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ANOTHER $100 MILLION YEAR FOR HOME CONSTRUCTION

including those for single-family homes -- went up in Amherst during 1999 compared with the previous year, town officials said Tuesday.

The total dollar value of the building, however, appears to have dipped somewhat, partly because the number of new multiple-family units has dropped even as single-family units increased for the third year in a row, officials said.

Commercial development, meanwhile, appears slightly ahead of last year.

"The trend I am seeing is, we are getting more permits. However, the dollar value associated with each is a bit lower, so the total dollar value is down," said Building Commissioner Thomas C. Ketchum.

Still, the report is viewed as good news for Amherst, because the total value of new development once again broke the $100 million mark, and the town's tax base continues to expand.

"Any time we break $100 million, I feel we had a decent year," Ketchum said. "I am pleased in terms of the increase in assessed valuation."

The total number of building permits issued as of the end of November was 2,658. There were 291 for family dwelling units: 130 single-family homes and 161 multiple-family units, said Ketchum.

The total value of the construction associated with those permits was $103.5 million. By year's end, Ketchum estimates the town will issue 200 to 300 more permits, and the total value will be $108 million.

In comparison, there were 2,656 permits issued during all of 1998, including 432 for multiple-dwelling units and 122 single-family units.

Dollarwise, the value of the 1998 permits was about $118 million -- some $10 million more than the town's estimate for 1999.

The value of commercial construction in Amherst was $54.3 million in 1998, compared with $55.4 million as of the end of November 1999.

The value of residential construction was $56.3 million in 1998, compared with $37.2 million during the first 11 months of this year.

In 1998, the town had several large, multi-unit residential projects that boosted the value of the residential permits, Ketchum said.

"In any given year, a couple blockbuster projects tips the scales," Ketchum said. "We didn't have as many large projects this year as we've had in some recent years."

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