13,000 city residential dwellings in the works

File photo: Construction crew building a home. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

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Posted April 1, 2022 | By Ocala Gazette Staff

Chief Development Officer Aubrey Hale provided city council with an update on the city’s current building boom during an annual strategic planning session on March 22. 

Hale said that the city has approximately 13,000 dwellings that are either under construction, under plan review or committed from planned developments, of which approximately 5,000 are multi-family dwelling units.

He also said that the city has approximately five-and-half million square feet of industrial space available in the works as well. 

Overall, the City of Ocala approved 6,393 building permits in 2021, according to records provided to the “Gazette” by city staff on March 30, illustrating a steady increase of approved building permits over the last three years.

In 2020, the city approved 6,369 building permits, an increase of 155 permits from 2019 (6,214). 

In 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively, Ocala approved 6,302, 5,727 and 5,042 building permits.

On average, the city approved 5,993 building permits from 2016 to 2021, according to city documents. Prior to 2016, for comparison, the city approved 3,748 permits in 2012, 5,750 in 2008 and 7,578 in 2005. 

In fees, 2021 generated $2.2 million in approved building permits for the city. The rest, from 2020 to 2016, are as follows:

• 2020 $2.4 million

• 2019 $2.5 million

• 2018 $3.1 million

• 2017 $2.9 million

• 2016 $1 million

Florida Statutes allow local government to collect fees associated with enforcement of Florida building codes. However, to ensure these fees don’t become a profit center for the local government, the statute restricts the way those fees can be used and how much of a balance the fund can carry.

According to the statue, the money collected in fees can only be used for “direct costs and reasonable indirect costs associated with review of building plans, building inspections, re-inspections and building permit processing; building code enforcement; and fire inspections associated with new construction” as well as “training costs” associated with enforcement. Also allowed under the statute, is building a structure that “houses a local government’s building code enforcement agency.”

In addition to putting limitations on how the money can be spent, the statute also restricts local governments from carrying forward a fund balance that exceeds the department’s average operating budget for the previous four fiscal years.  

The city will be exploring how to cut revenue in order to keep their fund balance in compliance just as the county recently did.