Updates on both subsidized affordable and market-rate rental proposals in Lyons

Tags

, , , ,

Published in the July 12, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Updates on both subsidized affordable and market-rate rental proposals in Lyons

by Amy Reinholds

The July 2 Lyons Board of Trustees meeting included updates about subsidized affordable rental proposals for Lyons Valley Park and 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive, and a decision about a market-rate rental in an accessory dwelling unit.

During a staff report, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees that Summit Housing Group, which has an agreement to purchase Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8, is creating a new concept design proposing to build 29 affordable rentals on that parcel. She said that Summit is also pursuing a purchase agreement for 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive and a concept plan that proposes 20 to 24 affordable townhomes there.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in 6 states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median incomes or less. The latest homes in Colorado are at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont. The federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program is a source of funding that helps developers build rental homes at lower cost. The LIHTC gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability for every dollar they invest in financing to develop affordable rental housing. The investors’ equity contribution subsidizes the development, allowing housing units to rent at below-market rates.

On Jan. 29, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement with current owner Keith Bell, for an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8. The town signed a joint letter of intent between Bell, president of Lyons Valley Park, Inc., who lives in Kansas, and David Wickum of Wickum Properties and Realty, based in Lyons. The letter stated that the Town of Lyons intended to purchase Tract A and work with public and private sectors to replace some of the housing lost in the 2013 flood, and that Wickum intended to purchase Lots 15-32 of Block 2 to develop single-family housing. A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers interested in partnering with the town for that Lyons Valley Park Tract A parcel went out in February. A selection committee (including representatives from the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association and the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission) brought forward two finalists who presented to the Lyons Board of Trustees, and Summit Housing Group was selected by the trustees in March. The purchase and sale agreement with Keith Bell was then assigned from the Town of Lyons to Summit Housing Group, who will work directly with the seller.

Simonsen told the trustees on July 2 that Summit plans to hold another community meeting in July about the updated proposal for building affordable rental homes in Lyons. At a previous community meeting in May, input from several homeowners in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood encouraged Sam Long, Summit senior project manager, to consider building only 29 homes instead of the 43 homes that Summit was originally planning for Tract A of Lyons Valley Park. Long said at that meeting that Summit determined that the Lyons Valley Park subdivision agreement allows for multifamily density on 3.82 acres of Tract A of Filing 8, allowing about 27-29 homes (whether built by Summit or someone else). Summit proposed rentals affordable to people who make about 60 percent of the area median income (or possibly less, depending on funding sources and investments like LIHTC).

Also at the July 2 meeting, the trustees heard a public hearing for a conditional use review for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on a single-family-home lot at 310 5th Ave., owned by Randy and Georgie Pollard. The trustees voted 4-2 to approve the conditional use for the ADU, which had been previously built above a new garage that was constructed after the flood. This approval allows the homeowners of the single-family zoned lot to now rent the additional dwelling unit out to long-term tenants for a market-rate rent, instead of using it just for their own family. It also allows them to put in a full kitchen. The week before, the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved the conditional user review more narrowly, 3-2.

The difference between the public comment from the June 25 PCDC meeting and the July 2 Board of Trustees meeting was striking. However, the Board of Trustees did not know exactly how big the difference was in public comment – other than an overview in the PCDC minutes and a brief staff report – and the “Open & Closed Case for BOT” article in last week’s Lyons Recorder did not mention the difference in the public comment at the two meetings, either.

At the June 25 PCDC meeting, the conditional use review public hearing for the 310 5th Ave. ADU included comments from four neighbors who had concerns with the applicants bringing the conditional use review forward for an ADU now, a year after the living space above the garage was permitted and built. It appeared to the neighbors that the applicants used the process to apply for a family living space above the garage to bypass the conditional use review process for an ADU. Comments also centered around how hard it was for everyone to rebuild after the 2013 flood, although the neighbors who spoke said they shared their rebuild plans with neighbors for input and had expected the same from others.

At the July 2 trustees meeting, four friends of the applicants, and a contractor who built the garage with the living space above, all spoke in favor of the proposal and said the homeowners were good people who weren’t “devious about anything” as one friend described it. Adjacent neighbor Joe Meckle was the only close-proximity neighbor who spoke before the trustees on July 2, and he opposed the conditional use as an ADU, which allows renting the unit to tenants outside the family. He reiterated the same concerns that he communicated at the June 25 PCDC meeting that if it was known that the space would be used for a market-rate rental (not just for the homeowners’ family use), when the garage structure was planned, the neighbors would have had input in a conditional use review at that time, instead of after the building was already completed, when it was too late to modify the footprint of the building or make other changes to ease the impact on immediate neighbors.

Despite the differences in public input from June 25 to July 2, the same facts remained at the July 2 public hearing: building the garage building was within current Town of Lyons code. The large size and height of the garage with the living space above met the requirements of a maximum 30-foot height allowed under Town of Lyons building code for buildings, including garages that are part of a single-family home residential lot. The four trustees who voted in favor of this conditional use as an ADU, allowing the homeowners to now rent the second building out to long-term tenants, said they voted that way because the building was allowed under town code.

Town code that meets the goals of fairness and equity for all single-family, residential property owners within town limits is what is at stake for Lyons, not whether applicants are good people. In my opinion, these applicants are good people, as are all the property owners who have applied for ADUs. It’s unfortunate that loopholes existed that allowed this large living space, including a high-end kitchen area with a refrigerator, sink, and a dishwasher – but not a stove, an attorney for the owners stated – to be permitted and built for family use only, without the required conditional use review for an ADU. A conditional use review would have allowed public input to both the PCDC and the trustees and notified neighbors within 300 feet – before the building was constructed. When I walked by the neighborhood recently, I thought the lot at 310 5th Ave. looks like an R-2 residential lot with two single family homes on it. The two structures, one the detached garage, look like two homes of similar size on one lot, yet it is still an R-1 lot.

All the trustees at the July 2 meeting (regardless of how they voted on the 310 5th Ave. conditional use review) said that fixing town code to eliminate this kind of loophole is once again their priority, as trustees have said before. “We do need to do something about the loophole in the town ordinance,” Trustee Juli Waugh said. “I’m concerned about density in old town. I’d like to see us start to address this at our July 16 meeting.”

Trustee Mark Browning, who had advocated for fixing this problem in the town code when he was on the PCDC before being elected to the Board of Trustees said, “This is a problem that the town created. I’d like to see this ordinance fixed before we grant any other ADU approvals.”

Mayor Connie Sullivan said “The board has set into motion a zoning code review to the PCDC that might have prevented a loophole.” She also addressed broader issue of legacy non-conforming ADUs (town staff knew of 21 a year ago). “We need to get the current ADUs that are already out there approved and know what steps will be taken to get those into compliance. I know town staff has been working on this,” she said, suggesting that an update of next steps could published as a staff report at an upcoming meeting.

I’m glad to hear this from the trustees. Here’s why I think compliance with the Town of Lyons ADU code is important to affordable housing and fairness for all residents of Lyons, both homeowners and renters.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. The Town of Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes, and a 2015 proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. Although other affordable homes have been proposed in the past year, so far, the only post-flood affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of 6 homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. 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.

Advertisements

Two events raised money for Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons

Tags

, ,

Published in the July 5, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Two events raised money for Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons

by Amy Reinholds

Last weekend, both the car show at the Lyons Good Old Days celebration and the Lyons Lions Club, with youth volunteers the Leos, raised money for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, helping the construction of six permanently affordable homes at Second Avenue and Park Street in Lyons. 

Chris Wing, who has owned Lyons Automotive with her husband Chuck Wing since 2012, said the proceeds from the car show entry fees, raffle tickets, and donation jar totaled $1,982 this year, up from last year’s $1,300.  This was the fifth year Lyons Automotive sponsored the car show, and the second year they raised money for Habitat for Humanity.

Wing said last year they knew about the three duplexes Habitat for Humanity was planning to build at 112 Park Street, although Habitat had not yet broke ground. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to help,” she said. Contributing this year was a natural continuation, because even though the community can see the progress of the two buildings underway, the third duplex building is just starting, and more funding is needed to see the project through to completion.

The ways that the local community can help see the Habitat for Humanity homes to completion falls into two categories: donating and volunteering. To donate specifically to the Lyons construction, go to www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons. To volunteer, no specific experience is needed, and training is on the job for each the 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. volunteer shift. On the website at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can sign up for one or more of the specific days they are available Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The Adopt-a-Day sponsorship is an opportunity for groups or businesses to do both. It costs Habitat approximately $2,500 a day to build (costs of materials, permits, and site supervision for example). The combination of volunteer service and a financial contribution of $2,500 doubles the impact of the generous groups on Habitat’s mission. The Lyons Lions Club and its youth chapter, “the Lyons Leos,” joined together last Saturday for an Adopt-a-Day sponsorship at the Lyons construction site. There is room for more big-hearted businesses or organizations to do the same later this summer and fall. Although Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley has some federal disaster recovery funding, there is still a large gap in the costs of building these homes that fund-raising and donations must fill. 

The Saturdays in the summers are usually filled with volunteer groups, but outreach and volunteer coordinator Rebecca Shannon said that the fall is when volunteers are especially needed to see the Lyons construction completed. 

I’m thinking the 5th anniversary of the flood would be a good time for groups to come together and volunteer or fund the construction. Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, and the need for housing that people displaced by the flood can afford, even though a 2015 affordable housing proposal that included Habitat for Humanity was rejected by a majority of town voters. This summer and fall are big opportunities to support both Habitat and our neighbors who will be purchasing the new homes at 112 Park St., whether with donations or with volunteer hours. Thanks to Lyons Automotive, the Lyons Lions Club, and the Lyons Leos for stepping up this past weekend!

Lyons Automotive sponsored an auto show Lyons Good Old Days celebration June 30 and donated all entry fees (nearly $2,000) to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley to support new homes being built in Lyons.

 Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). The range of monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance will range from about $650 to $850 for all the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size. All Habitat for Humanity homeowners complete about 250 volunteer hours per adult in each household, which includes and attending financial and homeownership classes as well as working construction on their own and their neighbors’ homes.

By the end of April 2018, a final round of applicants was selected to purchase the six homes. The preference policy gave first preference for applicants displaced 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. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below (and possibly as much as 80% of the area median income was allowed for Lyons). A permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.

In November 2016, three years after the flood, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in 2015 to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for Habitat for Humanity. The total of about $173,500 in savings helped Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget for the Park Street homes, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners. 

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. The Town of Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes, and a 2015 proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. Although other affordable homes have been proposed in the past year, so far, the only post-flood affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of 6 homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. 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.

Proposed ADUs in existing buildings: two postponed; one moves to trustees

Tags

, ,

Published in the June 28, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Proposed ADUs in existing buildings: two postponed; one moves to trustees

by Amy Reinholds

Of the three accessory dwelling units (ADUs) before the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) on June 25, two were postponed to July 23, and one was narrowly approved as a recommendation to go before the trustees on July 2. A common thread is that all were conditional use reviews for proposals to create dwelling units in existing out-buildings, but when the outbuildings were constructed ranged from the 1930s to 2003, to last year. 

The 408 Reese Street conditional use review public hearing was continued (postponed) to July 23 at the request of the applicants, who were out of state. Two lots on Reese Street already have second buildings on single-family home residential lots that have not yet been brought into compliance with ADU code. Proposed parking is on the alley that is already narrow, and the building was originally a shed for rabbits for the Hutchinsons, who built the original home in the late 1930s. Current owners had permits to update the shed into a studio space for family use but were also interested in whether it could meet requirements for an ADU to rent out to a tenant. The building doesn’t have the minimum required setbacks from the alley. The staff recommendation included in the June 25 meeting documents was to deny the use as an ADU because staff believes the intent of the non-conforming building code Section 16-7-50 of the Lyons Municipal Code is not to permit the conversion of non-conforming sheds into accessory dwelling units.

The 227 Park Street conditional use review public hearing for an ADU over a garage was also continued to July 23 to get more specific information from the Lyons Fire Protection District. A previous statement from the fire department was the alleyway access is greater than 150 feet and does not have an approved turn-around for fire vehicles as required by fire code. The fire department also indicated that it needs to review fire flow data (gallons per minute flow of the fire hydrant) before it will recommend approval. The main public safety issue is if the fire department can adequately protect this ADU home and surrounding homes in time of fire. In the 1990s and 2000s, Lyons had a fire department, yet several single-family homes off that same alley were allowed to be built. Commissioners asked if maybe access to the ADU could be from the front of the property or if nearby 404 buyout properties could be used for a turn-around for fire safety vehicles.

The 310 5th Ave. conditional use review public hearing included comments from four neighbors who had concerns with the applicants bringing the conditional use review forward for an ADU now, a year after the living space above the garage was permitted and built. It appeared to the neighbors that the applicants used the process to apply for a family living space above the garage to bypass the conditional use review process for an ADU.

The large size and height still meet requirements of a maximum 30-foot height allowed under Town of Lyons building code for buildings that are part of a single-family home residential lot. However neighbors within 300 feet are not involved in the approval process for building a structure unless it is designated as an ADU, which has a conditional use process that includes public input to both the PCDC and the Trustees. Adjacent neighbor Joe Meckle said “Common knowledge in the neighborhood that they wanted a rental. If we would have had a conditional use review before it was built, maybe the roof line could have come down 5 feet.”

“The permitting process was a nightmare to rebuild after the flood,” said Charlie and Susan Corson. “We ran our plans by our neighbors to get feedback and input. This common courtesy has not been returned.”

Rick DiSalvo noted that according to photographs included in the application materials the already built unit “appears to already have a full kitchen. Was that in the building permit to begin with? My understanding was you are not supposed to have a full kitchen until you get conditional use review approval.” An attorney for the owners, Randy and Georgie Pollard, stated that there was no stove in the current kitchen.

