VALPARAISO — Porter County government is starting to see a renewed interest in the construction of large residential subdivisions in the unincorporated areas.
"They're starting to feel better about the economy," said Bob Thompson, executive director of the Porter County Department of Development & Storm Water Management.
He also believes the resurgence is being fueled by a shortage of buildable lots. When large projects took a downturn several years ago, there was a surplus of available property.
"We haven't seen that in a few years," Thompson said of the recent inquiries from developers.
The sites being eyed for potential development are mostly north of Ind. 2 and around the urban areas of the county where land is already zoned for residential use, Thompson said.
The Preserve development, on 90 acres a half mile west of Chesterton High School in Liberty Township, is the type of large-scale project described by Thompson.
"I think we're cautiously optimistic," said project developer Paul Shinn, who is a board member and past president of the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana.
He said there is pent-up demand.
"I think people are just ready to start making some moves," Shinn said.
The Preserve offers 89 lots for single-family homes, 21 of which are now available, he said. The site is unusual in that 55 acres is being left undeveloped.
The lots are smaller in size so residents will be able to focus on personalizing their homes, he said.
Work will begin in the spring on the first model homes, Shinn said.
While Thompson said the number of building permits has remained steady the last couple of years, the county Health Department experienced an uptick last year in the number of septic permits issued and parcels presented for consideration to the development review committee, said Administrator Keith Letta.
These figures indicate an increase in development, he said.
There has also been an increase in the number of people seeking the Health Department's help in locating their septic systems as part of construction or other improvement projects, Letta said.