Top 3 things you can do this fall to support affordable housing

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Published in the August 17, 2017, edition of the  Lyons Recorder.  

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Top 3 things you can do this fall to support affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

Like many of us who lived in Lyons during September 2013, I was encouraged by neighbors helping neighbors in the immediate days and weeks of the flood disaster. Then I was extremely discouraged in March 2015, when a proposal to set aside five to seven acres of Bohn Park for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including one buy out of a mobile home park) and to the changed use of a second mobile home park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). I was a member of the Housing Recovery Task Force, a group of Lyons community members who volunteered their time from December 2013 to February 2015 to look for affordable housing options. After the vote failed that March, I encouraged some opponents of the first proposal and others interested in “other options” to volunteer their time on another group, and the Board of Trustees appointed the Lyons Special Housing Committee, which existed from April 2015-April 2016. I was appointed to the Lyons Human Services & Aging Commission, another volunteer commission, which continues to identify overall gaps in services for all segments of our population in the 80540 area.

Now, almost 4 years after the flood, newcomers to town sometimes ask how they can help with affordable housing. Members of the community often ask me the status of some past affordable housing efforts the Town of Lyons volunteer commissions, employees, and elected officials were pursuing. Do you want to help?

Here are three ways you can be part of the solution:

  1. Welcome affordable rentals in your neighborhood.
  2. Support Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley.
  3. Rent to local employees and people who lost their homes in the flood instead of to short-term tourists.

 

1. Welcome affordable rentals in your neighborhood.

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. At the end of this week, a request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers is expected to be ready. The land has been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, and if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land in central parts of town could open up for affordable housing.

On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale.

Trustee Barney Dreistadt told the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) on August 14 that the town does not want to lose $4 million that is earmarked for housing in Lyons by the Boulder County Collaborative, a group determining how federal funds are distributed locally. But that means that a plan must be in place by end of September of this year that describes how the $4 million can be spent in Lyons, and the plan cannot change.

Trustees support “land swaps” of light-industrial businesses moving to the Ute Hwy land, and opening up land in town for affordable housing. What can you do? If a light-industrial business in your neighborhood is interested in moving out east, and affordable housing is proposed in its place, be supportive. Welcome a new small apartment building like Walt Self senior housing by the post office that provides a rental option for friends and neighbors on fixed incomes, or working families who are part of the fabric of our community but can’t keep up with the skyrocketing rents in our town.

Nothing has been proposed yet, but if another affordable rental building is proposed in my neighborhood, I plan to say “Yes, in my back yard” to help my community.

And do you know a business that wants to swap a light-industrial parcel in town to move out east? Let light-industrial businesses know about this opportunity. Do you know an affordable housing organization that would be a good builder of a small group of apartments? Contact Lyons Town Hall, and let me know, too!

2. Support Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley never gave up on the Town of Lyons, even after the proposal for affordable housing in Bohn Park was rejected by a majority of Town of Lyons voters, and after a long journey to purchase even a small parcel in Town of Lyons. You can support a permanently affordable home-ownership model for 6 households in Lyons by supporting the non-profit organization with your time and money. And you can be supportive for new homeowners by welcoming them to the neighborhood and volunteering on construction of their homes later this year.

Planning for a permanently affordable home-ownership model with 3 duplexes, in November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC. The lots are on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). At the end of July, the construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity must complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff. The next steps for Habitat for Humanity include selecting a contractor to do the public improvement infrastructure work. The infrastructure work is expected to take about 3 to 4 months.

Habitat for Humanity also needs building permits, which have been previously committed by the Lyons Board of Trustees to cost no more than $15,000 per home (after an agreement to waive water and sewer connection fees that the town has control of). Some of the work required for the building permits was already completed as part of the construction plan for public improvements. After Habitat for Humanity has the building permits for the six homes, the foundations can be poured for all three duplexes. The foundation work can overlap with the public improvement work if needed, according to Executive Director David Emerson. Volunteers to work on construction of homes probably are not needed until later this fall, after at least the foundation for the first duplex is completed.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below, but households that earn as much as 80% of the area median income can also be included.

Two rounds of applications for home ownership have been completed: two applications were selected in the first round, and two applications were selected in the second round. Habitat for Humanity, future homeowners, and volunteers will work on the first four homes first, and a third round to select applicants for the final two homes will be open later, after the construction is underway. That way applicants won’t have a long wait between selection and home completion. It also gives applicants more time to prepare applications and related requirements for mortgages, such as reducing debt-to-income ratios and getting issues corrected on credit reports. The first preference category of 80540 residents displaced from their homes as a result of the 2013 flood still has priority in the third round.

You can read more about this project in my previous column at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/next-steps-for-habitat-homes-at-2nd-and-park/. You can find out more about donating and volunteering at www.stvrainhabitat.org.

3. Rent to local employees and people who lost their homes in the flood instead of to short-term tourists.

Does gentrification make you uneasy or irritated? Want to keep the “funky” artists and musicians in Lyons? If you are a homeowner in Lyons, you have the power to fight gentrification by how you decide to rent your available spaces.

If you own your home in the town limits of Lyons, you can help provide more lower-cost rentals in town by complying with the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance, which allows small apartments or carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners thousands of dollars in additional connection fees). You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. Homeowners of ADU properties must rent for periods of 30 days or longer (for example, at least a month-to-month lease), and cannot use their properties for short-term vacation rentals.

Even if you don’t have a complete apartment, but you have some extra space, consider renting to a housemate who works at a local business.

Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). It’s true that a new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party.

