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Published in the June 25, 2015 edition of the Lyons Recorder.

What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Valley Bank closing scheduled for Friday; Special housing committee explores more options

by Amy Reinholds

With Craig Ferguson expected to close on Friday, June 26, on the Valley Bank property, which he intends to subdivide and sell 6 lots to Habitat for Humanity, members of the special housing committee have now committed to creating subcommittees to continue exploring ways to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons.

The subcommittees/breakout groups will meet every Thursday at the Lyons Valley Village community house from 8:30-10 p.m. (with the exception of July 2, which is canceled for the holiday weekend).

There are currently 5 members of the Lyons special housing committee, including Justin Spencer who serves as chair. Members Nate Mohatt, Wendy Miller, Martin Soosloff, and Tom Lamz each agreed to take the lead on a subcommittee.

Lamz will lead the subcommittee that works with the Utilities and Engineering Board (UEB) on shaping a recommendation for an affordable housing policy for tap fee waivers or discounts. Although the Board of Trustees approved waiving water and sewer tap fees, and water shares, for the 6 proposed Habitat for Humanity homes (by reallocating those fees from flood-destroyed homes in the federal buyout programs), they stated it was a one-time decision for that project and not a sustainable way or a model of how to run utilities. The UEB had previously recommended that the town should create a policy for waiving fees for permanently affordable housing to guide decisions in the future.

Mohatt will lead a subcommittee on potential housing sites: reviewing past parcels, including the Housing Recovery Task Force’s matrix of non-commercial parcels with willing sellers, and the Trestle Strategy Group’s site analysis information on about 27 parcels, especially the more detailed analysis that made it to the final round of evaluation. Mohatt and Spencer and the special housing committee will work with town staff liaison Cody Humphrey to review the site analysis information that Trestle collected in late 2014-early 2015.

Miller will lead a subcommittee on affordable rentals in Lyons, exploring options to provide rentals that are permanently affordable to the range of incomes of people who lost homes in the 2013 flood.

Soosloff will lead the manufactured housing subcommittee, continuing the discussion on the work of the “Manufactured Housing and Flood Recovery in Lyons, Colorado” report that was done by analysts hired by the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (see http://www.leaflyons.org/uploads/5/0/9/0/50909033/leaf_mhc_report_final__04-15-2015.pdf). The subcommittee also will keep up-to-date on the status of John Baranway’s plans to develop a new manufactured housing park, if he gets a buyout with federal funds for the former Foothills mobile home park that was destroyed in the flood.

Liaisons to the special housing committee are also pulled into the subcommittee work. I agreed to work with the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), including liaison Gregg Oetting and PCDC chair Michelle Allen for a subcommittee that follows the continuing discussion about how to encourage more accessory dwelling units, also called mother-in-law apartments, guest houses, or the acronym ADUs. I can report back to the special housing committee the latest news on ADUs based on work done by the PCDC and any new decisions or direction from the Lyons Board of Trustees. A community education plan that helps homeowners get information they need about the process of creating these additional apartments on their land is in the works.

Because of other town meetings this week, the special housing committee changed the regular Monday meeting this week to Wednesday, June 24 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex. Check the online town calendar for other upcoming meetings.

Also, Spencer will be unavailable to give the regular chair’s report of the special housing committee at the June 29 Board of Trustees meeting, so Miller will give the report as a backup.

Ferguson is scheduled to close this Friday on the 0.76-acre Valley Bank parcel at 302 Second Avenue. Dave Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley (HFHSVV), said that the next steps after Ferguson’s closing will be an environmental review that will be required of HFHSVV because the group will use federal money from the Community Development Block Grants – Disaster Recovery fund. The review could take up to 30 days. A southeast portion of the land is in the 100-year floodplain, so mitigation steps in building the new home must be detailed.

Then, if the planning process and subdividing and rezoning that Ferguson must do is completed, HFHSVV could use the disaster recovery funds to purchase the 6 lots from Ferguson (at $50,000 each) possibly by the end of 2015, and they would have to complete construction in 18 months. There would also be additional HFHSVV fund raising to pay for costs. The selection process for potential homeowners would start ahead of the lot purchase.

“While it’s hard to entirely project, we hope we would close (on buying the 6 lots from Ferguson) by the end of the year and start construction by the start of next year,” Emerson said.

On June 15, the Lyons Board of Trustees voted unanimously to waive the water tap fees, sewer tap fees, and water shares fees for these 6 proposed Habitat for Humanity homes, totaling $173,500 in savings, helping HFHSVV meet its permitting and fees budget, which helps keeps mortgages down to around $150,000 for homeowners.

In exchange, HFHSVV commits to a preference policy for Lyons residents who lost their homes in the 2013 floods, and to creating deed restrictions – for the town or another partner to administer – that keeps the homes permanently affordable with requirements for new homeowners into the future. The town is reducing tap fees for these six homes when they are built, but the requirement ensures that someone will not come in an purchase or redevelop those homes in the future at market rate with a great deal on tap fees. Without this kind of agreement, it would be impossible to ensure permanent affordability for these six lots in the future. HFHSVV is still working on the specifics of the agreement, but a similar policy already is used with another Habitat for Humanity chapter that builds homes in Boulder.

HFHSVV still must pay fees, totaling close to $5,500 per unit for the St. Vrain Valley School District, for electric taps, for water meters, and for construction meters (fees that the Town of Lyons is responsible for collecting but doesn’t have the legal authority to waive). Also, HFHSVV will be billed directly for other fees, such as the Xcel Energy gas tap fee, permit fees, and taxes, all which could add up to close to $5,000 per unit. HFSVV has a budget of about $15,000 per unit in all permitting taxes and fees.

The $17,310 in water tap fees that would be required to be paid to the City of Longmont for 6 units will not need to be paid if 6 buyouts in the Confluence neighborhood occur in the same time period (the City of Longmont’s “water year,” a calendar year for water taps, is from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31 ). The net water taps to Longmont would be the same, so there is no change, or at least no increase in taps. The remaining $63,690 in potential water tap fees (which are really licenses to connect or connection charges) that the Town of Lyons would collect for two tri-plexes can be covered by fees that were already collected associated with water taps for 6 to-be-bought-out Confluence neighborhood homes. The 6 HFHSVV homes in 2 tri-plexes proposed for the Valley Bank site would require a total of 2 water shares, at a total of $50,000. However, the same approach to water taps can apply to water shares: 2 of the water shares that the town will own after buyouts of Confluence neighborhood properties can be applied to the 2 shares that are estimated to be required for HFHSVV homes. There also would be a similar reallocation of sewer tap fees, which would be estimated to be about $42,500 in potential revenue for 6 units.

The town will be foregoing money that developers pay that funds the maintenance and capital improvements to the water and sewer system for 6 homes. However, the base rates for 6 new homes will be contributing into the monthly payment system (new base rates every month that the water and sewer utilities wouldn’t have without 6 new ratepayers, which divides the base charges across more accounts).

Keep following this weekly column for updates about what has and has not been accomplished. For background information on the special housing committee, you can access previous columns at http://www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/lyons-chatter/6026-what-s-the-future-for-affordable-housing-in-lyons.

All housing committee meetings are open to the public and published on the Town of Lyons calendar at http://www.townoflyons.com/calendar.


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.