Published in the November 10, 2016, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Purchasing the Longmont water treatment plant could be strategic for housing
by Amy Reinholds
On Monday, the Lyons Board of Trustees discussed more difficulties in funding a proposed purchase of the former Longmont water treatment plant east of town, although they directed town staff to continue researching all options.
The trustees learned from the town attorney at their Monday, Nov. 7, meeting that a lease purchase agreement with the City of Longmont, originally proposed because it would allow Lyons to pay Longmont over a period of 4 to 5 years, wouldn’t be considered ownership of the land for annexing into town.
The trustees and Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen discussed possible strategies to manage funds that become available for different purposes for parts of the land on the north and south sides of Hwy 66, such as a permanent location for a Lyons public works building, or maybe later for a developer who wants to build affordable housing. The most financially difficult scenario is for Lyons to come up with the money to purchase the entire property up front and then ask for reimbursement from federal funding sources later. If the Town of Lyons had to purchase all the land today, it would mean setting aside or even giving up projects on a list of flood recovery priorities, such as bridge rebuilding.
Simonsen said she will ask the City of Longmont if a quick claim deed is possible. Also, she will talk with Boulder County staff to see if there are any exceptions that would allow subdividing the land while it is still in the county, so Lyons would only have to purchase the portion of the land needed first. After annexed, sewer and water could be brought out to that area.
Another option that could help Lyons purchase the site is if the State of Colorado considers transferring some of federal disaster recovery funds for Colorado from the housing to the infrastructure category, as reported at a recent Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) collaborative meeting of area municipalities. Then there would be allowance for Lyons to apply for infrastructure funds to purchase the land for a permanent public works building.
Other options that have been discussed for the former water treatment plant site include the possibility of Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) moving out to a part of the land, maybe swapping land it currently owns near Eagle Canyon that would be more suitable for residential use.
Trustees talked about how pursuing the water treatment plant site in the Eastern Corridor is best opportunity to also have options for locations for new, affordable housing. The trustees are looking for useful ways to leverage funds and opportunities available, as part of a strategy to find a permanent location for the public works building, helping CDOT relocate, and opportunities for both affordable housing and commercial Eastern Corridor development that supports a local tax base.
Simonsen had reported to the trustees Oct. 3 that because Lyons is considering part of the former water treatment site for a permanent public works location, FEMA requires two appraisals for the land that the town is considering purchasing from Longmont. The first proposal came out as $795,000 for the complete land, as is (not annexed into Town of Lyons, no Lyons utilities, and requiring demolition of old water treatment structures). Trustees and Simonsen discussed how the City of Longmont might be surprised at the appraised value, because a 2009 appraisal (which was considered flawed because it assumed the land was already annexed and ready to connect to town utilities) valued the land at $1.2 million. If they were able to do a lease purchase agreement with the City of Longmont, Simonsen and trustees had estimated that each year the Town of Lyons would be obligated to pay for one of the four tracts, about $200,000 each. Under that scenario, Lyons would have funds for the first tract for the public works building, and might have a year to annex and maybe subdivide and resell other portions to interested parties, such as an affordable housing developer, or businesses.
The current intergovernmental agreement with the City of Longmont to purchase the water treatment plan expires at the end of 2016, so the Town of Lyons will prepare to extend that purchase date.
At the end of 2015, the Town of Lyons submitted a proposal to the National Disaster Resilience Competition, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that included affordable housing and a safe haven community center, and the Town entered into option-to-buy contract with the City of Longmont for the former Longmont water treatment land. Lyons received the disappointing news in January 2016 that the competition didn’t award any funds to the State of Colorado, but other funding might be found. In March and April of 2016, the Lyons community participated in the Eastern Corridor Primary Planning Area planning process, providing input on future land use in that area, whenever future landowners apply to annex to Lyons. Affordable housing, senior housing, small cottages, and mixed residential, business, and retail use were some of the land uses that the public strongly supported for the Eastern Corridor.
For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns posted on my blog at https://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. All town meetings of the elected Lyons Board of Trustees and appointed town boards and commissions are open to the public and are supposed to be posted on the town calendar at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx. 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 from 2015-2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.