Of the five members of the PCDC who were present at the meeting, three voted to approve the conditional use review and recommend it to the Trustees for a July 2 public hearing, and two voted against it. The PCDC serves as an advisory role to the elected Board of Trustees, which makes a final decision on all conditional use reviews. 

Building the garage structure that size and height was allowed as a use by right, and commissioners Gregg Oetting, Neil Sullivan, and Josh Schnabel voted to approve the recommendation for the ADU based on town code that allows that size for a structure above a garage. Although Sullivan said “Building codes have in this case failed the neighborhood and failed the community. Given where this is taking place in the process, there are few options for us.”

“This is extremely uncomfortable for all of us,” Oetting said. “For the last 50 years, they had the right to build a garage to this size. We’ve got to be careful in the future, because as Boulder County becomes more affluent, [our town code] allows people to build bigger to make more money. We should revisit what people can do as use by right.”

Clay Dusel and Dave Neufield voted against approving the ADU.

“This is the first ADU where we’ve heard such adamant disapproval from neighbors, and we ought to take this very seriously,” Dusel said. “Tonight we have a lot of people voicing their opinion, and that’s very important to me. Looking at the pictures [on satellite imagery], the garage pre-flood was very small.”

“If this was a new proposal, we could gather input from the neighborhood and make adjustments to the plan,” Neufield said. “Typically, if you’re building above your garage, office space is less than if it’s a dwelling – you don’t need space for bathrooms and bedrooms. I have a concern that this is setting a precedent for the town that there is a back door to an ADU, without getting public input. We’re essentially increasing density. I’m not sure this is the right process to get us to this point. Let’s have a process to determine where we want the density.”  

Next Monday, July 2, is also a time when the public can give input to the trustees about ADUs, too. In addition to this specific public hearing for the 310 5th Ave. garage apartment, the public can also speak during audience business about any more general topics, including the current ADU policy. What do you find acceptable about ADUs on your block that are appropriate and would work for you as a neighbor? Should parking be handled a specific way? Should there be a limit of a certain number of ADUs per block so we don’t see the number of homes double on a residential block that used to be low-density with one house per lot? 

Here’s what I shared in general about ADUs at the June 25 PCDC meeting:

1) I support a moratorium on new ADUs in existing buildings until all the older cottage houses/additional detached rental units (which have been going on for years on single-family home residential lots) are brought into compliance with the ADU policy. Last year, Town of Lyons staff knew of 21 accessory units that were used as dwelling units, but were not yet brought into compliance. That number might be higher now, and I understand that town staff are compiling a current list.

2) The PCDC and the Board of Trustees should consider some standards for the maximum number of ADUs allowed per block in Town of Lyons, which should be evaluated with neighborhoods after all the existing ADUs are also counted and brought into compliance.

3) Finally, I’m adamant that our town code about short-term vacation rentals needs to be enforced in all ADUs – and the separate buildings that don’t become ADUs, like just a shed or a studio – on all our single-family home residential lots in the Town the Lyons. I got verbal confirmation Monday from Ian Greer, the new Town of Lyons enforcement officer, that short term vacation rentals are not allowed in ADUs, and they are also not allowed in a garage or shed or separate workshop building that is just for family use and doesn’t become an official ADU. He said that town code on those uses will be enforced.

I really appreciate this process that is available to town residents to contribute input to the volunteer planning commission and the elected trustees. It’s best if we speak up and give some constructive information about what we would like to see to preserve the character of our neighborhoods. There are a lot of us who like the positive aspects of ADUs (options for aging family members or caregivers for aging in place, or lower-cost rentals for local employees or grown children), but we know there are trade-offs with increased density, and there needs to be enforcement to respect the existing neighbors who bought homes in a low-density residential zone and don’t want to see a conversion of a residential neighborhood to a hotel/lodging businesses district. We can encourage the town to make decisions that will be helpful for all neighborhoods going forward.

The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed ADUs to be permitted on single-family home residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those three years. With the goal of encouraging more lower-cost (although 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 on single-family home residential lots in town (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs). Attached ADUs within the same structure as the main house don’t require conditional reviews but do require permits. You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

Until now, all that the Town of Lyons has focused on is new construction of ADUs. In the 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018, conditional use reviews were completed and approved for four new detached ADUs under construction in Lyons.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.

 

Update on vacation rentals in Town of Lyons residential zones

Tags

, ,

Published in the June 21, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Update on vacation rentals in Town of Lyons residential zones

by Amy Reinholds

At the end of March, homeowners who wanted to learn more the licensing process for short-term vacation hosts in residential zones in Lyons attended an overview meeting at Lyons Town Hall, but several questions from homeowners went unanswered. A conversation with town staff on Friday confirmed the required steps and answered many of those questions for homeowners of residential properties in town who want to rent space in their homes short-term to tourists.

Until the short-term rental ordinance was added to the Town of Lyons municipal code at the start of 2018, the only way for residents on residential-zoned properties (R-1 and R-2) in town to legally rent space in their homes for short-term, nightly or weekly periods of time (including on websites like AirBnb and VRBO) was to apply for a conditional use review to run a Bed and Breakfast business. The Bed and Breakfast conditional use review process required several steps including public hearings before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and the Lyons Board of Trustees. No homeowners applied for the Bed and Breakfast conditional use reviews for R-1 and R-2 properties. (Bed and breakfast businesses with six or fewer units are allowed by right — without the conditional use reviews — on A-1, A-2, and Estate zoned land, if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. Lodging businesses are also allowed by right in commercial zoned land, including the CEC zone. You can see a list of these kinds of lodging businesses at www.lyonscolorado.com/explore/lodging.  (All of the lodging on this page meets the Town of Lyons use requirements for lodging in the zones except the Little Red Treehouse, which would only be allowed by right on the Estate land if in the same building as the main home on the property.) 

But a new process makes it much easier for homeowners on R-1 and R-2 properties, who didn’t have a use by right before, to rent out rooms to vacationers in the homes where they live. Now all a residential homeowner must do is complete a Town of Lyons Short-term Rental Application, with a new application fee, and pay an annual license fee for a Town of Lyons Short-term Rental License. One of the points of confusion at the March 29 meeting for residential homeowners was whether an additional Town of Lyons business license was also required annually. Both Lyons Town Planner Paul Glasgow and Lyons Code Compliance Officer Ian Greer have confirmed that an additional Town of Lyons Business License is not required. Here are the total fees that must be paid for short-term vacation rentals: a $100 license fee plus a $75 new application fee for the first calendar year ($175 total), and a $100 license fee plus a $50 renewal application fee for following years ($150 total). Waivers of the $100 license fee are granted for short-term rentals of rooms that meet accessibility requirements.

The Lyons Short-term Rental ordinance prohibits short-term rentals in campers or RVs, and other non-compliant structures like sheds, and in accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that are covered by the www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units ordinance, and in homes that the property owners do not use as their principal residence.

