Published in the July 9, 2015, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
No new news this week except report to Board of Trustees
by Amy Reinholds
It was hard to find any new progress this week in increasing affordable housing stock in Lyons. However, special housing committee member Wendy Miller did give a short report at the July 6 Board of Trustees meeting that summed up what happened before the July 4 holiday week: Craig Ferguson closed June 26 on the former Valley Bank property at 302 Second Avenue, on the originally scheduled closing date. Dave Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley has said he expects that if the subdivision and rezoning process (a responsibility of the owner) goes smoothly, then his nonprofit group would be able to buy residential lots for 6 homes by the end of the calendar year, and the selection process for potential homeowners could begin earlier than that – probably this fall. Construction could begin at the start of 2016.
Miller also reported that Ferguson, an owner of Planet Bluegrass, said he transferred ownership of the Valley Bank parcel to his business. Ferguson said in a Facebook post on Monday that his business partners “are supportive of the project and I just plain need their help on this.”
You can read more background in my column last week and previous weeks at http://www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/lyons-chatter/6026-what-s-the-future-for-affordable-housing-in-lyons. 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 southern portion of parcel along Park Street is proposed to be rezoned as 6 residential lots so that they can be purchased (at $50,000 each) for 2 tri-plexes built by Habitat for Humanity, and the portion of the parcel that was the former Valley Bank building is proposed to be zoned as commercial and have a business tenant or owner.
Unfortunately, as of Monday, the special housing committee still only has 4 members, and only 3 members attended the last meeting on June 25: the chair, Justin Spencer, Miller, and Martin Soosloff.
The special housing committee has committed to a lot of work, with subcommittees or breakout groups defined for the following areas:
- working with the Lyons Utilities and Engineering Board on the previously described tap fee policy
- identifying potential housing sites
- identifying options for affordable rentals
- identifying options for manufactured housing
- working with the Planning and Community Development Commission on encouraging Lyons residents to build accessory dwelling units or mother-in-law apartments
So many people originally committed on Facebook to help this effort, but most of them have either quit or stopped attending meetings. How can a shrinking special housing committee accomplish 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 east of the post office? Even if both of these projects come to fruition, there would be only 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 Lyons voters rejected back in March by 614 to 498).
Surely, the community of Lyons can do better than helping establish recovery housing for just 6 to 8 families. Of course, this will make a big difference to those new Habitat for Humanity homeowners. But can’t our Lyons community rise above and provide some opportunities for more of the 100 households who lost so much in the September 2013 flood? Craig Ferguson has done his part by purchasing land, the partners of Planet Bluegrass have done their part by taking on responsibilities as owners during the development process, the Board of Trustees have done their part by waiving water and sewer fees for Habitat for Humanity for this project, and members of past and current housing task forces and committees have done their part in seeking and encouraging solutions. So, what will you do?
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). 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.
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.