Published in the February 17, 2016, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?
Funding disappointments, delays, committee mission
By Amy Reinholds
LYONS – The past month included funding disappointments, a delay in the proposal for the former Valley Bank site, and final goals set for the Special Housing Committee. Here’s what happened:
No National Disaster Resilience Competition funds for Colorado
Lyons received the disappointing news in January that the National Disaster Resilience Competition, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), didn’t award any funds to the State of Colorado. Now an idea for a Lyons Resilient Replacement Housing development for the eastern edge of Lyons needs to find other funding sources.
Now it’s even more important that both Lyons residents and our neighbors on the outskirts of town participate in the upcoming land-use planning process that includes public engagement for the vision for the Eastern Corridor. Watch for announcements of upcoming meetings. If you think there should be housing that people who work in Lyons, or people who lost their homes in the flood, can afford, make that part of the vision for the Eastern Corridor.
The town has option-to-buy contracts for two parcels: the former Longmont water treatment land, on the north and south sides of Hwy 66, and the Ernst property, also known as the Shady Lane mobile home park, near the eastern intersection of Highland Drive and Hwy 66. The $6.75 million that Lyons had applied for in the resilience competition would have covered acquiring other land outside of the Longmont water treatment parcels and funded unique aspects of the proposed new neighborhood like a microgrid system, a safe-haven community center, and a regional trail connecting downtown Lyons east to Longmont.
Watch a resilience competition video that describes our journey to recovery in Lyons: www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1xaNsZxOJ4. Learn more about 13 other communities awarded a total of $1 billion at www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/national-disaster-resilience-competition: California; Connecticut; Iowa; Louisiana; New Jersey; New York; Tennessee; Virginia; New Orleans; New York City; Minot, ND; Shelby County, TN; and Springfield, MA.
Subdivision of 2nd & Park postponed by current landowner
The final plat and subdivision improvement agreement for 2nd Avenue and Park Street subdivision for six proposed Habitat for Humanity homes was continued to the Feb. 16 Board of Trustees meeting at request of the current landowner applicant.
The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved recommending the subdivision and PUD zoning final plan in November 2015. The application is to subdivide the currently zoned B-Business zone into one PUD-C Commercial lot for the existing former Valley Bank building, and six new single-family lots zoned as PUD-R Residential for three duplexes along the north side of Park Street.
Craig Ferguson closed on purchasing the 0.76-acre parcel from Valley Bank in June 2015. He has a contract to sell the six residential lots (at $50,000 each) to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. The trustees voted unanimously in June to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for the proposed Habitat for Humanity homes, totaling about $173,500 in savings, helping Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget, keeping mortgages down to $150,000 for homeowners.
The Town of Lyons is seeking an agent to administer the resale requirements of the six permanently affordable homes. (Lyons does not have a town housing authority and does not have a department for administering affordable home-ownership programs.)
The plans include a designated 25-foot fire lane in front of the homes along Park Avenue to allow access for emergency vehicles, arrived at after discussions with the Lyons Volunteer Fire Department and Jerry Moore, the project manager for the owner.
Special Housing Committee gets mission and sunset date
On Feb. 1, trustees directed the Special Housing Committee to deliver two items by the first Board of Trustees meeting in April:
- survey questions and format to determine the need for education and outreach to citizens about affordable housing.
- an affordable housing policy that future town leaders can use to make decisions about how to encourage and commit resources to affordable housing.
The new members of the board (decided in an April 5 election) will take over on April 18. The current board said they want to take action on approving a survey and a policy before they leave. Also, trustees said the Special Housing Committee will sunset when the current board leaves. The new board, equipped with a policy and a survey, can determine future steps for affordable housing.
The trustees created the Special Housing Committee in April 2015 on a temporary basis when residents came forward, endeavoring to deliver alternatives after a proposal for affordable housing in part of Bohn Park was voted down in a town election.
Committee members are researching affordable housing policies from other Colorado towns. The proposed document will include a strategy based on existing affordable housing statements in the Lyons Comprehensive Plan and the Lyons Recovery Action Plan and policy statements to support that strategy. Last June, when the trustees determined to waive fees for Habitat for Humanity homes proposed for 2nd & Park, discussion centered around how Lyons needs an affordable housing policy so future decisions are made based on the policy.
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, contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com. The next meeting of the special housing committee is scheduled for Feb. 24 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/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.