Summer reading list

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Published in the June 22, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. 

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 my 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. I’ve got a hold on this ebook, and am looking forward to reading it this summer. 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.

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. Many of us do not know any more about Chief Niwot (which means Chief Left Hand, translated to English) and the Arapaho people who lived in the area. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, ever since I heard Boulder libraries had selected it for a community-wide book discussion a few years ago.

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.

Second legal ADU, zoning for town land on Ute Hwy approved

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Published in the June 8, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. 

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

Second legal ADU, zoning for town land on Ute Hwy approved

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees approved two ordinances Monday, finalizing decisions from a May 22 Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) meeting. The trustees approved both a conditional use review for another accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and an ordinance for initial zoning for the land that the Town of Lyons purchased at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy.

Now the second legal plan for a detached apartment on residential R-1 zoning in town limits, the conditional use review for a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street was approved 6-0 at the June 5 meeting. On May 1, the Lyons Board of Trustees also approved a plan for a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street. 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 about $15,000-$16,000 in additional connection fees), and so far, plans for two ADUs have completed the process.

With the aim of encouraging more smaller apartments on single-family residential lots in Town of Lyons as lower-priced, market-rate rentals that people who work in town can afford, the PCDC and the Board of Trustees changed town code in December 2016. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed small apartments to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

The conditional use review at the June 5 Board of Trustees meeting included a public hearing about the plan for a 528 square-foot apartment on the second story of a two-story garage, although no one spoke. It passed through the May 22 PCDC public hearing with recommendations to adopt requirements from the Lyons Fire Protection District, which the Lyons trustees also adopted, with a few clarifications in legal language. First, the parking space provided for tenants of the apartment cannot block the alley, which in this case means a vehicle can park on the property in a space that is parallel to the alley, but not perpendicular to the alley. Also, the fire department wants to see that the stairway to the apartment follows current building code, which allows enough space for emergency response. Because the proposed garage apartment is only 20 feet from the existing house, the fire department also requires a one-hour fire wall on the wall of the garage that faces the house, to slow down spread of fire between structures. Finally, to identify there is an apartment on the property, the fire department wants to see a 427 ½ sign posted at the front of the house.

The trustees, town attorney, and town administrator talked about how the approved detached apartment specific conditions in Lyons become a recorded use with Boulder County, affecting future property owners.

Also at the June 5 meeting, the trustees passed an ordinance approving the initial zoning of Town of Lyons owned land at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy, changed from Boulder County agricultural zoning to Town of Lyons municipal facilities (M) zoning for 2.15 acres and agricultural (A-1) zoning for the rest of the land.

The resolution passed 6-0. Trustees expressed that this zoning allows the town to build a new public works building on the 2.15 acres on the northern part of 4651 Ute Hwy. They said that leaving the remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the highway and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the highway at 4652 Ute Hwy zoned close to its previous zoning in Boulder County, gives the Town of Lyons the most control over future use.

Two neighbors near the parcels spoke during the public hearing, saying they wanted to be kept informed about what will happen on the land. Mayor Connie Sullivan, as well as other trustees including Barney Dreistadt and Dan Greenberg, said keeping the land in an agricultural zoning gives the Town of Lyons the most say in how the land is used in the future when sold to people who want to rezone it for business or residential use.

“Any future plans will go through a careful zoning process,” Sullivan said. “We want to make sure that whatever goes there is compatible with the surrounding area, and that includes neighbors who are in the Town of Lyons and those who aren’t.”

When the town sells other parts for mixed use, commercial, and residential, the individual developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Developers and landowners who purchase parcels on this eastern corridor land will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews and public hearings.

The Town of Lyons closed April 25 on purchasing the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town from the City of Longmont. In March, the Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land. Sources of expected funding include FEMA paying for the part of 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 new public works building, which was damaged in the 2013 flood. FEMA has said that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

In 2015, Lyons was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency as matching funds to extend the sewer and water to the eastern corridor to increase the likelihood of development and increase the employment base in Lyons. At last month’s meetings, it was reported that the utilities expansion work must begin by mid-June to not lose the funding.

Why am I writing about this land? It 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 both proposals for mixed business and residential use on the eastern corridor and what happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area. Then the centrally located land could open up for future affordable housing. The mayor and trustees have expressed interest in these kind of “land swaps.”

The Town of Lyons can put out requests for proposals (RFPs) or requests for quotes (RFQs) for landowners and developers who want to propose ideas to develop other parts of the land. When sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund. According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, developed 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.

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.

Renters on buyout properties receive federal Uniform Relocation Assistance funds

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Published in the June 1, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
A shorter version of this content, including Carrie Gonzales’s story, was published in the June 14, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.

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

Renters on buyout properties receive federal Uniform Relocation Assistance funds

by Amy Reinholds

After the Town of Lyons closed on a buyout of the flood-damaged Foothills Mobile Home Park at the end of April with with federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, households who used to live there now are eligible for the Uniform Relocation Assistance program. Also, renters from four other single-family-home buyouts that were completed with CDBG-DR funds are eligible.

