The reopening of dine-in services and some in-person shopping are likely to be the most visible changes now that Clark County has moved into Phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start reopening plan. However, residents can also expect to see an uptick in the number of construction projects underway throughout the county.
Phase 1 allowed for limited construction activity to resume on projects that were already underway in mid-March when Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Builders and developers have been eagerly awaiting Phase 2, which allows all construction to resume, including new projects that have spent the past few months on hold.
Phase 2 retains most of the new health safety requirements from Phase 1, including a COVID-19 exposure control plan, a designated COVID-19 supervisor and weekly safety meetings at all construction sites.
Avaly Scarpelli, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Clark County, said homebuilders will probably continue to focus on finishing up their existing projects, but there will still likely be a surge in demand for subcontractors.
“Because Phase 1 didn’t allow uncontracted or unpermitted work to occur, we believe that the opening (of) all construction activity will solve some of the backlog builders are experiencing due to the artificial shortage of subs,” she wrote in an email.
That’s also going to be great news for a lot of remodelers, subcontractors and other small businesses that are going to find themselves emerging from the stay-at-home period with no work contracted for the next several months, she said.
Contractors haven’t been completely out of luck during the closure, according to Nelson Holmberg, executive director of the Southwest Washington Contractors Association. Projects that were considered “essential” were allowed to continue even before Phase 1 began, and there were plenty of those projects in Southwest Washington.
“I know a lot of our members did stay pretty busy with essential work — schools was one of the ones that was considered essential, so a lot of those projects kept going,” he said. “There were some of the smaller contractors though, and some of the subs, that were slowed a little more.”
The slowdown stemmed, in part, from a Phase 1 restriction on the number of contractors that could be on a job site at a time, even on projects where work was allowed to continue.
As homebuilders turn their attention to new projects, the biggest focus will likely be on unbuilt homes that were sold before or during the stay-at-home order, Scarpelli said. Real estate transactions were allowed to continue with new restrictions in place during the stay-at-home order, so the industry isn’t facing a dearth of projects in the pipeline.
Clark County and local cities have also done a great job keeping up with processing permits, she said, so the industry isn’t expecting to face a permitting bottleneck.