LINCOLN, Maine — The number of new business startups stayed constant in Lincoln in 2011, but town-issued building permits fell dramatically for the third straight year, town leaders said Thursday.
Code enforcement supervisor Ruth Birtz blamed the struggling regional and national economies for the town’s having granted just 227 building permits in 2011, down from 328 the previous year and 358 in 2009.
“It’s a definite indicator of the fact that the economy, jobs market and the refinancing of homes or home improvements have all gotten harder over the last year,” Birtz said. “Banks and other lending institutions’ regulations have also gotten a lot stricter, so it’s more difficult to get refinancing to buy new homes or repair.”
The planning board and code enforcement office issued 14 new businesses permits in 2011, the same number as in 2010, Birtz said.
Golden Jade Restaurant, Styles By Abby, a Verizon communications outlet, two or three church and food cupboard thrift stores, Lincoln Lakes Olde Tyme Butcher Shoppe, several home-based businesses and a Dysart’s convenience store are among the new businesses permitted in 2011, Birtz said.
Dysart’s bought a carwash on West Broadway last year and has plans to add a Dysart’s Travel Stop to the building this spring, town officials have said.
One of the biggest businesses technically logged as having been permitted in 2011 is the $130 million Rollins Mountain industrial wind facility. The planning board issued the permit years before, but First Wind of Massachusetts did not claim the permit officially until last year. Company officials awaited the exhaustion of permit appeals, Birtz said.
Construction finished and the project went on line last year.
The 227 permits in 2011 include certificates allowing the construction of new businesses, new buildings and renovations plus plumbing and electrical work. The permit counts are seen as general indicators of a given economy’s health.
The number does not include permits for roof reshingling or building demolition. At the suggestion of Public Works Department Director David Lloyd and the town recycling committee, the code enforcement office separated those counts from the general numbers and started individually charging people doing that work disposal fees at the town transfer station.
That helped relieve most taxpayers of the burden of paying for the disposal of construction waste, Birtz said.
“It’s a pilot program,” Birtz said. “It needs some tweaking, but we are on the right track.”
Birtz and Code Enforcement Officer Dan Whittier said that it feels now as if 2012 will be better than 2011. They have no hard data to support this; rather, a sense that the number of questions they get regarding potential new business or construction starts is increasing compared with last fall and December and January of a year ago, they said.
“We are just like a lot of other towns,” Birtz said. “We’re hoping that things will get better this year.”