Molly O’Donnell, a CDBG Disaster Recovery Project Manager from the City of Longmont, works on the Boulder County Collaborative group, which determines priorities for CDBG-DR funds. She said that the collaborative is generally working with 16 households in Lyons, who either lived at the Foothills mobile home park or rented one of four single family homes that are part of the CDBG-DR buyout program. Three households have already received their benefits.

According to the Uniform Relocation Assistance (URA), responsibilities for residential displacements like the Town of Lyons CDBG-DR buyouts include providing relocation advisory services to displaced tenants and owner occupants, reimbursement for moving expenses, and providing payments for the added cost of renting or purchasing comparable replacement housing.

In general, under the URA program, O’Donnell explained that households have 12 months from the date they are issued a notice of eligibility for relocation assistance to either purchase or lease and occupy a dwelling unit (that is determined to be decent, safe, and sanitary) and 6 months from that date to claim their benefits.

However, we are working to complete the process and pay out all the benefits as soon as possible so these people can move on with their lives,” she said. “Not all 20 households will receive benefits since several have opted not to participate in the program. One property has not yet been purchased, so the notice of eligibility to that house’s tenants is still pending, we expect to complete that property purchase as soon as possible.”

One of the tenants who already received the benefits, Carrie Gonzales, was able to buy a $50,000 home outright in Raton, N.M., using the lump sum Uniform Relocation Assistance settlement and a small amount of savings. She closed on May 15, and she and partner Kevin expect to move by mid-to-late June.

It was a blessing, but it has been a long and painful journey,” Gonzales said. She said she is sad to leave Lyons, and her heart is with all her neighbors who are still struggling to find affordable places to live after losing their homes in the 2013 flood.

The URA program wasn’t available for displaced residents whose landlords didn’t participate in the buyout program for flood-damaged properties. For example, Gonzales, who originally lived in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, wouldn’t have been eligible even though she couldn’t return to live at Riverbend after the flood. The Lyons Board of Trustees approved the property owners’ request to change zoning of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to a commercial use, and it is now an event venue with vacation lodging in tiny homes on wheels. However, Gonzales later rented a house on the west end of the Foothills Mobile Home Park land, whose owner, John Barranway, did participate in the CDBG-funded buyout, which closed April 28 of this year, and all tenants for this property were eligible for URA benefits.

Without the buyout program, the owners of these rental units would not have had a mechanism to sell their substantially damaged properties for pre-flood market values, and the tenants of those units would not have qualified for URA benefits,” O’Donnell said.

All land purchased with the federal funds as part of the the CDBG-DR or the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program buyout programs is now owned by the Town of Lyons. The deed-restricted buy-out properties can be used as open space or recreational land. If the Town of Lyons plans to use any of the properties as recreational land in the future, the only structures that are allowed are open-sided pavilions/shelters and public restrooms. Trails must be soft-surface (such as gravel).

The URA provides payments to the former tenants (either renters or mobile home owners who paid lot rent) for the added cost of renting or purchasing comparable replacement housing. O’Donnell explained that URA replacement housing benefits are determined by a calculation that considers 1) the monthly rent and cost of utility services for a comparable replacement dwelling, 2) the monthly rent and cost of utility services for the home that households were displaced from, and 3) for low-income households, housing costs of 30 percent of their average monthly gross household income. The maximum URA payment is calculated on the difference in the old and new housing costs for a one-month period and multiplied by 42 (the number of months allowed by the URA to be included in the calculation).

If a displaced household wants to purchase a unit rather than rent, then the URA benefit comes in the form of a lump-sum payment for down payment assistance. For renters, the URA is received every month for 3½ years (42 months).

O’Donnell said that the calculation is independent of prior federal disaster assistance received, with one exception: unused FEMA rental assistance.

In addition, under the URA, payment for moving expenses is also allowed. O’Donnell said the moving expenses payment is based on a payment for actual reasonable moving and related expenses, a fixed moving payment in the amount of $1,425 (based on the URA Fixed Residential Moving Cost Schedule), or a combination of both, not to exceed the actual costs for a move using a commercial moving company.

Finally, the URA allows for relocation advisory services. O’Donnell said that the Boulder County Collaborative has a URA subject matter expert consulting firm on board since last year providing relocation advisory services to the tenants. “Our contact there is in close coordination with each of the tenants to walk them through the process, explain their rights and responsibilities, provide status updates, coordinate obtaining the paperwork necessary to calculate and process the benefit payments, finding comparable replacement dwellings and conducting inspections, and assist with determining moving costs and resources.”

Gonzales said that finding another place to live that she could afford was extremely challenging. That she found the home in New Mexico with a seller who was willing to work with her unknown schedule of receiving the URA funds was like “a game of roulette,” she said.

In the 3 ½ years since the Lyons flood, Gonzales pursued several options, including advocating for a new or rebuilt mobile home park in Lyons and trying to find a location that would take an older mobile home that her partner owned that was not damaged in the flood. (She shared some of her information with the researchers who wrote the Manufactured Housing and Flood Recovery in Lyons, Colorado report that was prepared in 2015.) Gonzales rented a house on Apple Valley Road, with much a higher rent, until she found the house available to rent on the west end of the former Foothills Mobile Home Park land. In the past months of working with the URA, she also looked into moving to a mobile home park in Platteville, Colo., but those lot spaces were already taken before the buyout closing completed in Lyons.

In Raton, “We found a place where we are very welcome,” Gonzales said. Because of a health condition that limits the distance she can drive, Gonzales is glad to have bought a home that is in a mile of everything she needs to drive to, and within walking distance of downtown. She said that Raton, with a population of 6,000 people, lost residents after mining industry left town and wants to attract new people and encourage economic development.

The URA program that looked for similar homes in Lyons to what she had been renting before the buyout found only a house for rent near the school that was $2100 a month. Now, instead, she owns a home outright and only has utility payments and property taxes to pay.

Gonzales, who worked for Madhava Honey for 13 years and then ran her own honey store on Hwy 66 east of town since 2012, is bringing a stock of honey to Raton, and plans to work out of her home. But living only a few blocks from downtown, she might find a perfect store front. One of her suppliers is in Rocky Ford, Colo., a lot closer to Raton than Lyons, and she is already meeting people who keep bees in Raton.

It’s been hard to leave friends and to leave Lyons, which was not made whole after the flood, Gonzales says. She is sad, thinking of her pre-flood neighbors who still aren’t able to return to Lyons or to find an affordable living situation after the flood. “But we’re telling people to come join us. You can do a whole lot in Raton. There’s a lot of opportunity for energetic, artistic people.”

Her final step is working with the relocation companies bidding to handle her move through the URA program. A last-minute and stressful issue that came up from one of the companies: an additional $5,000 mileage cost because she is moving more than 50 miles away. She is hoping to get that issue resolved or reduced to a fee she can afford, but still expects the moving date to be either middle or end of June, depending on which moving company gets the bid.

The Town of Lyons purchased the 1.26-acre former Foothills Mobile Home Park on April 28 for $662,165, using CDBG-DR funds. The Town of Lyons was required to grant a 90-day notice after the April 28 closing date to all current tenants (in this case, Gonzales and her partner). After tenants move out, the demolition of the flood-damaged mobile homes on the eastern part of the property can begin. The time-frame requirements for reimbursements of demolition and cleanup costs are mandated by the federal funding sources.

The Lyons Board of Trustees approved a resolution on May 10, ratifying expenditures of up to $591,386 of CDBG-DR Replacement Housing Payment funds (part of the Uniform Relocation Assistance program), available for homeowners and tenants who lived at the Foothills Mobile Home Park, and also 4 other single-family-home buyouts that were completed with CDBG-DR funds. The trustees passed a resolution that approves the expenditure of the Replacement Housing Payment program funds for tenants of the 104 5th Avenue (Foothills Mobile Home Park), 415 Prospect Street, 417 Evans Street, 109 Park Street, and 323 5th Avenue.

For more information about the Uniform Relocation Assistance program, see the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

I don’t know if any of the Lyons participants in the URA benefits will use the funds to rent or buy in Lyons, because the difficulty of finding affordable rentals and homes for sale in Lyons. O’Donnell said the Boulder County collaborative doesn’t know how many households will using funds to rent or buy in the Lyons area or Boulder County. “It is entirely the household’s choice,” she said. “Most are still in the process of determining the benefit calculation.”

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). For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. 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.

Planning commission approves second ADU, initial zoning for town land

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Published in the May 25, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Planning commission approves second ADU, initial zoning for town land

by Amy Reinholds

This week, the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved both a conditional use review for another accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and an ordinance for initial zoning for the land that the Town of Lyons purchased at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy.

At a public hearing on Monday, May 22, the PCDC approved a conditional use review for a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, the second detached ADU application this month in the Lyons old town north neighborhood. This ADU, if approved at a public hearing of the Board of Trustees, will be the second since Town of Lyons code changed at the end of last year to allow ADUs in separate buildings to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners about $15,000-$16,000 in additional connection fees). On May 1, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved a plan for a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street.

With the aim of encouraging more smaller apartments on single-family residential lots as lower-priced market-rate rentals that people who work in town can afford, the PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees changed town code in December 2016. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed ADUs on single-family residential lots in the Town of Lyons, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. You can read the updated ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

Also at the May 22 meeting, the PCDC held a public hearing and approved recommendations for initial zoning for town-owned land on the eastern corridor, which the Lyons Board of Trustees recently voted to annex into the Town of Lyons. The 2.15 acres on the northern part of 4651 Ute Hwy that will be used for the new home of the Lyons public works building are recommended to be zoned as municipal, and the remaining 4.3 acres are now joined with the 3.28 acres on the south side of the highway at 4652 Ute Hwy, recommended as a placeholder zoning of agricultural.

The land that is not used for the public works building will start with this basic zoning, and when the town sells other parts for mixed use, commercial, and residential, the individual developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The regular Lyons zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Developers and landowners who purchase parcels on this eastern corridor land will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews.

The Town of Lyons closed April 25 on purchasing the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town from the City of Longmont. In March, the Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land. FEMA will pay for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated. Insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) will pay for the new public works building, which was damaged in the 2013 flood. FEMA has said that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

The Town of Lyons purchased the land to find a new home for a public works building, damaged in the 2013 flood, and the land has also 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. For those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons, we should watch what happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area. Then the centrally located land might be available for future affordable housing.

