Published in the November 12, 2015, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?
Four updates after seven months
By Amy Reinholds
LYONS – I have updates in four areas this month about affordable housing: two Habitat for Humanity proposals, the application for the National Disaster Resiliency Competition for a new neighborhood with affordable housing, and an upcoming survey to help Lyons elected officials and staff make decisions about affordable housing policy.
Proposed neighborhood east of Hwy 36 and Hwy 66
The Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees discussed the vision for housing in the planning area east of town at a combined workshop Nov. 9. Language in the Lyons Comprehensive Plan already allows for an “employment area” land use type in the eastern corridor that includes complementary uses to meet the needs of employees including “high-density residences.” Commissioners and trustees discussed clarifying the vision, and the topic is set for future PCDC agendas.
The town has applied for funds from the National Disaster Resiliency Competition for affordable housing as part of a new neighborhood and community center at former Longmont water treatment plant and the surrounding area. The town applied with the State of Colorado, and awarded funds will be announced by late January.
Possible Habitat for Humanity duplex on Railroad Avenue
At a Nov. 2 workshop, the trustees supported town staff pursuing more information about the possibilities for a Habitat for Humanity duplex at Railroad and Third Avenues. Cody Humphrey, Lyons housing recovery coordinator, gave an update about a possible duplex on the triangular 0.2 acre parcel, east of the post office, which he has been exploring with David Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley.
The parcel is part of the railroad right-of-way land that the Town of Lyons purchased in 1986 and is zoned R-2, a zoning that allows residential use. The current use as a parking lot is actually considered a non-compliant use, according to the town’s R-2 zoning regulations.
Six proposed Habitat for Humanity homes on the south end of the former Valley Bank site
The PCDC decided to continue the public hearing for final rezoning and subdivision of Park Street and Second Avenue to Nov. 23, allowing more time for some final steps to be completed. The application is to subdivide the currently zoned B-Business zone into one PUD-C Commercial lot for the existing former bank building, and six new single-family lots zoned as PUD-R Residential for three duplexes along the north side of Park Street. On Nov. 2 the trustees unanimously approved the second reading of the preliminary plan for subdivision, including recommended conditions from the PCDC, but additional items must be completed by the final rezoning and subdivision steps.
Back in June, the trustees voted unanimously to waive the tap fees and water share fees that they have control over for the 6 proposed Habitat for Humanity homes, totaling about $173,500 in savings, helping Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget, which helps keeps mortgages down to around $150,000 for homeowners. Current owner Craig Ferguson has a contract to sell the six lots for $50,000 each to Habitat for Humanity, pending the final subdivision process.
The delay also gives Emerson time to get direction from the Colorado Habitat for Humanity Board allocations of the current round of federal disaster recovery funds awarded to Habitat for Humanity, which affects the timing of funding of the Lyons project. There will be another chance for the public to give input on the rezoning and subdivision at the November 23 PCDC meeting.
If the PCDC approves the final rezoning and subdivision, then it could go to the trustees for final approval in December.
Town staff is looking into an agreement between the Town of Lyons and the City of Boulder or the City of Longmont, which both have affordable home-ownership programs, so those departments could serve as agent for Lyons to administer the resale requirements to meet the covenant of deed restrictions.
Upcoming affordable housing survey
If all goes as planned, Lyons residents will have an opportunity to say how they feel about affordable housing in Lyons in a survey that the Special Housing Committee is working on for the end of 2015 or early 2016. Results are expected to shape a Town of Lyons affordable housing policy. The special housing committee has arranged pro-bono survey creation and administration from a research firm that assists government and nonprofit sections with public opinion research.
This is the 8th month that I’ve been writing my “What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?” column in the Redstone Review. So far, no new affordable housing has been created in Lyons since the September 2013 flood, but there are some proposals underway that could happen. In case you can’t tell from my the column heading, this is a column, or a commentary, which means that I include my opinion and my personal observations. I have asked both Lyons papers to label it as commentary, but sometimes the label is missed, or the headlines are changed.
If you have any questions, comments or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can handle it. People in the Lyons community who have lost their homes have gone through a lot more than I ever will writing for newspapers! I aim to keep writing this column at least until the first affordable housing after the flood breaks ground in Lyons.
Keep following my columns in both Lyons papers for news about any accomplishments to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons. The next meeting of the special housing committee is scheduled for Nov. 18 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. Check the town calendar 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.