Sylacauga Planning and Code Department sees surge in local business permit applications

SYLACAUGA, Ala. — Mike Whetstone was named acting director of the planning and code department at Sylacauga in 2017, and he thinks there are more business owners applying for permits in recent months than there have been will never remember.

Over $23 million is currently contracted for permitted construction work within the city limits of Sylacauga. This amount includes work on new businesses, development plans on residential housing and renovations on existing buildings. The total is at a high for the city according to Whetstone, and he doesn’t expect it to drop any time soon.

“There’s a substantial amount starting or in progress right now,” Whetstone said. “Usually when these things start, they’re over within five to 12 months.”

The Planning and Code Department works with the Fire Department to inspect each submitted plan and ensure that the architecture considers safe evacuation of all occupants in the event of an emergency as a minimum requirement. According to Whetstone, over the past five to ten years, the department has also considered green power compliance.

During a discussion with Whetstone, Sylacauga Fire Chief Nate Osgood approached the Director of Planning and Code with a potential floor plan for a new business that needed to be inspected. It’s a routine that happens quite often between the two departments and always presents a new challenge that needs to be overcome. The specific problem in this case: an appropriate exit route.

However, not all locations are immediately purchased by the business owner. In the case of the subdivision that includes businesses that have recently moved to Sylacauga such as Hobby Lobby and Petsense, the process is lengthy.

“It’s kind of a two-pronged process,” Whetstone explained. “If there is no land already created for sale, a developer comes in and creates land that he rents or sells that land to any potential business.”

Permits have been filed for many recognizable businesses coming to Sylacauga, and many of them are now known to community members through the use of social media.

Rumor has it that Lloyd’s, Milo’s and Pizza Hut restaurants plus a Circle K convenience store are just some of the new business additions to Sylacauga in the near future, and Whetstone admitted that others who may not not yet to be disclosed are on the way. The high influx of submitted permits is very promising for Whetstone.

“I’m just excited that there’s positive movement,” Whetstone said. “It’s excessive. It’s a lot for Sylacauga. When the [COVID pandemic] At first I thought this was going to permanently harm retail, but it seems the opposite is happening.