Residential homeowners need to fill out paper applications (available at Town Hall or by printing out the application on www.townoflyons.com/ShortTermRentals). Greer said he is working with Arielle Hodgson from the Lyons Community Relations and Programs department to make the Lyons Short-term Rental application available online soon, to make it easier for homeowners to apply.

Greer said that the Town of Lyons has received about eight short-term rental license applications so far, and Glasgow and Hodgson are working on getting the properties licensed. According to the application, applicants should allow 45 days for the application to be processed. Greer said he is researching short-term rental advertising websites (like AirBnb and VRBO), attempting to compile a list of properties that are currently running short-term rentals from their residences unlicensed. He will be sending out letters to those property owners within the month, advising them that the town staff believe that they are running an unlicensed short-term rental from their residence. The goal is to get all of the rentals licensed, and to begin enforcement on any short-term rentals that do not conform to the short-term rental ordinance (for example rentals in ADUs and RVs and in homes that property owners do not use as their principal residence).

For homeowners to obtain the required license from the Town of Lyons, short-term rentals must meet the following standards:

1) The proposed short-term rental must be the principal residence of the homeowner, and the homeowner must occupy the premise of the short-term rental for at least nine months per calendar year.

2) The homeowner must self-certify that design and safety standards are met and acknowledge that the premises can be subject to a request for a pre-arranged inspection by appropriate building, fire, and zoning officials.

3) The homeowner must obtain a Colorado sales tax license and collect, report, and pay sales tax (or a contract from a third-party agency like AirBnb or VRBO to collect, report, and pay sales tax on the homeowner’s behalf). Also, because ballot question 1A passed in the April election, the required fees include a $2 per night occupation tax for lodging, like many other municipalities have (although lower). The fee raises the costs that a vacationer pays by a small amount, and funds raised will help cover the added impacts of tourists, so the Town of Lyons doesn’t have to take money away from what is needed to cover services for all of our year-round residents.

4) The homeowner must submit the required application form, safety certification form, and associated fees. Submitted short-term rental license applications will be reviewed for compliance, in accordance with the Lyons Municipal Code, and a decision on the application’s approval will be made within 45 days, according to the Town of Lyons website.

These regulations apply only to 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).

Residents who are interested in short-term vacation rentals often face another point of confusion with the Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, which allows small carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs). 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, because the policy is intended to increase the number of lower-cost residential rentals for people who work in town. Therefore, a property owner who has an ADU cannot apply for Lyons Short-term Rental Licenses. You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

I care about this connection between short-term vacation rentals and housing that local workers can afford. If there were no restrictions on the use of ADUs after all the incentives that save homeowners money, property owners who wanted to maximize profit would run a business that brings in $200 a night from vacationers, instead of building community by renting to longer-term tenants who live and work in Lyons. Even the current ADU regulations being enforced give more advantages to homeowners who now have new ways to save and earn money, over renters who have limited income to spend on monthly rent.

Greer said he and other Town Staff have been compiling a list of properties that they believe are currently maintaining illegal ADUs. They range from detached accessory structures (garages and sheds) that have been converted into dwelling space, to basements or additions that are now being used as ADUs. Greer will be sending out letters to property owners on the list (expected later, after the short-term rental letters are completed), advising them that the Town of Lyons believes that they are maintaining  unpermitted accessory dwelling units on their properties. The Town goal is to bring all of these properties into compliance with all adopted Town of Lyons Building and Zoning Codes and to begin enforcement on dwelling units that do not meet requirements that allow them to be permitted.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. The Town of Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes, and a 2015 proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. Although other affordable rental homes have been proposed in the past year, so far, the only post-flood affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at Second Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of 6 homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. 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.

Lyons needs to follow through on ADU compliance

Tags

, , ,

Published in the June 14, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Lyons needs to follow through on ADU compliance

by Amy Reinholds

In the affordable housing discussions since the flood, I have been following the various words and actions about accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, mother-in-law apartments, or carriage houses, allowed on single family residential lots in the Town of Lyons. I paid attention to the changes made in the past two years, with the stated intention by both the elected Board of Trustees, and the appointed Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), that the trade-off of allowing additional homes on single family lots to share utility connections with the main house would help provide some lower-cost (although market-rate) long-term rentals in town.

I’ve watched this discussion over three different sitting boards, members of the PCDC coming and going, and three different town planners working on this issue.

In this context, I need the Town of Lyons advisory boards and decision makers to understand that I have serious concerns about compliance and enforcement issues for ADUs. First, bringing existing ADUs into compliance, something that was discussed in early 2016, was a big reason that I supported waiving additional utility connection fees to allow ADUs. Lyons Fire Protection District and Boulder County Sheriff officials had been asking for several years to know which addresses in Lyons had additional dwelling units in case of emergency. Also, enforcement of the requirement that ADUs can only be rented to long-term tenants – and not used for short-term vacation rentals – was another reason I supported the change. I knew that the rents wouldn’t be permanently affordable, and would go up with the rising rental market, but I wanted to see more rentals available for long-term tenants, who struggle to find places to live in Lyons.

Now, I hear statements at PCDC meetings that homeowners are disregarding the process to apply for conditional use reviews, or trying to bypass the process, and this is very concerning. I hear people talking about adding short-term vacation rentals in ADUs, which is not one of the allowed uses. I know that an enforcement officer has been hired, but I haven’t been able to find out what the plan is for bringing existing, non-conforming ADUs into compliance.

Neighborhoods are facing a future where there could be twice as many homes on a street if every homeowner creates an ADU, but homeowners bought their single-family residential (R-1) properties in Lyons with the reasonable expectation that the permitted uses for the zoning would be stable. The trade-off of neighborhoods dealing with the changed use that allows ADUs is that there might be more beneficial options for aging family members (true mother-in-law apartments), for caregivers, or for lower-cost rentals for local employees or grown children. But forcing neighborhoods to deal with this change without enforcement just means that new property owners who ignore the rules and the neighborhood character might rent out both homes as short-term vacation rentals, treating the neighborhood as a profit generator, and not a community where people live.

Neighborhoods are facing a future where there could be twice as many homes on a street if every homeowner has an ADU.

Following through on the plan for compliance and enforcing the ADU ordinance are ethical issues, to respect other homeowners in Lyons, including long-time, multi-generational residents of our town.

In June of 2017, the PCDC drafted a statement to lobby that an enforcement officer be hired. “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 added “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.”

Public safety issues for renters are also an important aspect to affordable housing and fair housing. In summer of 2016, the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission reported a goal to the Board of Trustees that it supports affordable housing, safe accessory dwelling units, and safety for all renters in town, protections for tenants and landlords, and education that encourages safe, healthy, and fair rentals.

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 ADUs to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those three 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 on single-family residential lots in town (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs). Attached ADUs within the same structure as the main house don’t require conditional reviews but do require permits. You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

In 2016, Town staff knew of 21 ADUs in Lyons, none of them legally allowed structures, because they are on low-density residential lots in town, which only allow one single-family home. Some current owners of homes with ADUs that were built without permits might not know their dwelling units are non-compliant, and the separate buildings have been used that way for years.

