Published in the May 21, 2015 edition of the Lyons Recorder
What’s the future for affordable housing in Lyons?
Housing committee asks for workshop about tap fees
by Amy Reinholds
Special housing committee chair Justin Spencer asked the Board of Trustees to schedule a workshop by early June to discuss tap fees for two small proposed Habitat for Humanity sites in Lyons. At the Monday Board of Trustees meeting, Spencer first asked for the fees to be waived, but later said that a discount, based on possible future saved money from abandoned taps from flood-damaged homes that are on the list to receive federal buyouts, also could make Habitat for Humanity homes feasible on the Valley Bank mixed-use site. The special housing committee is proposing that the site could be subdivided so there could be approximately 6 for-sale homes from Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley (HFHSVV) along Park Street and a business in the current Valley Bank building.
Trustees agreed to look at a scheduling a workshop between May 28 and June 8. However, they said that before the workshop discussion they would need a proposal for tap fees and a written statement about the permanent affordability of the homes. For example, the board wouldn’t want to commit to waived or discounted tap fees on that particular site if market-rate homes were built there. “What if the Habitat piece of the project falls through, and there’s no affordable housing,” Trustee Connie Sullivan said. Spencer said that at full price taps, the project would be over budget for HFHSVV (which budgets approximately $50,000 per unit) and affordable housing on that site wouldn’t be able to happen at all. Trustee Jim Kerr said that the Utilities and Engineering Board (UEB) was against waiving tap fees for the proposed housing in Bohn Park and also had questions about whether HFHSVV homes are permanently affordable. Spencer said that he has reached out to the UEB to let them know about the request for the workshop so that they can participate.
Housing committee member Craig Ferguson has plans to close on purchasing the 0.76-acre Valley Bank site in mid-June, but the date might be extended because he will be out of town for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Ferguson could close on the property as a private entity and then sell or donate to a land trust, if one is created, or directly to HFHSVV. A local business owner is interested in purchasing the current Valley Bank building after subdivision. Last week, Ferguson, housing committee member Tom Delker, Board of Trustees liaison Dawn Weller, and Cody Humphrey, Lyons housing recovery coordinator and staff liaison to the special housing committee, met to discuss possibilities with HFHSVV executive director Dave Emerson and a site planner who has worked with HFHSVV. The site planner will create a plan, determining whether 6 or more townhomes will work, and then they can start the pre-application process through the regular town process. Also, Spencer said the town vacating right-of-way through the Valley Bank building should be discussed at the upcoming workshop with the Board of Trustees, a condition of the interested business that wants to acquire that building.
No matter what happens with the Valley Bank site, there is another small site that could have two HFHSVV homes. Humphrey has been discussing HFHSVV options with Emerson since the Bohn Park housing vote failed. One option that Humphrey and HFHSVV are looking into is two units on town-owned property east of the post office at Railroad Avenue and 3rd Ave. The land is currently zoned as R2, which would allow a duplex, and parking that is currently on the site could be replaced by on-street parking.
Spencer, Ferguson, Delker, and Nate Mohatt originally asked the board to create the housing committee to find affordable housing solutions after the proposal that would have included Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and Habitat for Humanity for-sale homes was voted down. They were appointed in April, and since then the mayor has appointed Martin Soosloff, who worked on the Housing Recovery Task Force in the 14 months after the flood, Tom Lamz, who moved to town shortly before the flood and said he wants to help, and Wendy Miller, who said she is seeking options for other renters like herself who pay more than a third of their income in rent.
Liaisons to the special housing committee are Board of Trustees liaison Weller, town staff liaison Humphrey, Greg Oetting from the Planning and Community Development Commission, Toby Russell from the Sustainable Futures Commission and the Economic Development Commission, and me from the Human Services and Aging Commission. Janaki Jane, who worked as a displaced resident advocate for Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund, is an assigned external resource.
All housing committee meetings are open to the public: regular meetings are the 2nd and 4th Mondays, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Lyons Town Hall Annex, behind the Barking Dog (with the exception of Memorial Day), and working meetings are every Thursday, 8:30-10 p.m. at the Lyons Valley Village community house. The committee posts agendas and minutes at: http://www.townoflyons.com/component/content/article/158-yoocarousel/556-special-housing-committee.
At the working meetings, attendees, including members of the public, break into smaller groups to address issues: accessory dwelling units, manufactured housing parks, affordable rentals for multi/single family homes, infill, home ownership/Habitat for Humanity, tap fees, land trusts, and financing/grants/tax credits.
If anyone is interested in applying to the housing committee, complete the application at http://www.townoflyons.com/images/stories/Advisory_Board_Application_2.pdf (email it to email@example.com).
Keep following this weekly column for updates about what has and has not been accomplished. For background of how this group started, see http://www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/lyons-chatter/6026-what-s-the-future-for-affordable-housing-in-lyons?showall=1&limitstart
Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and serves as a liaison to the special housing committee. She has lived in Lyons for 11 years and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.