Published in the July 2, 2015, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Valley Bank purchase completed; shrinking housing committee reaches out to new members for subcommittees
by Amy Reinholds
June started with drama about which fees and how much could be waived by the Lyons Board of Trustees for 6 proposed Habitat for Humanity homes on the former Valley Bank site and whether Craig Ferguson would pull out of his contract to purchase the 0.76-acre parcel at 302 Second Avenue. But the month ended with Ferguson closing on June 26, just as originally scheduled.
Ferguson confirmed that he closed on June 26 and now owns the parcel. The time line is not yet defined, but the owner’s responsibility is to go through the regular rezoning and subdividing processes with the town. The lots on the southern portion of parcel, along Park Street, are proposed to be rezoned as residential so that they can be purchased for 2 tri-plexes built by Habitat for Humanity, and the portion of the parcel that was the former Valley Bank building would be zoned as commercial and have a business tenant or owner.
Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley (HFHSVV) could use disaster recovery funds to purchase the 6 lots from Ferguson (at $50,000 each) possibly by the end of 2015, Dave Emerson, executive director of HFHSVV said last week – if an environmental review that is required of his organization and the subdiving/rezoning process required of Ferguson, is completed. A southeast portion of the land is in the 100-year floodplain, so mitigation steps in building the new homes must be detailed. Construction could begin at the start of 2016 but would need to be completed in 18 months. The selection process for potential homeowners would start ahead of the land purchase, which means maybe late in fall 2015, HFHSVV could start working with households who want to live in the new homes. HFHSVV commits to a preference policy for Lyons residents who lost their homes in the 2013 flood, 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. In exchange, the Lyons Board of Trustees voted unanimously on June 15 to waive the water tap fees, sewer tap fees, and water share fees for these 6 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.
While this proposal for 6 affordable homes is moving forward one step at a time, other progress on creating affordable housing in Lyons is even slower. At a June 25 working meeting, special housing committee chair Justin Spencer reported that another member has resigned, this time due to changes in work responsibilities – Tom Lamz, who said a week earlier that he would lead a subcommittee that works with the Utilities and Engineering Board (UEB) on shaping a recommendation for an affordable housing policy for tap fee waivers.
Now the special housing committee is down to only 4 members, although a new resident to town, Susanne Ducker, said she was planning to apply. In addition to Spencer as chair, the other existing members are Nate Mohatt, Wendy Miller, and Martin Soosloff. The only members at the June 25 meeting were Spencer, Miller, and Soosloff.
The special housing committee has committed to a lot of work, with subcommittees or breakout groups that liaise with other town commissions defined for the following areas:
- working with the UEB on the previously described tap fee policy
- defining potential housing sites
- defining options for affordable rentals
- defining options for manufactured housing
- working with the Planning and Community Development Commission on encouraging accessory dwelling units or mother-in-law apartments.
I see the shrinking number of special housing committee members as a big challenge for accomplishing anything that results in more than the 6 Habitat for Humanity homes and another possible 2 homes in a duplex that Emerson and Cody Humphrey, Lyons housing recovery coordinator, have been looking into on town-owned property east of the post office. That would be 8 affordable homes for the approximately 100 displaced households, compared to the previous proposal in Bohn Park that would have provided between 50-70 homes but was voted down on March 24 by 614 to 498.
There are still chances for residents of Lyons or the surrounding community to get involved at upcoming meetings. There are no meetings the week of the July 4 holiday. The next scheduled meetings of the special housing committee are the Thursday, July 9, working meeting for subcommittees at 8:30 p.m. at the Lyons Valley Village Community House, and a Monday, July 13, special housing committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex (behind the Barking Dog). The special housing committee is also on the agenda at the next regular Board of Trustees meeting to give a report: Monday, July 6, at Town Hall (meetings start at 7 p.m.)
All housing committee meetings are open to the public and published on the Town of Lyons calendar at http://www.townoflyons.com/calendar.
Keep following this weekly column for updates about what has and has not been accomplished to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons. For background information on the special housing committee and the fees that the Board of Trustees voted to waive for Habitat for Humanity at the former Valley Bank property, you can access previous columns at http://www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/lyons-chatter/6026-what-s-the-future-for-affordable-housing-in-lyons.
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.