Published in the October 14, 2015, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?
New steps forward: Town considers mixed-income housing in eastern planning area; PCDC reviews Valley Bank rezoning
By Amy Reinholds
LYONS – In the past month, Lyons has seen some movement toward two opportunities for affordable housing: one small 6-home proposed Habitat for Humanity project that was already known, and one new funding opportunity for a possible mix of 100 affordable homes in the eastern planning area.
Public hearings for the subdivision and rezoning of 304 Second Ave, the former Valley Bank site that would allow 6 residential lots to be sold to Habitat for Humanity, were scheduled. And, by Oct. 5, the preliminary sketch plan phase was approved by both the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees. The next round of public hearing meetings consider a preliminary subdivision plat and PUD plan for the project, scheduled for Oct. 12 for the PCDC and Oct. 19 for the Board of Trustees. If the process moves forward, the last phase considers the final approval of rezoning, subdivision plat, and PUD plan for the project. Public hearings are scheduled Oct. 26 for the PCDC and Nov. 2 for the Board of Trustees. The meetings start at 7 p.m. at town hall.
The surprising news in the past month is that Lyons is eligible to apply for $6.75 million for a Lyons Resilient Replacement Housing development in the planning area east of town as part of the National Disaster Resiliency Competition, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As previously reported, Lyons is under contract to purchase the former Longmont water treatment plant sites on both the north and south sides of Colo. 66, east of U.S. 36.
Cody Humphrey, Lyons Housing Recovery Coordinator, told the trustees at their Oct. 5 meeting that the State of Colorado is applying for proposals on behalf of 13 municipalities, already identified as having merit to make it to phase two of the competition. Lyons staff have created a proposal for new housing outside the 100-year floodplain for displaced residents and others who make up the fabric of Lyons. The proposal is combined with a Lyons community center that can serve as both a gathering place and a safe haven from future disasters and integrates solar and micro-grid technology to allow operating off-the-grid in future disasters. The new neighborhood is proposed to include 50-60 affordable housing units, housing lots for 30-40 manufactured housing units that would be available for a mobile home park, 10 for-sale affordable housing units. In addition, a recommendation in the proposal is to include commercial development (which that area was already designated for) and up to 30 market-rate homes, all connected to downtown with transportation and a regional bike path. If Lyons wins the competition, and the town acquires land, the town would send out requests for proposals for developers of new housing. There would still be many more steps in the process.
The town had previously designated the eastern town planning area for increasing businesses and commercial opportunities in town. Lyons will have a Economic Development Administration grant to run water and sewer to the eastern corridor. The town also has applied for federal disaster recovery funds for several flood recovery items (including purchasing the the water treatment plant sites), but those funds have not been awarded yet. These new resiliency competition funds might be another opportunity to pay costs for the land acquisition for housing, in addition to other development costs.
Trustees expressed the importance of getting public support for considering housing in the eastern Lyons planning area, and encouraged a community discussion. In a letter emailed to town residents, the trustees asked the public to submit input. Also, a Board of Trustees workshop for a Swiftwater Rescue Facility and Affordable Housing Summary related to the resiliency competition was scheduled for Oct. 12.
“We need to have a conversation with the town to see if this is even something the town wants to support,” Trustee Connie Sullivan said at the Oct. 5 meeting.
If these two housing proposals continue to move forward, there will finally be some new housing stock that people who make less than 50% of the area median income can afford (helping people who make less than approximately $33,000 a year for individuals or $48,000 a year for a family of 4), making up for what was lost in the flood. And not only that, but we could also gain a new community center and a new trails system that everyone in all our neighborhoods could enjoy.
The special housing committee also gave a report at the Oct. 5 Board of Trustees meeting about a plan to survey the community to identify support for affordable housing, including location, housing type, and density. The trustees were very supportive and said it was good timing to fit with the community discussion for the resiliency grant that Humphrey described. Housing committee chair Justin Spencer said the input would be incorporated into an affordable housing policy, and would be available to guide town decisions about future affordable housing. The goal is to complete the survey results by end of the year and draft an affordable housing policy in January.
Keep following my columns in both Lyons papers for updates about what has and has not been accomplished to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons. Special housing committee meetings are the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month at the Town Hall annex (behind the Barking Dog Cafe) from 5:30-7 p.m. All housing committee meetings are open to the public and agendas and minutes are published at www.townoflyons.com.
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 since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.