WILMINGTON -- The latest figures show New Hanover County's sewer moratorium is taking its toll. Just how much of a construction slowdown are we seeing? When New Hanover County put the building moratorium in place, it was designed to reduce the flow of wastewater through the over-burdened sewer system until repairs were finished. And while it may be helping with the sewer problem it's creating new problems for a key driver of greater Wilmington's economy. Over the past year builders have been playing the waiting game until the moratorium on hookups to the northeast interceptor sewer line is lifted. Developer Jeffrey Stokley said, "It's going to affect development in this county for several years. If you're not putting infrastructure in the ground, then obviously it puts you behind on having lots available to sell." Stokley says waiting out the moratorium is costing him and the additional cost is ultimately passed on to the consumer. "What it does is increase your overall land costs," Stokley said. "Now you're having to carry that land for a longer period of time, so therefore it's going to affect your price of the house at the end." The slowdown is substantial. Over the past year the number of new residential building permits has plunged 26 percent. Aside from the sewer-hookup moratorium, the Cape Fear Builders Association blames the recent real estate downturn. Donna Girardot with the Cape Fear Homebuilders Association said, "One of the major impediments for people buying in this area is trying to sell their house somewhere else." Girardot says the silver lining is a recent upswing in the real estate market in the northeast, where many people move here from. And when they relocate, they're often met with sweetened deals from builders -- everything from upgraded carpets and appliances - to paid closing costs. "They're helping to move the inventory. And that's what we want to do. We want to dry up the inventory so the market can rebound again," Girardot said. That's something Stokley says he's already offering. "You still need to help stimulate the buyer," he said. Girardot estimates that about 20 percent of builders in greater Wilmington are offering incentives. The good news for builders is that sales of new homes are up and the price of new homes is also up.
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