Now that the Town of Lyons owns the land, and it is part of town limits, the Town of Lyons can put out requests for proposals (RFPs) or requests for quotes (RFQs) for landowners and developers who want to propose ideas to develop other parts of the land. When sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund. According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, developed 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. The town might also consider offering incentives for light-industrial businesses to swap land near the center of town that could be residential for land on the eastern corridor.

In 2015, Lyons was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency as matching funds to extend the sewer and water to this site in order to increase the likelihood of development and increase the employment base in Lyons. The utilities expansion work must begin by mid-June to not lose the funding.

At the end of the May 22 PCDC meeting, the commissioners and Lyons flood recovery planner Matt Manley briefly discussed parts of a proposed Lyons short-term vacation rental policy that is expected to be ready for a public hearing by June 12. Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in ADUs, which are intended to encourage longer-term rentals that people who work in town can afford. However, a new policy might allow limited use for on-site homeowners who want to rent rooms or part of their homes as short-term vacation rentals.

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.

Trustees annex town-owned land on eastern corridor

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Published in the May 18, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. 

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

Trustees annex town-owned land on eastern corridor

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees voted 6-0 on May 15 to annex the recently purchased land at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy. This step helps the Town of Lyons find a new home for a public works building, damaged in the 2013 flood, and it could provide opportunity for future affordable housing.

At a workshop about the annexation and initial zoning, held before the regular May 15 Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Connie Sullivan talked about economic development and affordable housing are related. “Businesses aren’t thriving because they don’t have enough employees, and employees can’t afford to live here,” she said.

The Town of Lyons closed April 25 on purchasing the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town from the City of Longmont, and at a May 1 meeting, the trustees adopted the ordinance on first reading that annexes the 9.88 acres into town. In March, the Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land, east of U.S. 36: 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.

FEMA will pay for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated, on 2 acres in the furthest northeast corner of the northern parcel. Insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) will pay for the new public works building, which was damaged in the 2013 flood. FEMA has said that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

According to attorney reports to the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Lyons Board of Trustees, town-owned land can be annexed into town limits directly without assigning zoning, but the property must be zoned by 90 days after the annexation. Then the Town of Lyons officials and staff will come up with a schedule for subdivision and zoning and will bring it back to the PCDC for the zoning process when the final plat is ready (before July 25, to meet the 90-day requirement).

At the May 15 meeting, Mayor Sullivan said the board’s idea is to have a basic zoning for the town-owned property, and then when selling other parcels for mixed use, commercial, and residential, the individual developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The Lyons zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Developers and landowners who purchase parcels on this eastern corridor land will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews.

Now that the Town of Lyons owns the land, and it is part of town limits, the trustees can determine the best path forward for the remainder of the land, and when sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund. According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, developed with months of input from neighbors and community members, the land is determined as acceptable for mixed use, residential, and commercial development, including light industrial. The town might also consider offering incentives for light-industrial businesses to swap land near the center of town that could be residential for land on the eastern corridor.

In 2015, Lyons was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency as matching funds to extend the sewer and water to this site in order to increase the likelihood of development and increase the employment base in Lyons. The utilities expansion work must begin by mid-June to not lose the funding. Then the next priority is to zone the 2 acres where the Lyons public works building will be located for municipal use.

Matt Manley, Lyons flood recovery planner, said during the workshop that bringing the utilities to the area is a big incentive and town staff has been meeting with several interested parties who are bringing forward ideas for residential and mixed-use.

The parcels have 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. Also, if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land could open up for future affordable housing in more centrally located areas.

During staff reports at the May 15 meeting, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen said that the Boulder County Collaborative, a group determining how federal Community Development Block Grants – disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) funds are distributed locally, is still reserving $4 million for housing for the Town of Lyons. Any project using those funds must already be identified and underway in 2019.

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.

Federal funds budgeted for households moved from buyout properties

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Published in the May 17 edition of the Redstone Review

Federal funds budgeted for households moved from buyout properties

COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS

By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – After the Town of Lyons closed on a buyout of the flood-damaged Foothills Mobile Home Park at the end of April with with federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, households who used to live there now are eligible for the Uniform Relocation Assistance program.

On May 10, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved a resolution ratifies expenditures of up to $591,386 of CDBG-DR Replacement Housing Payment funds (part of the Uniform Relocation Assistance program), available for homeowners and tenants who lived at the Foothills Mobile Home Park, and also 4 other single-family-home buyouts that were completed with CDBG-DR funds. With the 16 households in the Foothills Mobile Home park, that makes 20 households from Lyons that will receive assistance and funds for new living situations.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/affordablehousing/training/web/relocation/overview, describes responsibilities for residential displacements like the Town of Lyons CDBG-DR buyouts. The responsibilities include providing relocation advisory services to displaced tenants and owner occupants, reimbursement for moving expenses, and providing payments for the added cost of renting or purchasing comparable replacement housing.

