Construction has been a constant in Denver and other fast-growing Front Range cities for years, and amid the coronavirus outbreak, it’s one of the few activities that has kept moving forward in an economy frozen still.
While statewide orders have halted most construction in Washington and Pennsylvania, and projects have been put on pause in cities such as Boston and New York, Colorado and its biggest cities have not followed suit.
An updated public health order from Gov. Jared Polis on March 26 clarified that construction is a “critical business” allowed to operate despite the statewide stay-at-home order. The public health order says critical businesses still have to comply with social distancing requirements, unless the measures would make it impossible to carry out “critical functions,” a term Moye White partner Daniel Wennogle points out has not been defined.
If the outbreak worsens or hits the construction industry hard, Wennogle said, it’s “not inconceivable” that the stay-at-home order would be amended to cover construction, or that the government would take a stricter view about compliance with social distancing requirements, which could mean more scrutiny over whether functions are “critical” and limit construction sites to a skeleton crew.
Although there’s no order stopping construction at the state level, some cities and counties have stricter regulations. Wennogle has put together a list on Moye White’s blog of Colorado jurisdictions with stay-at-home orders affecting the construction industry. While no locality in the state has banned construction entirely, written approval is required in Gunnison County, and San Juan County has put a stop to new construction unless it’s for public health and safety. Other counties have more stringent requirements for sanitation facilities or the number of workers allowed on site.