I know that the Town of Lyons staff and decision makers, elected officials, and advisory boards have a lot going on, but now is the time to move forward on bringing these existing, non-compliant ADUs into compliance with the policy. [On a related issue, I was waiting for the follow-up information from the short-term vacation rental community meeting back in March, where many homeowners in residential areas had questions about how to follow the Town of Lyons short-term vacation rental ordinance. The residential community needs this information. I just heard back from the Town of Lyons and will write about it in a future column.]

So far, all that the Town of Lyons has focused on is new construction of ADUs. In the 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018, conditional use reviews were completed and approved for four new detached ADUs under construction in Lyons.

The “affordability” provided by ADUs is tricky to measure. I do think that if more Town of Lyons residents provide legal, compliant ADUs, there can be more rental housing stock in Lyons (but only if Lyons continues to prohibit using ADUs for short-term vacation rentals). ADUs are a helpful attempt to add more rentals in Lyons, but not the magic solution that fixes all our affordable housing issues. Without a way to require that rent or sales prices will be affordable in the future, all the work to provide market-rate rents that lower-income renters can afford is lost as soon as landlords need to raise the rent or the original homeowners decide to sell.

The Town of Lyons does have some guiding documents that list ADUs as a tool for providing more affordable housing. Housing Strategy 1.1.1 in the 2010 Lyons Comprehensive Plan is “Review and revise Lyons’ Land Use Code as necessary to promote: mixed-use buildings such as live/work units near downtown, accessory dwelling units such as mother-in-law apartments and caretaker residences, and a variety of lot sizes and types of homes in all residential districts.” Also, Housing goal 1.3.1 in the Lyons Recovery Action Plan (from 2014) includes housing that is affordable based on size or square footage. Additionally, an outgoing board passed an Affordable Housing Resolution in April 2016 with a list of possible housing policies and incentives that future boards can use to accomplish a goal of 10 percent affordable housing – including tap fee reductions and working with increased density.

If a town isn’t careful with so-called “affordable” incentives for market-rate housing, property owners who focus mainly on making profits, not building community, will benefit from those incentives.

However, does waiving tap fees for ADUs or allowing increased density in single-family zones really enable housing that remains affordable? In contrast, the reductions in tap fees for Habitat for Humanity homes, and the Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning for those three Habitat for Humanity duplexes on Park Street do guarantee permanently affordable housing for people who make 80 percent of the area median income or less. There is a difference between using higher density tools for permanent (deed-restricted) affordable housing and higher density tools for market-rate housing. If a town isn’t careful with so-called “affordable” incentives for market-rate housing, property owners who focus mainly on making profits, not building community, will benefit from those incentives.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.

Updates on Lyons Valley Park and eastern corridor proposals

Tags

, , , ,

Published in the June 7, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Updates on Lyons Valley Park and eastern corridor proposals

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees heard two updates on June 4 about affordable housing proposals. Summit Housing Group is continuing due diligence activities for the site at Lyons Valley Park, considering a proposal for only 29 rental homes there – as Lyons Valley homeowners suggested at a presentation last month – if other homes can be built at another location like 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive. Also, the Greens, a partnership of food production, commercial development, and Thistle community housing, is still moving toward a sales and purchase agreement with the Town of Lyons for land on the eastern edge of town.

Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees Monday night that Summit is in preliminary discussions with the owner of 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive about a possible purchase of the 2.13 acres in Boulder County next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision. She stressed that these discussions are only in the early stages and nothing has been confirmed, but that Summit is willing to consider dual sites to build the number of affordable rental homes they originally proposed, funding approximately 43 affordable homes with federal disaster recovery funds that have been earmarked for Lyons and investments through low-income housing tax credits.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60% of the area median incomes or less. The latest homes in Colorado are at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont.

In the past two years, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds set aside for Lyons housing. Other federal funds were lost in 2015 when a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. However, with $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have pursued smaller options for housing.

At the end of January, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement with current owner Keith Bell, for an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8. A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers interested in partnering with the town for that Lyons Valley Park Tract A parcel went out in February. A selection committee (including representatives from the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association and the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission) brought forward two finalists who presented to the Lyons Board of Trustees, and Summit Housing Group was selected by the trustees in March. Then the purchase and sale agreement with Keith Bell was then assigned to Summit Housing Group.

Also at the affordable housing report at the June 4 meeting, the trustees also supported continuing to work with the Greens partnership on a proposal to purchase land east of U.S. 36 that the Town of Lyons owns. However a discussion with town staff and the trustees confirmed that no one advised taking the risk of relocating the planned site of the new Town of Lyons public works building, planned for the northeast portion of 4651 Ute Hwy, which has taken years to negotiate with FEMA, even if it moved to somewhere else in the 4.3 acres on the north side of Hwy 66 based on some proposed ideas from the Greens partners. The public works building is funded by three different funding sources, all which have a deadlines that require the project to be completed by end of 2019 at the latest. The trustees and town staff discussed how they didn’t want to risk losing the approximately $3.5 million counted on from a combinations of FEMA funds, federal disaster recovery funds, and insurance from the flood-destroyed building.

More than a year ago, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont to use a portion 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. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land. The town put out the request for proposals for prospective buyers with development plans in the fall of 2017. The Greens partnership proposes purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of the highway (4.3 acres at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.28 acres at 4652 Ute Hwy) for a mixed-use development that includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, and affordable rental homes.

The Greens partnership, originally the only group to submit a fully completed application at the end of 2017 for proposals to purchase the land the town owns, has presented several updates to the Board of Trustees since then. In May the Greens partners presented and a workshop and at the following meeting, the trustees agreed to direct town staff to pursue next steps for a purchase and sale agreement. The Greens partners are Donna Merten, who owns a real estate development company and is getting a masters degree from the University of Colorado in sustainable food systems, Paul Tamburello, who runs a real estate development firm and serves on the board of the indoor farm and marketplace GrowHaus in Denver, and Mary Duvall, CEO of affordable housing nonprofit Thistle.

At the June 4 meeting, Kathie Guckenberger, consulting attorney for Town of Lyons, said that Tamburello has been working with the Town of Lyons’s attorneys on moving forward with a purchase and sale agreement proposal.

The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority. The only post-flood affordable housing currently being built is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer or donate, see www.stvrainhabitat.org.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.

Church donates land for affordable apartments in Longmont

Tags

,

Published in the May 31, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Church donates land for affordable apartments in Longmont

by Amy Reinholds

The Inn Between celebrates a ground breaking for Micah Homes in Longmont on May 31 on land previously owned by United Church of Christ Longmont, about three years after a church member first had the idea that her congregation could help with the local housing need.