Not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire space, suite, or apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but suddenly sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists. A study published last month titled The Sharing Economy and Housing Affordability: Evidence from Airbnb found that a 10% increase in Airbnb listings in a zip code leads to a 0.39% increase in rents and a 0.64% increase in house prices. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832.

If you care about affordable housing for renters in Lyons, don’t miss the August 28 public hearing before the PCDC about the short-term vacation rental policy for residential zone properties in the Town of Lyons. You can read the column I wrote last week at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/planning-commission-holds-public-hearing-about-vacation-rentals-aug-28/

In addition to the choices that individual homeowners make, real estate agents and property managers can help by linking new Lyons homeowners with tenants who really need a place to live so they can continue to serve you coffee, cocktails, or tacos in local businesses or teach your kids music lessons. We need more heroes in Lyons to take these actions, and I know our wonderful community is filled with champions who are capable of this work.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Planning Commission holds public hearing about vacation rentals Aug. 28

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Published in the August 10, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Planning Commission holds public hearing about vacation rentals Aug. 28

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) plans a workshop discussion on Monday about a new, proposed ordinance that would allow some short-term vacation rentals in residential zones in the Town of Lyons. Short-term rentals are not currently allowed in residential zone properties, unless a homeowner completes a conditional use process for a bed and breakfast business.

Anyone who cares about affordable housing for renters in Lyons should watch these next steps carefully. Some communities with unrestrained short-term vacation rentals deal with a new problem of fewer longer-term rentals that local employees can afford. After the workshop discussion on Monday, August 14, the PCDC will schedule a public hearing, which includes a portion of the meeting for members of the public to speak, for Monday, August 28. Both meetings are at 7 p.m. at Lyons Town Hall.

Here’s a recap of current regulations: The Town of Lyons Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance prohibits using properties with ADUs for short-term vacation rentals, because the policy is intended to increase the number of lower-cost residential rentals for people who work in town. Also known as mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses, ADUs are small apartments in either the existing house, a garage, or a separate outbuilding. Homeowners of ADU properties must rent for periods of 30 days or longer (for example, at least a month-to-month lease). As an incentive for homeowners to provide more long-term rentals, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved code changes at the end of 2016 to allow ADUs in separate buildings to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners thousands of dollars in additional connection fees). You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. As of July 3, both the PCDC and the Board of Trustees have approved conditional use review plans for three ADUs: a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street, and a separate 600 square-foot one bedroom apartment at 600 Indian Lookout Road, currently an undeveloped parcel where a new home will also be built.

So where are short-term vacation rentals allowed in Lyons, if they are not allowed in residential lots with ADUs? Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). Bed and breakfasts with 6 or fewer units are allowed as a use by right on estate residential and agricultural zoned land (A1, A2, and Estate zones), if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. In addition to agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land (including the CEC zone). To legally rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential (R-1 or R-2) zones, current town code requires that homeowners apply for a conditional use review as a bed and breakfast, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and the Board of Trustees. But no homeowners in residential zones have applied for this kind of conditional use review.

However, a new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party. The use would be less than a bed and breakfast, and no conditional use review process would be required. However, homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license (similar in cost to other Town of Lyons business licenses), comply with safety-based requirements such as fire inspections, and agree to a good-neighbor checklist. Public hearings about these changes to town code are expected August 28 for the PCDC and, depending on the PCDC recommendations, as early as the first week of September for the Lyons Board of Trustees. The public will have a chance to give input at both meetings. Look for materials posted on the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/Planning-Community-Development-Commissio-11

The policy before the PCDC and the Trustees are only for short-term vacation rentals in the Town of Lyons. People who own homes outside Lyons town limits are subject to the specific regulations for their county (Boulder or Larimer). It’s also important to know that some homeowners associations have more restrictive rules than Town of Lyons ordinances and might prohibit short-term vacation rentals or even ADUs that are rented out to long-term tenants.

Ever since the 2013 flood, I have been concerned about the lack of affordable rentals in the Town of Lyons for people who live and work here. That’s why I’m playing close attention to the proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance. Looking purely at the free market (if there were no limits in residential zones), if residential property owners could run a business that brings in $200 a night per room or suite from vacationers, why would they want to rent on a monthly basis to a tenant and make $1500 a month? I would support a short-term vacation rental policy for the Town of Lyons that doesn’t take away spaces in homes that would otherwise go to long-term renters. Not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire space, suite, or apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but suddenly sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.

Next steps for Habitat homes at 2nd and Park

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Published in the July 27, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Next steps for Habitat homes at 2nd and Park

by Amy Reinholds

The construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity must complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff last week, another hurdle cleared in the development of six permanently affordable homes at 2nd Avenue and Park Street in Lyons.

The next steps for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley include selecting a contractor to do the public improvement infrastructure work. A contractor will probably be selected by mid-August, according to Dave Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. The infrastructure work is expected to take about 3 to 4 months.

Habitat for Humanity also needs building permits for the six homes, which have been previously committed by the Lyons Board of Trustees  to cost no more than $15,000 per home (after an agreement to waive water and sewer connection fees that the town has control of). Some of the work required for the building permits was already completed as part of the construction plan for public improvements. After Habitat for Humanity has the building permits for the six homes, the foundations can be poured for all three duplexes. The foundation work can overlap with the public improvement work if needed, Emerson said. Volunteers to work on construction of homes probably are not needed until later this fall, after at least the foundation for the first duplex is completed.

In November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). Two rounds of applications for home ownership have been completed: two applications were selected in the first round, and two applications were selected in the second round. Habitat for Humanity, future homeowners, and volunteers will work on the first four homes first, and a third round to select applicants for the final two homes will be open later, after the construction is underway. That way applicants won’t have a long wait between selection and home completion. It also gives applicants more time to prepare applications and related requirements such as reducing debt-to-income ratios and getting issues corrected on credit reports. The first preference category of 80540 residents displaced from their homes as a result of the 2013 flood still has priority in the third round.

First preference for the new homes is for applicants displaced from their homes as a result of the flood disaster of 2013, who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood. If all six homes can’t be filled with homeowners in the first preference category, the second and third preferences are for applicants from surrounding areas who were displaced by the 2013 flood, and those with ties to the Lyons 80540 area, such as current local residents, families of Lyons students, and area employees. So far, applicants selected for the first four homes are all in the first preference category.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below, but households that earn as much as 80% of the area median income can also be included. Although the median income of an area (Boulder County, in our case) changes every year, you can get an idea by going to the Boulder County Area Median Income Table at www.leaflyons.org/resources.html. For example, the area median income for a household of two people is about $75,900, so 60% is $45,540, and 80% is $60,720. Area median income is measured by family/household size.

In addition to agreeing to partner with Habitat to put in volunteer hours on construction of their home and their neighbors’ homes, applicants must meet other requirements for mortgages. For example, they must have a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or lower (more flexible than what traditional lenders require) and have credit reports that meet specific requirements. As with any mortgage application, the most common challenges to qualifying are related to debt-to-income ratio and credit reports. St. Vrain Habitat mortgages are usually about $150,000, and have no interest. Monthly mortgage payments, including escrow, are set at 27% of the household gross monthly income.

Several different parties owned the land at 2nd and Park in the past two years. On Nov. 17, 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley bought the 6 residential lots from Craig Ferguson and his LLC partners. In June 2015, Craig Ferguson purchased the entire 0.76-acre commercial parcel from Valley Bank. Later that month, the Lyons trustees voted unanimously to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for Habitat for Humanity, which was planning to buy residential parcels after the land was subdivided and rezoned. The total of about $173,500 in savings from the Town of Lyons will help Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners. In July 2016, the Lyons trustees unanimously approved final rezoning and subdivision steps. After the plat was recorded with the county in the fall, and Ferguson and his LLC partners kept the former bank building (on a PUD/commercial lot) and sold the 6 lots for 3 duplexes to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. Habitat for Humanity agreed to complete the required subdivision improvements for the residential lots.

You can read more about the Habitat for Humanity application process at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/steps-for-potential-habitat-for-humanity-homeowners-2 and www.stvrainhabitat.org/lyons. Applicants from the earlier rounds whose applications weren’t accepted can meet with Habitat staff to discuss needed steps to take for the third round.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. The 6 Habitat for Humanity homes are the only new affordable housing option that is in process for Lyons since the 2013 flood.

How to buy town-owned land on the eastern corridor

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Published in the July 20, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

How to buy town-owned land on the eastern corridor

by Amy Reinholds

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. At the end of this month, a request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers is expected to be ready.

On April 25, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont: 6.45 acres on the north side of Colo. Hwy. 66 at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.43 acres on south side at 4652 Ute Hwy. The Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont had agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land about a month earlier. The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in May to annex the land into Town of Lyons, and in June to approve municipal facilities (M) zoning for the public works building parcel and initial zoning of agricultural (A-1) zoning for the rest of the land (aiming to keep it similar to its Boulder County zoning before annexation).

On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building (which was destroyed in the 2013 flood and temporary located at 4170 Ute Hwy after the flood). Sources of expected funding include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paying for the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated and insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) paying for the building itself. FEMA has told town staff that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale. The Town of Lyons can put out an RFP for potential buyers who want to propose ideas to develop parts or all of the available land. After the land is sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund.

According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, created with many months of input from neighbors and community members, the land is determined as acceptable for mixed use, residential, and commercial development, including light industrial use (similar to existing residential and commercial uses in that area). This area has been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, discussed in past years when the town applied for a national resiliency grant that it did not receive.

Those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons should pay attention to two areas: 1) Are there proposals for mixed business and residential use on the eastern corridor that could include permanently affordable rentals (or a mix of rentals and home-ownership)? 2) What happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area? Can the centrally located land could open up for future permanently affordable rentals (or a mix of rentals and home-ownership) after the light-industrial businesses move east? The trustees have expressed support for these kind of “land swaps” if current light-industrial businesses are interested.

At a July 3 workshop, the Lyons Board of Trustees gave input into the draft of an RFP for the town land for sale, described in that draft as “Lyons Village East” land. Trustees suggested highlighting goals such as replacing lost housing, creating workforce housing (housing that workers at local businesses can afford), and giving existing local light-industrial businesses the opportunity to move to the eastern corridor. They said they wanted to see proposals for use of the land that results in greater housing diversity in the Lyons area. They also suggested that the RFP highlight uses in the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan and in the Town of Lyons Master Plan, including hotels, housing, and services and light-industrial businesses that contribute to the local tax base and create local jobs.

Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees at the July 3 workshop that if the RFP was out by the end of July, applications could be due Sept. 15. Simonsen confirmed this week that the goal is still to have the RFP out and available to prospective purchasers by end of the month.

After the town sells the land, the new owners and/or their developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Landowners and developers will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews and public hearings.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. After the September 2013 flood, the Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Updates on long-term rentals in ADUs and short-term rentals for tourists

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Published in the July 19, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.

Updates on long-term rentals in ADUs and short-term rentals for tourists

COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS
By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – Just as I was sitting down to write this column, a well researched, thoughtful article was published in Outside magazine, titledDid Airbnb Kill the Mountain Town?Writer Tom Vanderbilt describes situations where renters are competing for fewer places to live because landlords are cashing in renting short-term vacation lodging to tourists. The article starts with “The rise of online short-term rentals may be the tipping point that causes idyllic outposts like Crested Butte, Colorado, to lose their middle class altogether—and with it, their soul.” Read the entire article to learn how a wide range of people are affected in Crested Butte, and about similar challenges in Florida, North Carolina, California, and Montana.

I am concerned about how both accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and short-term vacation rentals could affect affordable housing stock in Lyons. Also known as mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses, ADUs are small apartments in either the existing house, a garage, or a separate outbuilding. ADUs are an attempt to add more lower-cost, market-rate rentals for people who work in Lyons, which in general I feel positive about. As an incentive for homeowners to provide more long-term rentals, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved code changes at the end of 2016 to allow ADUs in separate buildings to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners thousands of dollars in additional connection fees). I’m watching for results. But short-term vacation rentals might work in the opposite direction, as described in the Outside magazine article, where fewer longer-term rentals are available that people who work in town can afford.

Here’s what’s going on in Lyons: The Town of Lyons ADU ordinance prohibits using ADUs for short-term vacation rentals, because the policy is intended to increase the number of lower-cost residential rentals for people who work in town. Homeowners must rent for periods of 30 days or longer (for example, at least a month-to-month lease). You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. As of July 3, both the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees have approved conditional use review plans for three ADUs: a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street, and a separate 600 square-foot one bedroom apartment at 600 Indian Lookout Road, currently an undeveloped parcel where a new home will also be built.

So where are short-term vacation rentals allowed in Lyons, if they are not allowed in ADUs? Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). Bed and breakfasts with 6 or fewer units are allowed as a use by right on estate residential and agricultural zoned land, if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. In addition to agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land. To legally rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential (R-1 or R-2) zones, current town code requires that homeowners apply for a conditional use review as a bed and breakfast, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and the Board of Trustees. But no homeowners in residential zones have applied for this kind of conditional use review.

However, a new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party. The use would be less than a bed and breakfast, and no conditional use review process would be required. However, homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license (similar in cost to other Town of Lyons business licenses) and comply with safety-based requirements such as fire inspections. Public hearings about these changes to town code are expected August 14 for the PCDC and, depending on the PCDC recommendations, as early as August 21 for the Board of Trustees.

I only covered Town of Lyons policies in my column this month. People who own homes outside Lyons town limits are subject to the specific regulations for their county (Boulder or Larimer).  It’s also important to know that some homeowners associations have more restrictive rules than Town of Lyons ordinances and might prohibit short-term vacation rentals or even ADUs that are rented out to long-term tenants.

This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including one buy out of a mobile home park) and to the changed use of a second mobile home park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) in 5-7 acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 in a special Town of Lyons election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots at 2nd and Park in Lyons, to build six permanently affordable homes (three duplexes). For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, read previous columns posted at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.

Vacation rental policy discussion delayed to July 24

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Published in the July 13, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Vacation rental policy discussion delayed to July 24

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) cancelled this Monday’s meeting and postponed a discussion short-term vacation rentals to a workshop on July 24.

Additional wording changes from the Town of Lyons attorney to a proposed short-term vacation policy were not completed in time for the meeting this week, so the next PCDC meeting on July 24 will be a workshop to discuss all the specific changes. Then the PCDC can vote on the final recommendation of the plan at a public hearing in August. The Lyons Board of Trustees is responsible for voting on any changes to town code, after a recommendation is received from the PCDC.

At a June 26 meeting, the PCDC commissioners expressed a goal to provide a lighter-use option than a bed and breakfast business use for homeowners in Town of Lyons residential zones, finding a balance of minimal impact on neighborhoods and general ease of compliance for homeowners who want to rent out rooms in the homes they live in. They also prepared a draft memo to the trustees stating that the PCDC wants to see an enforcement officer hired.

Right now, in the Town of Lyons limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). Bed and breakfasts with 6 or fewer units are allowed as a use by right on estate residential and agricultural zoned land, if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. In addition to agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land. To legally rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential (R-1 or R-2) zones, current town code requires that homeowners apply for a conditional use review as a bed and breakfast, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and Board of Trustees. But no homeowners in residential zones have applied for this kind of conditional use review.

However, the new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party. The use would be less than a bed and breakfast, and no conditional use review process would be required. However, homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license (similar in cost to other Town of Lyons business licenses) and comply with safety-based requirements.

Even with this proposed short-term vacation rental policy for residential zones, homeowners would only be allowed to rent rooms to vacationers in the same house where they live, not in a separate building or apartment. Why? The Town of Lyons accessory dwelling unit (ADU) policy prohibits using residential properties ADUs (separate apartments in the main house or detached) for short-term vacation rentals, because the policy is intended to increase the number of lower-cost residential rentals for people who work in town.

In the past year, researching what other communities have done, the PCDC commissioners have agreed upon the following limitations, if short-term vacation rentals are to be allowed by right residential zones in the town limits of Lyons:

  • Homeowners can only rent to one party of guests at a time (one room or suite of rooms)
  • Occupancy is limited to 2 adults per room.
  • Homeowners must pay sales tax to the state (which can be collected and administered by companies like Airbnb) and have an annual short-term vacation rental business license for the Town of Lyons. It was also discussed that the Town of Lyons should consider an occupancy fee for nightly lodging.
  • Homeowners must live in the home as a primary residence for at least 6 months out of the year.
  • When getting the license, homeowners must sign that they agree to follow a code of conduct, including safety and “good neighbor” behavior such as having smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher, and a parking plan for guests.
  • Homeowners must get safety inspections by Lyons fire protection district at least every two years.
  • Police and fire officials must be able to identify homes with rooms rented as vacation rentals, without a sign advertising it posted on the front door. There must be a way for neighbors, the town, or safety officials to know who to contact in an emergency without advertising that a homeowner is not home. Homeowners must complete a document (similar to a building permit) filed with the town that provides contact information for the owner or a designated person managing the vacation rental.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in recreation vehicles according to section 6-7-30, Eligibility for licenses, of Town of Lyons code.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in accessory dwelling units, according to section 6-7-30 of Town of Lyons code.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in permanently affordable, deed-restricted homes (for example Habitat for Humanity homes, when they are built), according to section 6-7-30 of Town of Lyons code.
  • The town attorney said that the Board of Trustees will set the fees needed to administer the program, such as the inspection fees.

I’m following this proposed change in Town of Lyons policy because I care about long-term rentals that people who work in town can afford. Some communities with unrestrained short-term vacation rentals deal with a new problem of fewer longer-term rentals that local employees can afford. Looking purely at the free market (if there were no limits in residential zones), if property owners could make $200 a night per room or suite from vacationers, why would they want to rent on a monthly basis to a tenant and make $1500 a month? I would support a short-term vacation rental policy for the Town of Lyons that doesn’t take away spaces in homes that would otherwise go to long-term renters. Not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire space, suite, or apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but suddenly sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists.

Do you think short-term vacation rentals should be in the Town of Lyons? What is good for the whole of our community, the neighbors, other homeowners and residents who are long-term renters, and people who are looking for affordable places to rent? The PCDC will vote on recommending the draft policy at an August public hearing, and after a recommendation is sent to the Lyons Board of Trustees, the trustees will also hold a public hearing to vote on final changes to Town of Lyons code.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. After the September 2013 flood, the Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

An update on Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons

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Published in the July 6, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

An update on Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons

by Amy Reinholds

Several people have been asking me about the status of the 6 homes that Habitat for Humanity of the St Vrain Valley plans to build in Lyons. At the end of last week, I checked in with Habitat for Humanity and Town of Lyons staff so I could report an update.

Before Habitat for Humanity can break ground, final paperwork steps in the process must be completed. These final steps are the approval of engineering documents by Town of Lyons staff. Joe Kubala of the Town of Lyons engineering department said Friday that he was working on review and comments for the grading plan in the engineering documents for new Habitat homes. He said he hoped to get the review and comments to Habitat for Humanity by this week. Kubala said that typically, if the applying entity submits a modified document back that incorporates and addresses all the comments from the Town of Lyons staff, an engineering document can be approved in a day or two.

In November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot) and plans to build 3 duplexes. Two rounds of applications for homeownership have been completed, and Habitat for Humanity is taking a pause before a third round of applications for Lyons. For the 6 homes in Lyons, two applications were selected in the first round, and two more applications were selected in the second round. The third round, when it opens, will select applications for the remaining two Lyons homes.

Habitat for Humanity of the St Vrain Valley executive director Dave Emerson has explained said that Habitat staff is busy in the application process for other new homes in Longmont and Dacono. Also, Lyons construction dates were pushed out because the development plan/engineering documents approval took longer than expected. Habitat for Humanity doesn’t want to rush selecting all 6 homeowners because of the time before all 6 homes is Lyons are completed.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below, but households that make 80% of the area median income can also be included. Although the median income of an area (Boulder County, in our case) changes every year, you can get an idea by going to the Boulder County Area Median Income Table at www.leaflyons.org/resources.html. For example, the area median income for a household of two people is about $75,900, so 60% is $45,540, and 80% is $60,720. Area median income is measured by family/household size.

In addition to agreeing to partner with Habitat to put in volunteer hours on construction of their home and their neighbors’ homes, applicants must meet other requirements for mortgages. For example, they must have a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or lower (more flexible than what traditional lenders require) and have credit reports that meet specific requirements. As with any mortgage application, the most common challenges to qualifying are related to debt-to-income ratio and credit reports. St. Vrain Habitat mortgages are usually about $150,000, and have no interest. Monthly mortgage payments, including escrow, are set at 27% of the household gross monthly income.

For the Lyons homes, first preference is for applicants displaced from their homes as a result of the flood disaster of 2013, who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood. If the 6 homes can’t be filled with homeowners in the first preference category, the second and third preferences are for applicants from surrounding areas who were displaced by the 2013 flood, and those with ties to the Lyons 80540 area, such as current local residents, families of Lyons students, and area employees.

You can read more about the Habitat for Humanity application process at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/steps-for-potential-habitat-for-humanity-homeowners-2/ and www.stvrainhabitat.org/lyons. Applicants from the earlier rounds whose applications weren’t accepted can meet with Habitat staff to discuss needed steps to take for the third round. The first preference category of 80540 residents displaced from their homes as a result of the 2013 flood still has priority, even in the third round.

Several different parties owned the land at 2nd and Park in the past two years. Here’s a summary going backwards: On Nov. 17, 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley bought the 6 residential lots from Craig Ferguson and his LLC partners. In July 2016, the Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved final rezoning and subdivision steps, and after the plat was recorded with the county, Craig Ferguson and his LLC partners sold the 6 lots for 3 duplexes to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity agreed to complete the required subdivision improvements for the residential lots. In June 2015, Craig Ferguson purchased the entire 0.76-acre commercial parcel from Valley Bank. Later that month, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for Habitat for Humanity. The total of about $173,500 in savings will help Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. The 6 Habitat for Humanity homes are the only new affordable housing option that is in process for Lyons since the 2013 flood.

Planning Commission continues vacation rental policy decision to July 10

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Published in the June 29, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Planning Commission continues vacation rental policy decision to July 10

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) heard public comment and reviewed proposed changes to Town of Lyons town code about short-term vacation rentals on Monday. But the four commissioners at the June 26 meeting decided to continue the public hearing and any decision on changes to town code to July 10.

Kathie Guckenberger, consulting attorney for Town of Lyons, presented a revised draft of a proposed new article 7 in Chapter 6 of the Town of Lyons code, entitled Short-Term Rental Licenses. The PCDC commissioners didn’t have enough time to review all the changes before the meeting, and had concerns that the proposed policy was moving away from a simple, owner-occupied policy that would be self regulating. Commissioners Mark Browning, Clay Dusel, and chair Gregg Oetting have been seeking a balance of a policy that is easy for a majority of homeowners who rent out rooms in the homes they live in to come into compliance. At the June 26 meeting, they expressed a goal to provide a lighter-use option than a bed and breakfast use, finding a balance of minimal impact on neighborhoods and general ease of compliance for homeowners who want to rent out rooms in residential zones.

The commissioners hope to look at a revised draft by July 10 that includes several changes. They agree with required safety inspections by Lyons fire protection district (requested by Fire Chief JJ Hoffman at least every two years) instead of extensive inspections by the town’s hired building inspection company, Charles Abbott Associates. They don’t want to see homeowners required to bring a copy of deeds, or required to send a notification letter to neighbors (which commissioners said would imply that there was something neighbors could do to stop the short-term vacation rental use). They also discussed that the policy should include a way to make sure the police department and fire department know homes with rooms rented as vacation rentals, without a sign advertising it posted on the front door. They wanted to see a way for people to know who to contact in an emergency without advertising that a homeowner is not home.

Before changes to town code are approved, the Lyons Board of Trustees is required to have a public hearing and vote, which can be continued to a later date.

The commissioners also prepared a draft memo to the trustees stating that the PCDC wants to see an enforcement officer hired. They plan to finalize and vote on that memo at the July 10 meeting.

Here’s a recap of what is legal now in the town limits of Lyons: Bed and breakfasts with 6 or fewer units are allowed as a use by right on estate residential and agricultural zoned land, if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. In addition to agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land. According to current town code, anyone who wants to legally rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential (R-1 or R-2) zones in town (neighborhoods where most of us live) would have to apply for a conditional use review as a bed and breakfast, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and Board of Trustees. But no homeowners in residential zones have applied.

However, the new short-term vacation rental ordinance the that PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party. The use would be less than a bed and breakfast, and no conditional use would be required, but homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license (similar in cost to other Town of Lyons business licenses) and comply with safety-based requirements.

The Town of Lyons accessory dwelling unit (ADU) policy prohibits using residential properties ADUs (separate apartments in the main house or detached) for short-term vacation rentals, because the policy is intended to increase residential rentals for people who work in town.

The PCDC has now identified that the Town of Lyons must be able to enforce these new policies, both the short-term vacation rentals policy, the bed and breakfast ordinance, and the ADU policy, and this message will be sent to the Board of Trustees.

The draft memo that the commissioners plan to finalize July 10 states “The PCDC has spent many volunteer hours in recent months drafting proposed regulations relating to important matters in our community, including accessory dwelling units and short term vacation rentals. Assisting the PCDC in its efforts were paid Town staff and outside professionals (planners and attorneys). The PCDC believes that in order for its efforts, and those of the Board of Trustees in adopting final versions of ordinances, to best achieve their intended effects – which are to benefit the town and its citizens – it is necessary for the Town to put in place a reasonable enforcement procedure. At a minimum, that should include a Code Enforcement Officer position.”

It also adds “Fairness would also be promoted by funding such a position, so that those who do make an effort to comply with Code requirements are not undercut by others who do not comply. At hearings, we have heard multiple comments from members of the public who have questioned what good regulations do if those regulations are not enforced. Proper code enforcement can also generate revenue to cover the cost of enforcement through such things as business license fees and sales tax receipts.”

In the past year, as the PCDC has been working with town staff to shape a policy, researching what other communities have done, they have agreed upon the following limitations, if short-term vacation rentals are to be allowed “by right” in residential zones in the town limits of Lyons:

  • Homeowners can only rent to one party of guests at a time (one room or suite of rooms)
  • Occupancy is limited to 2 adults per room.
  • Homeowners must pay sales tax to the state (which can be collected and administered by companies like Airbnb) and have an annual short-term vacation rental business license for the Town of Lyons. It was also discussed that the Town of Lyons should consider an occupancy fee for nightly lodging.
  • Homeowners must live in the home as a primary residence for at least 6 months out of the year.
  • When getting the license, homeowners must sign that they agree to follow a code of conduct, including safety and “good neighbor” behavior such as having smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher, and a parking plan for guests.
  • Homeowners must post in a town-approved location a document (similar to a building permit) provides contact information for the owner or a designated person managing the vacation rental.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in recreation vehicles according to section 6-7-30, Eligibility for licenses.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in accessory dwelling units, according to section 6-7-30.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in permanently affordable, deed-restricted homes (for example Habitat for Humanity homes, when they are built), according to section 6-7-30.

Guckenberger said that Board of Trustees will set the fees needed to administer the program, such as the inspection fees.

During the public hearing, three members of the public spoke, including a homeowner of estate residential zoned land who wanted to know if the proposed changes affect bed and breakfast use in that zone. The town staff explained that it is not affected. Two homeowners that currently rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals said they are concerned about having to post phone number contacts on their homes. The commissioners later discussed about an alternative way to post contact info for public safety officers.

There were two email comments that were read. One homeowner emailed in support for the policy, and another homeowner emailed against the policy.

New PCDC commissioner Reena Rotz, attending her first meeting since appointed, asked about whether homeowner associations can limit short-term vacation rentals. Bob Joseph, consulting town planner, said homeowners associations can be more restrictive than town code, and not allow homeowners to rent out rooms as short-term vacation rentals. However, the homeowners association itself, not the town, must enforce those restrictions.

Oetting said “I know there are people in town who don’t think this is the direction the town should be going. I fully understand the purpose of zoning regulations and buying homes with an understanding of what property owners can do. We were very careful with the ADU policy to differentiate so that ADUs are not duplexes. And short-term vacation rentals are not bed and breakfasts. There are simply going to be neighborhoods that are becoming higher density. Time marches on and we have to gracefully move forward.”

The Town of Lyons needs long-term rentals that people who work in town can afford. Those of us who care about affordable housing should watch the proposed changes to vacation rental policy, and the enforcement of any new policy, and determine how the decisions affect the availability and prices of Lyons rentals. Some communities with unrestrained short-term vacation rentals deal with a new problem of fewer longer-term rentals that local employees can afford. Looking purely at money and the free market, with no limits in residential zones, if property owners can make $200 a night per room or suite from vacationers, why would they want to rent on a monthly basis to a tenant and make $1500 a month? Lately I’ve been considering the balance between viewing a place to live as a basic human right, and viewing it as an investment commodity. It’s a question of what and who we value.

Do you think short-term vacation rentals should be in the Town of Lyons? What is good for the whole of our community, including neighbors as well as homeowners and other residents who are long-term renters, and people who are looking for affordable places to rent? The next PCDC meeting is July 10, and then you have another chance to give input at a later Lyons Board of Trustees public hearing in July, which will be held after the PCDC commissioners send recommendations to the trustees.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes.

Summer reading list

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Originally published in the June 22, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. An updated version was published in the August 3, 2017 edition. 

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Summer reading list

by Amy Reinholds

Want some relaxing beach or riverside reading this summer? I like books that entertain but also help me learn about our society, step inside someone else’s shoes, and inspire me with approaches that work.

So here is my affordable-housing-related summer reading list. Comments and suggestions are welcome at the email address listed at the end of the column.

The Revolution Where You Live, by Sarah van Gelder. I’ve previously reviewed this book, and it encourages me that local communities – if residents gather together – can accomplish some good on the local level. Pick your favorite action out of “101 ways to reclaim local power” and talk to your neighbors. I’d be glad to join in. You can read my review at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/solving-big-problems-by-building-local-community.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. When I was at the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado this spring, many people were talking about Hillbilly Elegy, but one of the presenters suggested that Evicted is a top-notch book and recommended it for the conference discussion book for next year. I just started reading it and was struck by the detailed and succinct descriptions of both tenants and landlords in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I feel like the people Desmond depicts are family or friends I visit with across a kitchen table or sit next to in their cars as they drive to collect rent. Desmond’s writing transports the reader to the cold, snowy neighborhoods, into the lives of people struggling to make a living.

Chief Left Hand, by Margaret Coel. As the price of real estate skyrockets in the Lyons area, do you ever wonder about people who lived on the land before us? Many of us heard of “Chief Niwot’s Curse” when we first came to Boulder County, like I did when I was an intern at the Boulder Daily Camera, visiting from Illinois in 1991. It was rumored he said the beauty of the area causes you to return and never leave (although after reading this book I found there is no evidence he said these words). Many of us do not know any more about Chief Niwot (which means Chief Left Hand, translated to English) and the Southern Arapaho and other native people who lived in the area. I wanted to read this book ever since I heard Boulder libraries had selected it for a community-wide book discussion a few years ago. The book describes rivers including the north and south St. Vrain, and even mentions an area of present day Lyons. Follow the travels of tribes across the landscape now covered by our businesses, highways, and suburban neighborhoods. Gain understanding into the heartbreaking story of how European-American settlers moving west – seeking their own better way of life – affected the land, the animals, and the native people of Colorado. The stories of settlers, military troops, government officials, gold-seekers, and multiple Native American tribes are intertwined.

Latinos of Boulder County, Colorado, Volume I: History and Contributions and Volume II: Lives and Legacies, by Marjorie K. McIntosh. Still thinking about the people who lived on this land before we did, there are many books about immigrants who moved to the West. I’m interested in new books by Marjorie McIntosh, a retired CU professor, about people from Southern Colorado, New Mexico, Mexico, and Latin America who moved to Boulder County from 1900 to 1980. Her work includes stories and oral history from area families, some interviewed by their family’s younger generations. The Lyons Redstone Museum hopes to get Marjorie McIntosh and the Boulder County Latino Project to speak at the museum in the future. I just got both volumes and am looking forward to reading at least one before an event is scheduled in Lyons.

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, by Natasha Trethewey. This book is also on my wish list. Those of us who lived through the Lyons 2013 flood might find some common ground with smaller communities who went through Hurricane Katrina, experiencing loss and the long journey to recovery.

And how about a summer listening list, a soundtrack to accompany your reading? Mix and match the songs in this playlist with any of the books, and add your own favorite songs.

This Land is Your Land, by Woody Guthrie: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/this-land-is-your-land-the-asch-recordings-vol-1/id261231215

Little Pink Houses, by John Mellencamp: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/uh-huh-remastered/id52310925.

No Vacancy, by Merle Travis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A07ZjXsexjQ.

Lyonstown, by Bonnie Sims: http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/bonnietheclydes7.

What books and music do you recommend? I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes.

Planning Commission recommends third ADU, postpones vacation rental policy

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Published in the June 15, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Planning Commission recommends third ADU, postpones vacation rental policy

by Amy Reinholds

Monday’s Planning Commission discussion covered most of the recent challenges the commissioners have faced in the past year or two: accessory dwelling units, short-term vacation rentals, and the lack of a town zoning and code enforcement department.

And there was a surprise at the June 12 Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) meeting. Attendees at the meeting learned that there are two legal, permitted bed and breakfasts in Town of Lyons, on estate and agricultural zoned land, both which allow bed and breakfast use by right with a business license (if in the main house, with fewer than 6 units). One is the Big Tree Farmstead on Bradford Street near Bohn Park, which the commissioners knew about. However, the commissioners and others in the audience learned that a bed and breakfast that was permitted in 2016 is in a literal tree house. The Little Red Treehouse bed and breakfast is on agricultural zoned land up Indian Lookout Road, on the same lot as the property owner’s main house. But because it’s a detached building, it should not have been allowed to be permitted as a bed and breakfast as a use by right.

This is another example of the problems the Town of Lyons is having because of no code enforcement staff. Matt Manley, a Lyons flood recovery planner, whose contract ends at the end of June, recently learned about this mistake in interpreting town code when researching the bed and breakfast policy and the proposed short-term vacation rental changes and additions that the PCDC is considering for residential zoned properties in town. “It never came forward as a conditional use review, which it should have. There are some errors here that should have been enforced,” he told the commissioners. “The Town of Lyons does not have code enforcement department.”

Lyons did have a code enforcement officer on a temporary basis, but that contract ended. The PCDC commissioners want to communicate to the Lyons Board of Trustees the need for code enforcement to be funded in the town budget.

“There needs to be an enforcement department and it needs to be funded,” said Commissioner Mark Browning. “We’re pretty much wasting our time creating a short-term vacation rental ordinance if it can’t be enforced.” The three other commissioners present, Chair Gregg Oetting, Clay Dusel, and Neil Sullivan, agreed. They decided to continue a public hearing about a proposed short-term vacation rental policy until June 26. One member of the public spoke during the public hearing asking for the hearing about the short-term vacation rentals to be continued. I also spoke during the public hearing and agreed.

I attended this PCDC public hearing because I care about how both accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and short-term vacation rentals could affect affordable housing stock in Lyons. ADUs are an attempt to add more lower-cost, market-rate rentals for people who work in town, which in general I feel positive about. I’m watching for results. Short-term vacation rentals might work in the opposite direction. Some communities with unrestrained short-term vacation rentals deal with a new problem of fewer longer-term rentals that people who work in town can afford. Looking purely at money and the free market, when property owners can make $200 a night per room or suite from vacationers, why would they want to rent on a monthly basis to a tenant and make $1500 a month? Lately I’ve been considering the balance between viewing a place to live as a basic human right, and viewing it as an investment commodity. For me, it comes down to what and who we value.

In addition to the bed-and breakfast use in agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land in Lyons. However, the new short-term vacation rental ordinance the that PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential (R-1) zones in the Town of Lyons, neighborhoods where most of us live. According to current town code, anyone who wants to legally rent rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential zones in town would have to apply for a conditional use review as a bed and breakfast, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and Board of Trustees. But no homeowners in residential zones have applied.

However, to give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party. No conditional use would be required, but homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license (similar in cost to other Town of Lyons business licenses). However, the PCDC has now clearly identified that the Town of Lyons must be able to enforce these new policies, and this message will be sent to the Board of Trustees.

Despite all the discussion about issues with short-term vacation rentals and lack of enforcement at the June 12 meeting, the PCDC did approve the conditional use review for an ADU, a separate 600 square-foot one bedroom apartment at 600 Indian Lookout Road.

ADUs cannot be used for vacation rentals, and the applicant pledged that he intended to honor that requirement. He said he appreciates that goal of providing more long-term rentals in town. If he doesn’t use the apartment for his own family members, he said he will rent it to longer-term tenants. The ADU policy prohibits using the ADU for short-term vacation rentals, because the policy is intended to increase residential rentals for people who work in town. The Town of Lyons code changed at the end of 2016 to allow ADUs in separate buildings to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners $15,000-$16,000 or more in additional connection fees), and so far, plans for two ADUs have completed the process. This proposed apartment, on agricultural (A-2) zoned land is set to become the third legal detached ADU, if the Lyons Board of Trustees approve the conditional use review.

The applicant purchased the 5.2 acre vacant parcel and also will be going through the planning and zoning process for building a new main house.

Conflicting information with homeowners association documents for the Indian Lookout Road area (the former Forsberg annexation) will have to be sorted out by the homeowner and his neighbors, one who spoke during public comment. Some documents state that detached apartments weren’t allowed in the area, but other documents do not include that restriction. The PCDC commissioners said it was not their role to determine what the homeowners association restrictions are, but instead, they evaluated the conditional use review based on the Town of Lyons ADU ordinance. They approved the conditional use review for the ADU 4-0.

Other requirements in the ADU policy include that the property owners must live in either the main house or the apartment. (They can’t rent out both units at the same time.) You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds@hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes.