Stats show remodeling beats building in Southold

02/27/2014 3:24 PM |
Carpenter Rem Stabas (left) and contractor Tom Gabrielsen working in the kitchen of a Peconic home where they did a complete remodel, gutted all the walls and built two additions. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Carpenter Rem Stabas (left) and contractor Tom Gabrielsen working in the kitchen of a Peconic home where they did a complete remodel, gutted all the walls and built two additions. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The number of Southold Town homeowners choosing renovation over new construction is on the rise, building records show. 

During the past four years, fewer residents have opted to construct one- or two-family homes, while expansions and upgrades to existing homes have risen more than 7 percent over last year, according to the town’s permit applications.

“It’s definitely been the case that there are more renovations than building of new homes,” said contractor Rob Gabrielsen of Gabrielsen Builders in Jamesport.

Mr. Gabrielsen, who works with his uncle, Tom, suspects that a lack of buildable lots is to blame for the drop in new residential construction. Applications for new home construction have not varied much in recent years, according to building records. In 2010, 67 permits applications were filed followed by 43 in 2011, 44 in 2012 and 43 again in 2013.

“I think the main reason is that a lot of the land is not available for building,” he said. “All over the North Fork, since the last building boom about 10 years ago, there’s a lack of buildable land.”

Residents appear more are apt to invest in a location than start from scratch, Mr. Gabrielsen said — a statement the numbers support.

In 2013, 302 applications for residential renovations were filed — the most in four years, according to building records. Previous application rates were 281 for 2012, 284 for 2011 and 292 in 2010.

“We’re taking on a lot more renovations right now compared to new work,” said Mattituck native Brian Anderson, who works with CDL Contracting of Manorville. “That’s what’s out there right now. Really, there are no new properties to build on,” he said.

Meanwhile, commercial building permits have remained flat, with building applications for new business in the single digits over the past four years, records show.

Requests for new commercial permits from 2010 through the end of 2013 were four, three, four and nine, according to the town’s building department. The town’s chief building inspector Mike Verity said that historically, commercial construction and renovation are much lower in Southold than in neighboring towns.

“We are about 90 percent residential as a town,” he said. “We’re not Riverhead or Smithtown. It’s a completely different world.”

While the commercial real estate market is booming along Route 58 in Riverhead with the establishment of new businesses such as Walmart, Costco and Buffalo Wild Wings, there are typically no more than a dozen new commercial building applications in Southold annually, mainly for mom-and-pop establishments, Mr. Verity said.

However, there is more incentive in 2014 to bring more businesses to Southold — or at least expand businesses that are already operating. Last year, Southold Town board members passed a measure offering businesses expanded tax exemptions for up to 10 years.

The Industrial/Commercial Incentive Plan allows local businesses to qualify for tax breaks if they undertake more than $50,000 worth of construction, alterations, installations or other improvements to their facilities. The board hopes the move will draw new industry to existing buildings in Southold, such as the vacant Capital One Bank building in Mattituck.

cmurray@timesreview.com