According to The Inn Between, a nonprofit in Longmont that provides supportive housing, case management, and life skills training, the Micah project expands a permanent supporting housing program that addresses the needs of those living on very low fixed incomes, particularly the elderly and disabled. The name is derived from biblical passages in the Book of Micah about overcoming injustice and defending the rights of the poor. The six 400 – 500 sq. ft. permanent supportive homes for low-income, homeless, or at-risk individuals are being funded by donated services of general contractor Krische Contruction, in-kind subcontractors’ services and material donations, and other community support, including regular donations from the Faith Lutheran Community Church endowment fund, assistance from design nonprofit Radian Placematters, $150,000 of Worthy Cause Tax Funds from Boulder County, permit and fee reductions from the City of Longmont, and assistance with the building frame up and build dates from Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley.

The groundbreaking ceremony is May 31 at 5 p.m. at 1500 9th Ave. in Longmont. 

Almost three years ago, Carol Matheis-Kraft first had the idea and brought it to church leadership. A retired nurse, she had served on the board of the OUR Center nonprofit and knew the great need for affordable housing. I talked to her earlier this year about how the project came to be.

“At the OUR Center, we found that the biggest stumbling block to self-sufficiency was finding housing people could afford,” Matheis-Kraft said. “We could help people find jobs, but there was no where they could live.” 

“We just had to stop talking about it and do something.” After that challenge and brainstorming session from the board where she served, she made a connection with decisions her church was considering about land adjacent to the church building. The church had owned land with an older home on in for 50 years, and had used it or rented it in the past but now was considering tearing down the building. Instead they decided to move their church parking lot and go through the rezoning process with the City of Longmont, and they were able to donate a little less than a quarter of an acre to the Inn Between. In 2016, the congregation voted to pursue donating the land to Inn Between, and in January 2018, the land transferred officially. 

The church’s requirement on donating the land was that it be permanently affordable to people who make 40 percent [According to AP Style, “40” is a number and “percent” is a word spelled out] of the area median income or less, Matheis-Kraft said. This language was put in a clause in the document that transferred the deed, so that if the requirement is not met, the land reverts back to the church.

LongmontUnitedChurchofChrist

The project is now Inn Between’s, and the church’s role is now to “be a good neighbor,” Matheis-Kraft said. “We are still involved, but it’s not our project.”

Some advice she gave for other churches who are looking at doing something similar are that they need a dedicated team of people to be a driving force, committed for at least three or four years to get through all the phases needed to transfer land to a nonprofit to build affordable housing. She said a group needs volunteers who can fill roles with experience or interest in detailed planning and rezoning steps, in engineering, and in the financial side of the transaction, someone who is trusted in the organization. 

“And it could be any landowner who has a big enough piece of land that they would be willing to sell,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a church.”

Matheis-Kraft said she hopes that this example from the United Church of Christ Longmont can serve as a model for other organizations who want to increase affordable housing. “It’s probably a drop in the bucket for what we need, but it’s more than we had before,” she said. “You need multiple options for affordable housing to work.”

The United Church of Christ Longmont and Matheis-Kraft are excellent resources for how this approach to creating affordable housing worked. Are there any options for churches or other organizations in the Lyons community to do something similar, but tailored to the needs of our community? What do you think?

See www.theinnbetween.org to learn more about the Micah Homes, and www.ucclongmont.org to learn more about the United Church of Christ Longmont.

The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority. The only post-flood affordable housing currently being built is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of 6 homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer or donate, see www.stvrainhabitat.org.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.

Trustees closer to a sales agreement for the eastern corridor

Tags

, ,

Published in the May 24, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

 

Trustees closer to a sales agreement for the eastern corridor

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously voted on May 21 to direct staff to negotiate a purchase and sale agreement with the partners who are proposing a mixed-use proposal on the eastern end of town that includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, and affordable rentals.

Even though the Board of Trustees cannot commit any of the $4 million of possible federal disaster recovery funds earmarked for Lyons to this proposed project, the partners in the Greens development still wanted to move forward to negotiating a purchase of town-owned land.

The Greens partnership, originally the only group to submit a completed application at the end of 2017 for proposals to purchase land east of U.S. 36 that the Town of Lyons owns, has presented several updates to the Board of Trustees since that time. At Monday night’s meeting, the trustees got questions answered from a May 7 workshop and agreed to pursue next steps for a purchase and sale agreement. The Greens partners are Donna Merten, who owns a real estate development company and is getting a masters degree from the University of Colorado in sustainable food systems, Paul Tamburello, who runs a real estate development firm and serves on the board of the indoor farm and marketplace GrowHaus in Denver, and Mary Duvall, CEO of affordable housing nonprofit Thistle.

As in any potential property purchase, there are still many steps, even after a sales agreement is signed, and not all sales agreements are completed. But the positive step for seeing potential affordable rentals on the eastern corridor is these business partners are willing to pursue options for commercial, agricultural, and housing that are viable for Lyons, even without the federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds for affordable housing that are currently committed to another proposal.

“It becomes an opportunity because we’re not tied to that timeframe,” Duvall said. According to timelines discussed at previous meetings, any project using the CDBG-DR funds for affordable housing that would come to Lyons through the State of Colorado must be already underway in 2019, and many developments like the one proposed by the Greens could take longer.

For about three decades, Thistle has developed affordable housing throughout Boulder County, with other sources of funding, such as federal and state low-income housing tax credits for investors. Examples of Thistle rentals include 1200 Kimbark in Longmont, the Cannery Apartments at 15 3rd Ave. in Longmont, and Parkside Village Townhomes at 5007-5095 Valmont Rd. in Boulder. More examples are listed at www.thistle.us. With 871 homes at the end of 2017, Thistle affordable housing includes a diverse mix of rental units, home ownership, and community land trusts in both mobile home parks and condominium buildings. Thistle is part of NeighborWorks America, a non-profit chartered by congress to bring local and independent housing solutions to communities.

A year ago, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont to use a portion 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. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land. The town put out the request for proposals for prospective buyers with development plans in the fall of 2017. The Merten-Tamburello-Thistle proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of the highway (4.3 acres at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.28 acres at 4652 Ute Hwy).

Examples of Tamburello’s work building and also redeveloping and reimagining old buildings includes several well-known projects around the Highlands neighborhood of Denver including Root Down and Linger restaurants and LoHi Market Place, and he owns Little Man Ice Cream. Tamburello is a founder of GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.

Architects from the partnership presented some proposed ideas that could be pursued if there is a purchase and sales agreement, including using some of the existing cement structures from the former water treatment plant on the south side of Ute Highway as underground parking with a platform and mostly residential buildings above (if structurally feasible and the foundations have not been compromised). There could also be some market rate housing, some lodging, an event center, and retail space on that side of the highway.

The north side of the highway is where affordable rentals for people who earn 60 percent of the area median income (a range set by the low-income housing tax credits), which might be on the north side of the highway, as well as the innovative, vertical greenhouses for food production, a farm grocery, and a commercial kitchen. Earlier proposals had about 45 affordable rental homes, and that number could be similar, but dependent on funding sources.

Although the Greens partnership had previously shown a proposal suggesting relocating the town public works building to the west, they said on May 21 that its location was not a deal-breaker. The main concern from the town staff and trustees was that it took years to find a site for the town public works building that FEMA will fund as part of the recovery process for the building destroyed in the 2013 flood, and moving it could slow down the process and jeopardize funding.

Trustee Mark Browning said that he liked the ability of the developers to be flexible because of the dependencies on decisions by so many outside groups such as the Colorado Department of Transportation for the highway corridor, FEMA, and state and county agencies.

The Greens partners also said they were discussing ideas of how to bring the proposal forward to the community in an event.

In the past two years, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal CDBG-DR funds set aside for Lyons for affordable housing. Other federal funds were lost in 2015 when a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. However, with $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have been pursuing several smaller options for housing. The Division of Housing has committed to allowing a maximum of $100,000 per unit of new affordable homes built in Lyons.

Another proposal that the Town of Lyons has moved forward on a purchase agreement is with Summit Housing Group on for Filing 8, Tract A of Lyons Valley Park. Summit was assigned the purchase and sale agreement to purchase Lyons Valley Park, Filing 8, Tract A from Keith Bell, and completed some due diligence tasks last month. However many more steps are required.

“I like that there’s a plan B in the works,” Mayor Connie Sullivan said at the May 21 meeting about Thistle Housing’s proposal for the Greens. “We still have a long way to go with Summit.”

Summit won a request for proposals process in March, after a selection committee, including representatives from the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association, brought forward finalists. Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in 6 states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60% of the area median incomes or less.

Summit held a question and answer session with the community earlier this month, where several Lyons Valley Park homeowners in the area urged Summit to build a fewer number of homes on the Tract A — 29, as allowed without rezoning according to the subdivision agreement, instead of 43. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen gave an update to the May 21 trustees meeting on the phone. She said that Summit would like to offer as many units as possible per their request for proposals application, but that Summit would not rule out providing fewer units on Tract A if another site could be located to also build homes. “They expressed a willingness to look at more than one site,” Simonsen said, and added that she is reopening discussions with the owner of 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive, 2.13 acres in Boulder County next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision.

The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority. The only post-flood affordable housing currently being built is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of 6 homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer or donate, see www.stvrainhabitat.org.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.

All Lyons Habitat for Humanity homeowners are selected

Tags

, ,

Published in the May 17, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder. A similar column was published in the June 13, 2018, edition of the Redstone Review.

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

All Lyons Habitat for Humanity homeowners are selected

by Amy Reinholds

By the end of April, the final round of applicants were selected to purchase the six Habitat for Humanity homes being built in Lyons at 112 Park Street. And the Lyons community can see the progress of two of the duplex buildings so far: the building furthest to the west that contains two homes and the one furthest to the east, which also contains two homes. It’s getting real.

Amanda Anderson is thinking about typical moving activities, including what to keep and what to get rid of for the new house for her new house with her husband, Danny Shafer, and her daughter and son. Since their mobile home was destroyed in the Sept. 2013 flood, Anderson and her family have moved three times to rental homes, first to Longmont, next to Lyons, and now just outside of Lyons town limits in Lyons Park Estates. Finding places to live has been one of the biggest challenges her family has faced since the flood.

“The fun part is knowing I won’t have to move again,” she said.

She and Shafer got a phone message from Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley that their application was selected, and Anderson said “I had to ask several times what that meant. I was scared about getting my hopes up.” She called up a homeowners services staff member who assured her “It’s OK to be happy.”

Wendy Miller, who also was selected to purchase a Habitat home in this application round, described a similar reaction to the phone message. “I didn’t believe it was real for the first 24 or 36 hours,” she said, until she called the Habitat for Humanity office. “It will be a lot more real when I go into the home design meeting to discuss finishes and upgrades,” she said.

All Habitat for Humanity homeowners are working on their volunteer hours (about 250 hours per adult in each household) and attending financial classes count toward those hours. The Personal Investment Enterprise (PIE) program is provided through Community Action Programs of Boulder County and Foothills United Way. As part of the program, a maximum of $1,000 in personal savings is matched 4:1 with a grant, which means the new homeowners could have up to $5,000 total for the downpayment when it is time to close on the their new homes.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). The range of monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance will range from about $650 to $850 for all the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size, according to Julie Gallegos, director of family services for Habitat for Humanity of St. Vrain Valley. For example, some homeowners will pay off their mortgages in 25 years, and some in 30 years, depending on the amount of principal they pay each month. As a lender, Habitat will keep pulling credit reports and checking debt-to-income ratio up until closing.

“I was really surprised at how low the mortgage would be without interest, on a home with a $150,000 sales price,” Miller said. “It allows me to save a lot of money, and to have better access for education and activities for my son.” Miller was renting an apartment during the flood in a building that was damaged, and she was unable to return there. After staying with family out of state, she and her son came back to Lyons. She found a house in Lyons to rent for the past few years, but is preoccupied with how precarious the situation is at the end of a lease each year, not knowing if she will need to find another place in the tight rental market in Lyons.

Anderson also described the surprising affect of a no-interest mortgage on the cost. “That is a big deal,” she said. “You can’t find anything for that price in the area, even land for sale.”She expects her mortgage will be less than half of what she is currently paying in rent.

Habitat for Humanity is hopeful that homeowners will be celebrating the 2018 end-of-year holidays in their new homes in Lyons, but the homeowners don’t know yet which home out of the six they will purchase. All four of the homes in the two buildings that are under construction now at 112 Park Street now will have three bedrooms. A third duplex building with the final two homes will be started later. The two homes in that building will be larger with a total of four bedrooms, one of them on the ground floor. These two homes have the option for both accessibility and for larger families. According to Habitat for Humanity, it will be decided who purchases which home based on need, for example family size or need for an accessible first-floor bedroom.

In the previous rounds, applicants were selected for three out of the six homes, and the final round started at the end of January. The preference policy gave first preference for applicants displaced 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. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below (and possibly as much as 80% of the area median income was allowed for Lyons). A permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.

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 at 112 Park St. (east of 2nd Ave.), south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). Ferguson and his LLC partners first purchased the entire 0.76-acre commercial parcel from Valley Bank in June 2015 and began a process to subdivide and rezone with the intention to sell to Habitat for Humanity. In June 2015, 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 helped Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners. Ferguson and his partners took the land through rezoning and subdivision steps, and it July 2016, final rezoning and subdivision was approved by the Lyons Board of Trustees. Habitat for Humanity agreed to complete the required subdivision improvements for the residential lots and bought the parcels in November 2017.

At the four-year anniversary of the flood in September 2017, Habitat for Humanity held a site-blessing and ground-breaking ceremony on the land. During the fall, Habitat for Humanity continued work to select contractors to do the public improvement infrastructure work and the foundations of the three duplexes, and worked with the Town of Lyons and the Lyons Fire Protection District for required building permits for the homes. The foundation work began in December 2017, but because of weather, the foundations for the first two buildings weren’t completed until early January. After the foundations were poured, Habitat held a special ground-blessing ceremony on Jan. 13 for the first three families selected to purchase the homes. Another ground-blessing ceremony is expected for the three families selected in the last round.