The trustees passed a resolution that approves the expenditure of the Replacement Housing Payment program funds for tenants of the 104 5th Avenue (Foothills Mobile Home Park), 415 Prospect Street, 417 Evans Street, 109 Park Street, and 323 5th Avenue.

The former 1.26-acre Foothills Mobile Home Park at 104 5th Street, had 16 residential units, some rented lots for owned mobile homes, and some rented units, most which were destroyed by the 2013 flood. The State of Colorado set priorities for how the FEMA funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program could be used for buyouts of flood-destroyed homes, prioritizing single family homes (the buyouts Lyons saw in the past year) over the Foothills Mobile Home Park, considered a commercial property. But the buyout of the Foothills Mobile Home Park was completed with CDBG-DR funds instead.

The Town of Lyons is required to grant a 90-day notice after the April 28 closing date to a current renter of a house at the west end of the property. Then after those 90 days, when the tenant moves out, the demolition can begin. The time-frame requirements for reimbursements of demolition and cleanup costs are mandated by the federal funding sources.

The Uniform Relocation Assistance program is good news for people who receive these additional funds, something that wasn’t available for displaced residents whose landlords didn’t participate in the buyout program for flood-damaged properties. I’m not sure if anyone will use those funds to rent or buy in Lyons, because the difficulty of finding affordable rentals and homes for sale in Lyons. However, if people want to share their stories, I hope to cover this topic in future columns.

Here’s an update on the latest steps toward affordable housing in Lyons in the past month:

  • A free-market approach that aims to encourage more lower-cost rentals: The first official detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Lyons was approved through the conditional use process, with no additional tap fees, under an ordinance changed at the end of last year to encourage more small apartments (also called mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses) as long-term affordable rentals for people who work in town. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed small apartments to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. At the end of 2016, the Planning and Community Development Commission and the Board of Trustees voted to change town code, removing the additional utility connection fees for “detached” ADUs in separate buildings from the main house on single-family residential lots in town limits. On May 1, the trustees approved a proposed detached ADU on property located in the R-1 residential zoned district at 327 Seward Street. The proposed ADU will in an existing garage that is currently 520 square feet, expanded to be a total of 600 square feet. It will be adjoining a separate recording studio building.
  • A permanently affordable home-ownership model: Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley asked for more flexibility to adjust the area-median-income target to help the Town of Lyons get more applicants in the primary preference group of people who were living in Lyons at the time of the flood and were displaced. The trustees agreed to changing the development agreement and affordable housing covenant so that households that make 80% of the area median income can also be included, although preference will be for applicants 60% of area median income or below. 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. Second reading for the resolution to change the development agreement with Habitat for Humanity is expected May 15. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased 6 residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes. So far, applicants have been selected for 2 out of the 6 homes.

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

State bills aim to encourage affordable housing

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Published in the May 11, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

State bills aim to encourage affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

As the Colorado 2017 legislative session nears an end, more bills were introduced that aimed to encourage more affordable housing in our state. Only some survived the legislative session. What do you think? Do any of these bills sound like they could help encourage housing that working people in Lyons can afford to rent or buy?

One tenant rights bill survived

Because affordable rentals are challenging to find, let’s start by looking at bills dealing with rentals.

There is good news for Colorado Senate Bill 17-245, Tenancies One Month To One Year Notice, which was approved by the Senate and the House, and was sent to the Governor on May 1. For month-to-month rentals (or other leases for periods of one month or more but less than 6 months) this bill would extend termination notice for either the renter or the landlord from a 7-day notice to a 21-day notice. And it would also require landlords to give a 21-day notice for rent increases, which could help renters concerned about the frequency that landlords can raise rents. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Priola, a Republican from Adams County, and Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver County. You can keep track of this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-245.

There was bad news for Colorado House Bill 17-310. The Residential Landlord Application Screening Fee bill was passed in the House but then was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on May 1. This bill proposed to limit application screening fees that landlords can charge prospective tenants to cover a landlord’s actual costs for a personal reference check or for obtaining a consumer credit report or tenant screening report. It would have required the landlord to a receipt that itemizes the landlord’s actual expenses (electronic or paper receipt if requested) and would have required the landlord to return any amount of the fee that is not used. The bill would have established a penalty for a landlord that does not comply with the requirements. This bill was sponsored by three Democrats: Rep. Chris Kennedy from Jefferson County, Rep. Dominique Jackson from Arapahoe County, and our local Sen. Stephen Fenberg from Boulder County, who represents Lyons. You can learn more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1310.

A similar bill also was postponed indefinitely in the Senate. Colorado House Bill 17-1312, Residential Lease Copy And Rent Receipt, passed the House but then was but then was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on May 4. This bill would have required landlords to provide each tenant with a copy of a written rental agreement signed by all parties and to give tenants a receipt for a payments made with cash or a money order (electronic or paper receipt if requested). The sponsors were Rep. Adrienne Benavidez from Adams County and Rep. Tony Exum from El Paso County, both Democrats. You can learn more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1312.

Bills related to homeownership, funding future affordable housing, didn’t make it

Two other “affordable housing” bills that are related to people buying homes in Colorado, including one that aimed to raise new funds to support a statewide affordable housing investment fund, also lost.

