Published in the January 14, 2016, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?
Eastern corridor possibilities
By Amy Reinholds
LYONS – Funding sources could be delayed for potential new affordable housing in the planning area east of town, but Lyons did receive funds for land-use planning for areas including the eastern corridor, town staff reported at a Jan. 4 Board of Trustees workshop.
A Colorado Heritage Grant pays for a recovery planner to work for Lyons for 18 months, leading that planning process, and Matt Manley was hired for the position. The process for a master plan for the Lyons Planning Area, including public engagement for the vision for the eastern corridor, is expected to start in a few months. The new master plan will include Boulder County areas that are in the Lyons Planning Area, allowed to be annexed into town in the future: the Apple Valley area to the northwest of town limits, the County Road 69/Old South St. Vrain area to the southwest of town limits, and the eastern corridor area along Hwy 66 to the east of Hwy 36. The trustees also approved at their regular meeting a 90-day annexation moratorium extension for the eastern corridor and a 180-day extension for the western corridor so that new master plan for the Lyons Planning Area will be completed before new annexations.
At the Jan. 4 workshop with the trustees, housing recovery coordinator Cody Humphrey and town administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees about changes in dates for funding sources. Lyons has applied for $6.75 million from the National Disaster Resiliency Competition, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for a Lyons Resilient Replacement Housing development proposal. The competition originally planned to announce what states have received funds by the end of January, but now that announcement was pushed out to end of February. Also, Lyons learned that the State of Colorado has added another process to distribute whatever funds might be awarded to Colorado, which might take until end of June.
Although disappointed in the delay, trustees and staff discussed the advantages of waiting to have the land-use planning done first, instead of after a proposal for affordable housing was further under way. “If the planning process is completed first, then the town can annex and zone the parcels based on zoning that was deemed appropriate,” Humphrey said. “I want to have a good project, and these steps are necessary for that.”
Trustee Connie Sullivan and other trustees agreed. She said the earlier work to apply for the resiliency competition won’t be lost. “I’m glad that including housing in the vision for the eastern corridor was brought forward so it can be part of the planning discussion,” she said. The current Lyons Comprehensive Plan defines the eastern corridor to be mainly for commercial and business (“employment area” use), although housing for workforce to support new jobs is listed as secondary.
The town has option-to-buy contracts for two parcels on the eastern corridor: the former Longmont water treatment land on the north and south sides of Hwy 66, and the Ernst property: the Shady Lane mobile home park near the eastern intersection of Highland Drive and Hwy 66.
Low-income tax credit financing, another common source of funding for affordable housing developers (both public and private developers) require that land is acquired, annexed to town, and zoned. Although there are two parcels under contract, it would be challenging for them to be annexed and zoned by this year’s June deadline for those tax credits. Humphrey said that 2017 might be a more reasonable time for developers in Lyons to apply.
Lyons has applied for another source of funding, federal Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), in the third round, in the Infrastructure category, which can be used used to purchase the old Longmont water treatment land, but other CDBG-DR funds cannot be used to acquire property.
The timing of sources of funding is tricky to make developing affordable housing work, but the trustees discussed options and flexibility. When Humphrey was asked if it would be feasible to continue to pursue affordable housing in the eastern corridor if Lyons doesn’t receive the $6.75 million from the National Disaster Resiliency Competition, or receives only a portion, he said there were still options. The Longmont water treatment plan land would still be acquired with the other third-round of disaster recovery funds, the project could be scaled down to a smaller size, other funds could be found, and the debt component for developers could be increased.
The trustees asked for some contingency plans and a range of different scenarios of what could be possible if Lyons doesn’t win the resiliency competition funds. They asked for groundwork ahead of time, to be ready to act on plans that are feasible, whenever the funding is announced.
The public hearing for the final subdivision and PUD zoning plan for Park Street and Second Avenue for six proposed Habitat for Humanity homes was not added to the Jan. 4 Board of Trustees agenda, as previously expected. It was tentatively scheduled for the Jan. 18 Board of Trustees meeting but might move to a later date. Read my column next month for updates.
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 Jan. 27 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 http://www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx.
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 12 years and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.