The ways that the local community can help see these homes to completion falls into two categories: donating and volunteering. To donate specifically to the Lyons construction, go to www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons. To volunteer, no specific experience is needed, and training is on the job for each the 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. volunteer shift. On the website at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can sign up for one or more of the specific days they are available Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The Adopt-a-Day sponsorship is an opportunity for groups or businesses to do both. It costs Habitat approximately $2,500 a day to build (costs of materials, permits, and site supervision for example). The combination of volunteer service and a financial contribution of $2,500 doubles the impact of the generous groups on Habitat’s mission. The Lyons Lions Club and its youth chapter “the Leos” are joining together later this year for an Adopt-a-Day sponsorship at the Lyons construction site. There is room for more businesses or organizations to do the same later this summer or fall.

The Saturdays in the summers are usually filled with volunteer groups, but outreach and volunteer coordinator Rebecca Shannon said that the fall is when volunteers are especially needed to see the Lyons construction completed. I’m thinking the 5th anniversary of the flood would be a good time for groups to come together and volunteer or fund the construction. Although Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley has some federal disaster recovery funding, there is still a gap in the costs of building these homes that fundraising and donations must fill.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley was a partner in a previous proposal for affordable housing in March 2015 that Town of Lyons voters rejected. 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) was voted down 614 to 498 by Lyons voters in March 2015. Despite many challenges, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons. Now we can all help the organization by volunteering or donating. Knowing our neighbors who will be purchasing the new homes is also an exciting inspiration to get involved.

The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.

Summit Housing Group hears from Lyons Valley Park homeowners and the Lyons community

Tags

, ,

Published in the May 16, 2018, edition of the Redstone Review.

Summit Housing Group hears from Lyons Valley Park homeowners and the Lyons community

COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS

By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – When I walked to the Summit Housing Group question and answer session on May 8 about proposed affordable rental homes in Lyons Valley Park, Filing 8, Tract A, I passed another multifamily housing community in Lyons Valley Park on the sidewalk. I was greeted by a resident meeting friends for “Taco Tuesday” in the community house shared kitchen and dining room. I saw parents and kids riding bikes while the sun was still shining on a warm spring early evening. The neighborhood looked like a suburban neighborhood that could be found many places in Colorado or the U.S, and I saw families and single people of all ages participating in their daily lives, enjoying time together.

Sam Long, senior project manager for Summit Housing Group, spoke to about 50 people in the cafeteria of Lyons Middle and High School about a proposal for 43 rental homes affordable to people who make about 60 percent of the area median income (or possibly less, depending on funding sources and investments like Low Income Housing Tax Credits). “Our mission is to provide the most affordable units,” Long said. (In Boulder County, the area median income is $76,100 for a single person, $86,900 for a two-person household, $97,800 for a three-person household, and 108,600 for a four-person household, and 60 percent of the area median income is $45,660 for a single person, $52,140 for a two-person household, $58,680 for a three-person household, and $65,160 for a 4-person household.) Long said the preference policy for flood-displaced residents will apply.

Summit originally thought that the subdivision agreement for Filing 8, Tract A that allowed multifamily housing, a density of 7.7 units per acre would allow 43 homes. However, the company later determined that the multifamily density only applies to 3.82 acres, which allows only about 27-29 homes by right on the parcel, Long said. So, to keep with its original proposal for 43 homes, Summit will go through a rezoning process. The zoning process starts with an application before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC). Public hearings are held with both the PCDC and the Trustees.

“We have attorneys engaged at this time,” said Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association president Jim Crowder, who said his attorneys did not agree that multifamily housing was allowed in the subdivision agreement. “We’re prepared to go to court.”

Yet other Lyons Valley Park homeowners were not against all affordable rentals. One man said “Some people want a lot of affordable housing, and some people don’t want any, but a lot of us are in the middle.”

“There are a lot of people [here in Lyons Valley Park] who want affordable housing for everyone, but we just don’t want that much,” another homeowner said. “Help us do that smaller amount.”

“That’s an option,” Long said. “I’m listening to you, but we’ve also made a commitment to the Town of Lyons,” he said, referring to the request for proposals that Summit Housing Group applied for and was selected by the Board of Trustees in March. “We will take it through the process, but if you tell the Board of Trustees that you want 29 units, and that is what the town wants, we’ll build 29 units.”

The geotechnical engineering assessment was expected to be completed in two weeks, Long said, which will answer questions about the expense of building. “There are a lot of issues with the site, which could be mitigated,” he said.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in 6 states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60% of the area median incomes or less. The latest homes in Colorado are at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont.

“The Town of Lyons needs affordable housing,” Long said. “Even if you make $70,000 a year, you can’t afford to buy a home in Lyons. I’m sure you all know someone, maybe a parent or a child, who can’t afford to live in Lyons.”

Emily Dusel, director of the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF), who also is a Lyons Valley Park homeowner, spoke to a previous comment that tenants would come from outside Lyons. “To think that we don’t have a problem in our own community is completely incorrect,” she said, explaining that 15 percent of the families who go to school in Lyons qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. She said she sees clients at the LEAF food pantry that are overburdened with rent costs. “We are feeding 40 families because they have to choose between feeding their families and paying rent.”

In the past two years, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds set aside for Lyons housing. Other federal funds were lost in 2015 when a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. However, with $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have pursued smaller options for housing.

On Jan. 29, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement with current owner Keith Bell, for an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8. A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers interested in partnering with the town for that Lyons Valley Park Tract A parcel went out in February. A selection committee (including representatives from the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association and the Lyons PCDC) brought forward two finalists who presented to the Lyons Board of Trustees, and Summit Housing Group was selected by the trustees in March. The purchase and sale agreement with Keith Bell was then assigned to Summit Housing Group.

As I walked home after the meeting, I thought about the people I saw on my way to the meeting. They were busy that evening, and they didn’t attend. I wondered if anything would be different if they heard first hand what was said about multifamily housing, affordability in our town, concerns about traffic, the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association hiring an attorney, and the clients of the LEAF food pantry who don’t have enough income to pay both rent and buy groceries without assistance. I also wondered if in a few years I would be walking through this neighborhood and see new residents of affordable rental homes who were biking with their children or gathering at their community room for an event.

It wouldn’t be so surprising if that’s in our future. There were many times in the past three years when I tried to imagine one day working at a Habitat for Humanity volunteer build day in Lyons, even when it looked like people were going to give up – and that project is now real at 112 Park Street, after months and years of drama on social media and many long meetings on cold Monday nights. In 2003, I remember when the land next to the post office was an empty lot, and for a while a community garden, where I attended a community celebration with acoustic musicians playing between the vegetable beds – and today it’s the affordable rental homes of some of our community’s elders. In 2013, I remember the waters of the St. Vrain covering the roads, the smell of the mud, and the crazy torn landscape and debris left behind – and now most of those physical scars are covered over with new vegetation, fixed roads, and cleaned and smoothed banks.

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, contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, see previous columns at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.