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Published in the December 15, 2016, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Next steps for Primary Planning Area and future annexations

by Amy Reinholds

If you talk to people who have lived here for a long time, the Town of Lyons has changed greatly in the past two to five decades, and it will probably change again in the next several decades. The Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, worked on in the past 10 months, is intended to help town leaders now and into those future decades make decisions when landowners on the petition to annex into town. Want to have a say in what the future of Lyons looks like? Don’t give up your opportunities to provide public input.

Since March, I’ve been writing periodically about the planning process for the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. As you may know, the Lyons Primary Planning Area is an area of Boulder County on the outskirts of Town of Lyons limits, where landowners in the area are allowed to petition to annex into the town, based on an agreement between the Town of Lyons and Boulder County.

The Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan process started in March of this year with planning workshops with neighbors and other members of the public for each of three subareas of Lyons Primary Planning Area: the Eastern Corridor (original workshops in March-April), South St. Vrain (original workshops in May-June), and Apple Valley (original workshops in July-September). A tenth meeting in October was a public wrap-up presentation, based on the work from all nine of those previous workshops, where Lyons residents and planning area neighbors attended and gave input.

Now, before this master plan is added as an amendment to the Lyons Comprehensive Plan (the overall planning document for the Town of Lyons) the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) has been reviewing drafts of the master plan from Ricker|Cunningham, a practice of Real Estate Economists, and planners and engineers from Kimley-Horn, consultants hired by the town to conduct the master plan process. After the final draft of the Primary Planning Area Master Plan is ready, the next steps will be official public hearings before the PCDC and the Board of Trustees.

The PCDC reviewed an earlier draft at a Nov. 28 workshop and gave input and recommended changes for a the master plan document, and the commissioners decided they needed more time to continue the discussion at another workshop, which was scheduled for Dec. 12. The PCDC met for 3 hours, reviewing the latest draft, and still needed more time. The next PCDC meeting about the Primary Planning Area will be Jan. 9.

A public hearing for the PCDC to hear public input about the Primary Planning Area Master Plan and consider a motion to adopt the plan as an amendment to the Lyons Comprehensive Plan is expected later in January. Then, if the PCDC adopts the plan as an ammendment to the Lyons Comprehensive Plan, the next step is a public hearing before the Lyons Board of Trustees at a meeting to ratify the amendment. That’s at least two additional times for the public to give input, in addition to the 10 workshops that happened earlier this year.

The reason the Town of Lyons is completing a Master Plan for the Lyons Primary Planning Area is because of an Intergovernmental Agreement (also called an IGA) between the Town of Lyons and Boulder County, first established in 2002, and updated in 2012, that defines the area surrounding Lyons that landowners can petition to annex into town. The Primary Planning Area Master Plan will guide Town of Lyons decision makers, including the current and future Board of Trustees, on how to make decisions when presented with petitions for annexation. As residents of Lyons or residents in the adjacent county neighborhoods, we don’t want future decisions about how land can be used to be made ad hoc by town leaders, even if it’s years or decades before any landowners (or their heirs) petition to annex.

Economic health of Lyons, and post-flood replacement housing that is affordable for people who work in town, were two of the biggest challenges and goals for the plan. The Primary Planning Area Master Plan is directed by goals in the Lyons Comprehensive Plan, the Lyons Recovery Action Plan, and the Lyons Affordable Housing Resolution. The Primary Planning Area Master Plan is intended to guide future annexation decisions and promote a fiscally balanced town budget in the future. Financial models have shown that Lyons could face operating in a deficit, increased taxes, and shrinking options for housing that the local workforce can afford, if the town does not plan properly for the kinds of annexation and new homes or businesses that are appropriate and feasible.

There are many financial barriers now for landowners and potential development partners who want to annex to Lyons and build new homes or businesses, so it’s not likely there will be many annexations in the near future. However, a few landowners have recently contacted the Town of Lyons expressing interest in annexing. The last parcels annexed to Town of Lyons were a few years before the 2013 flood, both in the Eastern Corridor area: Grace Design, which designs and manufactures recording studio equipment, and the Lyons Farmette, which provides community supported agriculture shares and a wedding venue.

The Primary Planning Area planning process was an opportunity for public engagement and sharing information in two directions: consultants bringing analysis and expertise and inform the public about what is possible and feasible, and the public, including residents of the Primary Planning Area and other parts of town, and Town of Lyons staff, bringing local knowledge of what is feasible and reasonable for the community.

In general, the types of land use that are considered for the Eastern Corridor are mixed use, commercial along Highway 66, small-lot residential away from the highway, mixed industrial office, and general industrial. For both the South St. Vrain and the Apple Valley areas, the considered land uses for future annexations are small-lot residential, and estate residential.

There are no identified sources of funding to bring Lyons utilities to the South St. Vrain or Apple Valley areas, but funding is identified to bring Lyons utilities to the Eastern Corridor. Other findings in the drafts that the PCDC is reviewing are that viable parcels for commercial retail development (as determined by their access, visibility, and market depth) are limited to those within the Eastern Corridor. The draft states that commercial and primary employment uses can be pursued in the near-term and encouraged to locate in the U.S. Hwy 36 and Colorado Hwy 66 corridor.

Other guiding principles in the draft plan include that land uses and product types will advance the Town’s goal for a more diverse economy (as expressed in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan), homes in the area will address the needs of residents at different life stages and income levels, mobility improvements in the area will be both vehicular and non-vehicular, and will connect to activity centers within the town, the scale of development will balance economic feasibility with environmental sensitivity and physical context, natural and open spaces will be integrated into new developments, yet protected from potential adverse impacts.

Information in the preliminary drafts list hurdles that prevent or delay development in the physically constrained environment of the Primary Planning Area, including few contiguous acres under single ownership, limited locations for viable commercial development, public land, cost of development, town policies and practices such as the vote on potential annexations of 5-acres or greater, elements of multi-jurisdictional agreements like the Intergovernmental Agreement with Boulder County, and existing and proposed locations of public facilities, such as the town public works building.

The PCDC commissioners suggested that the master plan should include a table with examples of responses to each of the hurdles, or possible solutions to the defined problems.

Materials, including drafts of the final Primary Planning Area Master Plan will be available on the www.townoflyons.com/441/Lyons-Primary-Planning-Area-Master-Plan website and also in meeting materials for the PCDC and the Board of Trustees public hearings that are posted at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter. If you want to read the current Lyons Comprehensive Plan, it is available here: www.townoflyons.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/155.

The PCDC has a busy agenda. A workshop about tiny homes is going to be squeezed in on either Dec. 19 or 20. Check the town calendar at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx.

Since the September 2013 flood, the Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including one buy out of a mobile home park expected to close soon) and to the changed use of a second mobile home park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) in 5-7 acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. When new townhomes are constructed by Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley at 2nd and Park Streets, Lyons will have 6 new permanently affordable units available for homeownership for people who lost their homes in the 2013 flood.

For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers 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. This column is a weekly commentary in the Lyons Recorder. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds@