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Published in the August 18, 2016 edition of the Lyons Recorder.

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

PCDC considers ADUs sharing water taps with main house

by Amy Reinholds

Were you seriously interested in building a mother-in-law apartment above your garage or in another building, but you heard it would be too expensive because you would have to pay a water tap fee? Now’s the time to start paying attention.

This coming Monday, Aug. 22, the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) is continuing a discussion with Town Staff about clarifying definitions in Lyons utility code to make it clear that accessory dwelling units (ADUs) won’t require separate tap fees if added to single-family home residential lots. The PCDC got agreement from the Utilities and Engineering Board (UEB) for this proposed direction at an earlier workshop this month.

The Lyons Board of Trustees directed the PCDC to come up with a work plan that promotes lower-priced housing through rentals of ADUs, referring to the Affordable Housing Resolution that the Board of Trustees passed on April 18 for possible incentives and policies to implement. The first step was meeting with the UEB. The Trustees also directed the PCDC to draft a policy for short-term vacation rentals in Lyons.

Monday’s PCDC workshop is from 7-9 p.m. at the Lyons Town Hall. Although workshops don’t allow public comment, all meetings are open to the public. At the next few PDCD and UEB meetings, the commissioners will craft their recommendations, and then the PCDC will schedule a public hearing about the recommended definitions added to town code. The PCDC is required to hold a public hearing (a meeting where members of the public can comment) before voting on recommended ADU definition changes in town code. When recommendations are voted on by both the PCDC and the UEB, those recommendations then go to the Board of Trustees. So there will be at least two opportunities for the public to officially comment at meetings about proposed changes to town code about ADUs and water tap fees. All meetings are open to the public and posted on the town calendar at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx.

PCDC commissioners, including chair Gregg Oetting, who researched ADU policies in other municipalities, have previously discussed how shared tap fees with the main house are consistent with other towns in Colorado. Some policies even state that the ADU must connect to the same utilities as the original home and not be on a separate utility billing, which encourages landlords to continue to live in the original home instead of renting out both structures to separate households. That way the residential neighborhoods stay residential, even if a single-family home zoned lot allows adding one ADU.

The current Town of Lyons ADU ordinance that the PCDC developed in 2013 was passed by the Board of Trustees passed later that year, following the September flood. It allows small apartments to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons have applied to participate in the program.

Even if water taps can be shared with the main house, unfortunately, there’s no way to predict how many homeowners in will participate and build new long-term rental apartments on their lots. But if a barrier that many have said made building ADUs financially prohibitive is removed, we’ll see how many Lyons homeowners are sincere about moving forward to provide more rental opportunities.

Even then, ADUs probably won’t be added in all parts of town. Some neighborhoods with homeowners associations are likely to prohibit ADUs.

Finally, keep in mind that more ADUs built in Lyons are only a market-rate solution, with no guarantee to remain affordable in the future. I do agree that if more Town of Lyons residents build legal ADUs, there would be more rental housing stock in Lyons for people who work in town (if owners are prohibited from using ADUs for short-term vacation rentals). This is a helpful step to attempt increasing rentals in Lyons, but not the magic solution that fixes all our affordable housing issues.

For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns posted on my blog at https://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.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 served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee in the past year. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.

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