Colorado House Bill 17-1311, Seller’s Disclosure Estimated Future Property Tax, passed the House but and was postponed indefinitely in the Senate Committee on Finance. The bill would have required sellers of newly contructed housing units to disclose an estimate of future property taxes. Sponsors of the bill were Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet from Adams County and Rep. Mike Weissman from Araphaoe County, both Democrats. You can learn more about this failed bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1311.

Colorado House Bill 17-1309, Documentary Fee To Fund Affordable Housing, was passed in the House but then was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on May 3. The bill proposed to raise the current one cent documentary fee for each $100 of such consideration for the recording of real estate deeds that county clerks collect to 2 cents, starting on January 1, 2018. Then 50% of the money generated from the fee would be transmitted by the county treasurers to the Colorado housing and finance authority at least once each month to be credited to a statewide affordable housing investment fund. The proposed fund would have supported new or existing programs that facilitate the construction or rehabilitation of housing units designated as affordable housing and would provide financial assistance to any nonprofit entity or political subdivision that makes loans to households to enable the financing, purchase, or rehabilitation of residential units. The bill defined “affordable housing” as housing that is affordable for households with an income that is up to 80% of the area median income for rentals and up to 110% of the area median income for home ownership. Sponsors were Democrats Rep. Dominique Jackson, Rep. Faith Winter, Sen. Lucia Guzman, and Sen. Don Coram. You can learn more about this failed bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1309.

One “construction defect” bill to encourage more condos in Colorado looks likely 

This final category of bills has been around the longest, with a debate continuing from past years. Supporters of reforming current Colorado construction defect law hope to encourage more condo development in Colorado, which is a lower-cost home-ownership opportunity, by reducing the number of lawsuits for faulty construction of condominiums. This would only be affordable for Coloradans who can afford to buy condos, and it would be a free-market approach.

There were at least 4 bills attempting to reform Colorado construction defect law, intending to reduce the number of lawsuits for faulty construction of condominiums in current Colorado construction defect law, a barrier some developers have blamed for slowing down condo development in Colorado. But proponents for consumers didn’t want condo homeowners to be at risk for shoddy construction.

The successful bill is Colorado House Bill 17-1279, Construction Defect Actions Notice Vote Approval, which was more on the side of buyer than the developers, with more support from Democrats. It passed both houses on May 4. Before the executive board of a home owners’ association (HOA) in a “common interest community” brings suit against a developer or builder based on a defect in construction work not ordered by the HOA itself, the board must complete the following steps: 1) Notify all unit owners and the developer or builder against whom the lawsuit is being considered; 2) Call a meeting at which the executive board and the developer or builder will have an opportunity to present relevant facts and arguments and the developer or builder may, but is not required to, make an offer to remedy the defect; and 3) Obtain the approval of a majority of the unit owners (in a 90-day voting period) before proceeding with the lawsuit, after giving homeowners detailed disclosures about the lawsuit and its potential costs and benefits. You can keep track of this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1279.

The Homeownership Opportunity Alliance – a collaboration of business groups, developers, contractors, affordable housing nonprofits, and metro area mayors (including the Town of Lyons mayor) – originally got behind Colorado Senate Bill 17-156, Homeowners’ Association Construction Defect Lawsuit Approval Timelines. The bill was sponsored by three Republicans, and passed the Senate but was postponed indefinitely in the the House Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on April 20. You can learn more about this failed bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-156. On May 1, the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance eventually supported the winning House Bill 17-1279 instead.

Other bills that attempted to reform Colorado construction defect law that didn’t get very far but are still officially under consideration are Colorado Senate Bill 17-45, Construction Defect Claim Allocation Of Defense Costs, and Colorado Senate Bill 17-155, Statutory Definition Of Construction Defect. You can learn more about these bills at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-045, and www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-155.

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.

Trustees move on next steps for various affordable housing options

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Published in the May 4, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. 

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

Trustees move on next steps for various affordable housing options

By Amy Reinholds

Three of the most-popularly discussed possible options for affordable housing in Lyons were all represented on the packed agenda for the May 1 meeting of the Lyons Board of Trustees.

The trustees approved the first and only application for detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Lyons, under a policy revamped last year. They also voted for annexation of former City of Longmont water treatment plant land the Town of Lyons purchased east of town (some which will be used for a public works building, but might contain options for residential and mixed-use development). Finally, they voted on and discussed some details related to 6 Habitat for Humanity homes underway at 2nd and Park Streets.

 

The first official detached accessory dwelling unit in Lyons

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to conditionally approve a detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on property located in the R-1 residential zoned district at 327 Seward Street. The ADU will be in an existing garage that is currently 520 square feet, expanded to be a total of 600 square feet. It will be adjoining an separate recording studio building.

The Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved the conditional use review for this ADU on April 24, stating that Board of Trustees should consider input from the Lyons Fire Protection District. The additional conditions were agreed-upon and approved on May 1: No parking on the alley, and the address should have a ½, designating it as a separate ADU (327 ½ Seward Street).

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. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed small apartments to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. With the goal of encouraging more lower-cost, market-rate rentals in town for employees of Lyons businesses, seniors, and others who need affordable housing, the Lyons Board of Trustees directed the PCDC in early 2016 to work with the Lyons Utilities and Engineering Board to look for approaches that could help encourage ADUs.

