Published in the December 16, 2015, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?
Year-end Habitat for Humanity updates
By Amy Reinholds
LYONS – As 2015 comes to an end, I am thankful that Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on Lyons. The organization was a partner in the proposal for new affordable homes in Bohn Park, which was rejected by voters in the spring of this year, but executive director David Emerson continued to work with town staff, officials, and members of the community on two other proposals for Lyons. In the next two years, I am hopeful that we will see at least six new homes in Lyons built by volunteers, including future homeowners.
I already support the parent organization, Habitat for Humanity International, with contributions from my paycheck through a program with my employer. But as my husband and I looked at year-end giving, I wanted to remember our local Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley with a donation. I challenge everyone who cares about affordable housing in Lyons to do the same, especially those of us who are celebrating the holidays in homes that we can afford, grateful for what we have. I mailed a check for $1,000 to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley last week. Anyone care to match that donation, or outdo it? That’s a Christmas present I will truly appreciate. You can go to www.stvrainhabitat.org for ways to donate. Thank you!
You also can help by spreading the word to your friends and neighbors who lost their homes in the flood about the Habitat for Humanity home-ownership process. There were two meetings scheduled for Dec. 13 and 14 at Rogers Hall, but people who missed those meetings and are interested in information about owning future Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons should call the Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley at 303-682-2485 and ask for Erin or Julie. If you are interested in being a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, you can be added to an email distribution list to be notified of updates about future homes in Lyons.
Volunteers aren’t expected to be needed to help build here in Lyons until summer of 2016. In the meantime, if you haven’t volunteered for Habitat for Humanity before and you want to try it out, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org to learn how to help build other homes in Longmont, Dacono, and Erie.
To recap the past month, the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved recommending the subdivision and PUD zoning final plan of Park Street and Second Avenue on Nov. 23. The final steps for approving rezoning for six proposed Habitat for Humanity homes falls to the Board of Trustees, expected to be on the board’s agenda for the Dec. 21. 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.
The Board of Trustees can make other changes upon final review. Modified recommendations since the previous phase of the rezoning/subdivision public hearing include identifying some future uses of the commercial lot to be allowed only by conditional or special use reviews, instead of by right: entertainment facility, marijuana retailing center, and any business that serves alcohol/requires a liquor license. Trustees had discussed at earlier meetings that some commercial uses shouldn’t be allowed automatically in that commercial district if so close to new residential space.
Another modification to recommendations defines that building permits for the residential lots shall only be issued to Habitat for Humanity. The footings and foundations permits may be issued with the current property owner, which aligns with town processes and allows some preparation work for build-ready lots before selling the 6 lots to Habitat for Humanity. Also, recommendations state that building permits for the residential lots shall only be issued if the approved affordability deed restriction and parking easement has been recorded and the approved project infrastructure is substantially complete. Finally, the recommendations state that rezoning for the residential lots shall only take effect upon issuance of a building permit pursuant to those previously mentioned conditions.
Some additional details and restrictions will be discussed by the final review of subdivision and zoning with the Board of Trustees. Also, town staff was 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 one of those departments could serve as agent for Lyons to administer the resale requirements of the permanently affordable homes.
The trustees voted unanimously in June 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.
There was one update on the other Habitat for Humanity proposal for Lyons: On Nov. 30, the trustees approved a resolution on the consent agenda for land surveying services for the town-owned property at Third and Railroad Ave, which is being explored as a location for two attached Habitat for Humanity homes.
Keep following my columns in both Lyons papers for news about any accomplishments to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com. The next meeting of the special housing committee is scheduled for Dec. 16 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.