisher said.

She placed colorful, sticky Squigz on the large window that overlooks the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital emergency department entrance, where this journey began. Luke entered the ED years ago with no one knowing if he would ever leave alive.

“They told us he was about 12 hours from death,” Worley said.

‘He’s done amazingly well’

But high up on the fourth-floor outpatient therapy room on this day, Luke focused not on his past but instead eye-hand coordination, pulling the Squigz one by one from the window, then, after completing the task, high-fived his mom.

“He’s done amazingly well,” Linton-Fisher said. “I have seen him go from being a tiny baby to being an awesome kid that can do a lot of things that people didn’t think he would be able to do – standing, walking, talking, sitting.”

Back home, Luke sat on the trampoline while his sisters – Sarabiah, 10, and Cassidy, 8 – jumped around him. He laughed as his little body bounced upward, his curly brown locks mimicking his up-and-down movement.

“It’s fun to watch our other kids encourage him, love him, hold him and watch him do new things,” Worley said. “The kids are fabulous with him.”

When the children tired of jumping, Worley joined Luke in a walk down the sidewalk with his walker. He scooted along at a moderate pace, passing by the Little Library book box Van Dine constructed on their property. The library overflowed with children’s books. As he and Worley rounded the corner past the little library, two other children approached the library and each selected a story book.

Worley and Van Dine optimistically wait to see how Luke’s story plays out. Given its opening chapter, they’re amazed at how the plot line is progressing so far.

“At almost 6 years old, for the first time, he got up on his hands and knees and looked ready to crawl,” Worley said. “It’s not age appropriate, but for our family, it’s huge. He can navigate in his walker. He’s also able to feed himself his own meals now. And, as his brain injury has healed, his vision has come a long way.”

Despite his struggles, Luke knows nothing different. He’s learned to adapt and become the star of his story.

“He’s the happiest little boy I have ever met in my whole life,” Worley said. “If he’s not smiling, there’s something wrong with him.”

Rich said Worley and Van Dine were instrumental in shaping Luke’s life story.

“The reason he is doing better than anyone could have expected is because of them,” Rich said. “They are the strongest advocates for children I have ever met.”