At the end of 2016, the PCDC and the Board of Trustees voted to change town code, removing the additional utility connection fees for “detached” ADUs in separate buildings from the main house on single-family residential lots in town limits. Attached ADUs within the same structure as the main house don’t require conditional reviews, but do require permits.

“This is a great step forward for something that has been worked on before the flood,” said Trustee Barney Dreistadt. “I also commend the applicants.”

“We hope it’s the first of many successful ADU applications,” said Mayor Connie Sullivan. “Thank you to staff for working with the application and for helping create the application process.”

No member of the public spoke during the public comment period. The owners plan to move into one of the buildings, which is required. You can read more about ADU requirements in the Town of Lyons code at http://www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

I would like to see more rental housing stock in Lyons, and I recognize ADUs as a market-rate solution that might help. I’m glad that ADUs, if rented, must be at least month-to-month rentals, and cannot be used for short-term vacation rentals. But I don’t think it is a magic solution that fixes all our affordable housing issues. Except for benevolent landlords that charge below the going rental rates in Lyons, most homeowners will charge what the market can bear, which we have seen to continually rise here in Lyons.

 

Annexing the former Longmont water treatment plant land,
now owned by the Town of Lyons

The Town of Lyons closed April 25 on purchasing the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town from the City of Longmont, and at the May 1 meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted an ordinance on first reading that annexes the 9.88 acres into town. A second reading will be scheduled for May 15.

During the staff report at the May 1 meeting, Kathie Guckenberger, consulting attorney for Town of Lyons, stated that she has the quick claim deeds. The Town of Lyons now officially owns that property, and the purchase has been recorded. The April 25 closing happened quietly. There were no press releases from the Town of Lyons or news stories from Longmont or Boulder newspapers.

In March, the Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land, east of U.S. 36: 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. FEMA will pay for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated, on 2 acres in the furthest northeast corner of the northern parcel. Insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) will pay for the new public works building, which was damaged in the 2013 flood.

At the May 1 meeting, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported that FEMA has said there will be no more extensions on the public works building timeline. The building must be in progress, “and significantly moving forward,” by September.

According to attorney reports to the Lyons PCDC and Board of Trustees, state law has different requirements for town-owned land, which can be annexed into town limits directly without assigning zoning, but the property must be zoned by 90 days after the annexation. Although not required for this annexation step, the trustees were expected to hold a public hearing (for members of the public to comment) at the second reading of the annexation ordinance on May 15. Then the Town of Lyons officials and staff will come up with a schedule for subdivision and zoning and will bring it back to the PCDC for the zoning process when the final plat is ready (before July 25, to meet the 90-day requirement).

After the Town of Lyons has the land, The Board of Trustees can determine the best path forward for the remainder of the land, and when sold, reimburse the town water enterprise fund. The land is determined as acceptable for mixed use, residential, and commercial development, including light industrial. The town might also consider offering incentives for light-industrial businesses to swap land near the center of town that could be residential for land on the eastern corridor.

The parcels have 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. Also, if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land could open up for future affordable housing in more centrally located areas.

 

Habitat for Humanity updates

Some clarifying paperwork for the 2nd and Park Habitat for Humanity homes was approved under the consent agenda at the May 1 meeting. This is another step closer to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley building 6 homes in Lyons. Also, engineering documents are close to being finalized for work that Habitat needs to do to get the lots ready for development.

Dave Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, also spoke to the trustees about more flexibility on area-median-income percentages for applicants in the development agreement for the three duplexes. He said income levels up to 80% of the area median income are allowed by Habitat for Humanity in special circumstances, and it would help the Town of Lyons get more applicants in the primary preference group of people who were living in Lyons at the time of the flood and were displaced.

The trustees agreed. They approved a resolution to adjust the area-median-income target in the development agreement and affordable housing covenant so that households that make 80% of the area median income can also be included, although preference will be for applicants 60% of area median income or below. 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.

Second reading for the resolution to change the development agreement with Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is expected May 15.

Emerson said that Habitat for Humanity has accepted 2 applicants in the first round who lived in Lyons and were displaced by the flood and were in the 60% or lower category of area median income. He said that in the first round of applicants, 7 households applied, but some did not move forward. However applicants who lived in Lyons and were displaced in the flood will still have preference as they reapply in other rounds. Habitat is considering 2 more applicants from the second round, and there will be a month or two before opening a third round.

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 issues with 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.

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.

Trustee Dan Greenberg brought up an issue that I have observed in post-flood affordable housing work over the past 3 ½ years: Home ownership isn’t the only solution. Just like I said market-rate ADUs aren’t the magic solution to our affordable housing problems in Lyons, neither is a Habitat for Humanity home-ownership model.

“Home ownership does not work for everyone, some by choice and some for economic reasons,” Greenberg said. “It is not the only answer to our affordable housing needs. Habitat is a great partner. But it’s only one piece in the puzzle. We need to be open for affordable rentals.”

