CAMP VERDE - When Mike Jenkins hired on as a planner for the Town of Camp Verde he was in an office with eight other staffers at a time when it seemed growth would never stop.
But stop it did.
Since 2008, Jenkins, who now runs the department, has seen his staff dwindle from nine to four and the demand for new homes slip to almost nil.
But, as Jenkins points out, looks can be deceiving.
"The truth is that individually we are busier than we have ever been," Jenkins says. "A down economy, has simply changed the kind of work we are doing and the amount of money we are getting for all that work."
Jenkins points out that four years ago the Community Development Department was processing 70 to 80 building permits a month. Today, he says, the department is processing 60 to 70 permits a week.
"The only difference is we aren't seeing permits for new homes. Its all additions and remodels," he says, "And although the time spent processing the permit and inspecting the site may be a little less, in most instance you still have to go through the same set of requirements and inspections."
Jenkins speculates that many of the additions the department is seeing are related to the "boomerang generation" phenomenon, in which children affected by the economic downturn have been forced to return home, often bring along a wife and children of their own.
But, he says, it is some of the other phenomenon, stuff he had never seen before the economy went south, that is providing his department with lots of busy work.
"We have been getting more requests lately from real estate agents and lenders who want to look at our permit files," he says. "I didn't really understand why until I went to refinance my own home.
"Lenders are becoming more and more concerned with permitting. They want to make sure that the house meets all of the town's building requirements."
Jenkins says that in one instance a lender's appraiser was measuring a house and discovered it was larger than it was listed. The appraiser subsequently found an addition had been made for which no building permit had been issued.
"He forced the buyers to obtain a permit before they would lend the money," Jenkins says.
He says the Town also has its hands full with three more "orphan" subdivisions -- developments for which plat approval was given by the town but on which no improvements were built.
"There is just a lot of busy work with each of them that needs to be done before the council decides whether or not to abandon them. When we took Simonton Ranch to the council I told them it was only the start," Jenkins says.
He notes it took almost a year and a few hundred hours of staff time to go through the process of abandoning the Simonton Ranch subdivision last year.
Last but definitely not least, says Jenkins, are the new Town Code and Planning and Zoning Code, both of which will need to be enforced by his department.
"I don't want to sound pessimistic," he says, "but for us it's not getting better. On top of all this we have to begin planning for an update to the Town's General Plan, due in 2014. It will take at least a couple of years to complete."