Local News

Builders Worry Water Woes Will Spur Building Ban

Posted February 12, 2008 11:43 p.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2008 10:59 a.m. EST

— Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said Tuesday that it is difficult to determine how much response is needed to address the drought.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Falls Lake, recently issued a forecast that suggested the lake, which is Raleigh's primary source of drinking water, would run dry this summer.

City Council Member Rodger Koopman wants the city to consider tougher restrictions at its meeting next Tuesday. The council voted last week to begin Stage 2 water restrictions this Friday.

With talk of even tougher restrictions, builders and developers are worried about a possible moratorium on development. The city has continued to issue hundreds of building permits throughout the drought.

"Should we stop construction on new development at least for a while while we figure out what's facing us?" Koopman said, is a question the City Council needs to consider.

Koopman said a building ban may be necessary if the levels at Falls Lake continue to drop.

"From a homebuilding standpoint, the word moratorium is something that makes us all shudder," said Dan Tingen, of Tingen Construction Co.

The Raleigh system serves the city and Rolesville, Zebulon, Wendell, Garner, Knightdale and Wake Forest. Last year, builders pulled more than 54,000 permits for new homes and businesses.

Raleigh had the most permits. A moratorium would put a halt to all new development in the city.

“We're now looking at the preservation of the economic viability of our region," Koopman said.

"Companies like mine that currently own lots, we've purchased lots with the expectations that we are going to be able to put homes on them and sell them. If you tell me I can't permit them, I'm essentially out of business," Tingen said.

Tingen said a building ban would not have an immediate impact on the drought because a new home can take up to eight months to build.

A report issued Tuesday indicated that the region has a 20 percent chance of escaping drought conditions in the coming months, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. The area would need 13 to 16 inches of rain by May or 22 to 26 inches by August to end the drought, he said.

A rainfall outlook from the National Weather Service predicted drier-than-normal conditions across the Southeast for the next three months, Fishel said.