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 buyout, closing on April 28) 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 town has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the September 2013 flood), according to the Boulder County Housing and Human Services department: 8 apartments at Bloomfield Place, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing, and 6 apartments at Mountain Gate. Also, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley plans to build 6 permanently affordable homes (3 duplexes) at 2nd and Park Streets on residential lots purchased in 2016.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) about affordable housing in the Lyons Recorder. 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.

First ADU approved by Planning Commission

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Published in the April 27, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

First ADU approved by Planning Commission

by Amy Reinholds

Ever since the 2013 flood, and even earlier, Town of Lyons leaders, homeowners, and the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) have been talking about accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a possible solution to provide more options for affordable rentals in town.

As of Monday night, the first homeowners to participate in the Town of Lyons ADU process got the first step of approval from the PCDC. Next it will go to the Board of Trustees on May 1.

All 5 members of the PCDC present at the April 24 meeting voted to approve the conditional use review for a detached ADU (an apartment in a separate building) at 327 Seward Ave. No members of the public gave input at the public hearing for the conditional use review. The conditional use review was passed with a recommendation that the Lyons Fire Protection District give input at the next step before the Board of Trustees, and a statement clarifying that Town of Lyons municipal codes about home businesses apply to a recording studio in the building.

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. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed small apartments to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. With the goal of encouraging more lower-cost, market-rate rentals in town for employees of Lyons businesses, seniors, and others who need affordable housing, the Lyons Board of Trustees directed the PCDC in early 2016 to work with the Lyons Utilities and Engineering Board to look for approaches that could help encourage ADUs.

At the end of 2016, the PCDC and the Board of Trustees voted to change town code, removing the additional utility connection fees for “detached” ADUs in separate buildings from the main house on single-family residential lots in town limits. Attached ADUs within the same structure as the main house don’t require conditional reviews, but do require permits.

“This is the first ADU to come before the PCDC,” said chair Gregg Oetting, who was on the commission when the original ADU policy was created but had no response from homeowners. “I hope the reconciliation of the tap fees that we did last year helped encourage this.”

Now that a barrier that many have said made building ADUs financially prohibitive is removed, our community will see how many Lyons homeowners can and do move forward to build ADUs to provide more rental opportunities. ADUs probably won’t be added in all parts of town with R-1 zoning. Some neighborhoods with homeowners associations are likely to prohibit ADUs.

I would like to see more rental housing stock in Lyons, and I recognize ADUs as a market-rate solution that might help. But I don’t think it is a magic solution that fixes all our affordable housing issues. Except for the mysterious creatures that I call “benevolent landlords,” most homeowners will charge market-rate rents, which we have seen to continually rise here in Lyons.

The town has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the September 2013 flood), according to the Boulder County Housing and Human Services department: 8 apartments at Bloomfield Place, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing, and 6 apartments at Mountain Gate. Also, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley plans to build 6 permanently affordable homes (3 duplexes) at 2nd and Park Streets on residential lots purchased in 2016.

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 buyout, closing on April 28) 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.

Town of Lyons purchased former water treatment plan land from Longmont

Also, on Tuesday, April 25, it was expected the the Town of Lyons would complete a closing to purchase the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town from the City of Longmont. [The closing happened quietly. There were no press releases from the Town of Lyons or news stories from Longmont or Boulder newspapers, but it is listed in a memo for an agenda item for the  May 1 Board of Trustees meeting as “The Town acquired the Property on April 25, 2017.” See www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/1931?fileID=3959 ]

In March, the Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land, east of U.S. 36: 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. FEMA will pay for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated, on 2 acres in the furthest northeast corner of the northern parcel. Insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) will pay for the new public works building, which was damaged in 2013 flood. On March 20, the Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved both purchasing the Longmont water treatment plant land and ratifying the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, an amendment to the Lyons Comprehensive Plan to guide decisions about future annexation requests.

According to attorney reports to the Lyons PCDC and Board of Trustees, state law has different requirements for town-owned land, which can be annexed into town limits directly without assigning zoning, but the property must be zoned by 90 days after the annexation. The plan for annexing the 9.88 acres is for the Board of Trustees to hold two readings of an annexation ordinance on May 1 and May 15. Although not required for this annexation step, the trustees expect to hold a public hearing (for members of the public to comment) at the second reading on May 15. Then the Town of Lyons officials and staff will come up with a schedule for subdivision and zoning and will bring it back to the PCDC for the zoning process when the final plat is ready (before July 25, to meet the 90-day requirement).

In 2015, Lyons was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency as matching funds to extend the sewer and water to this site in order to increase the likelihood of development and increase the employment base in Lyons. The utilities expansion work must begin by mid-June to not lose the funding. Then the next priority is to zone the 2 acres where the Lyons public works building will be located for municipal use.

After the Town of Lyons has the land, The Board of Trustees can determine the best path forward for the remainder of the parcels, and when sold, reimburse the town water enterprise fund. The land is determined as acceptable for mixed use, residential, and commercial development, including light industrial. The town might also consider offering incentives for light-industrial businesses to swap land near the center of town that could be residential for land on the eastern corridor.

The parcels have 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. Also, if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land could open up for future affordable housing in more centrally located areas.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) about affordable housing in the Lyons Recorder. 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.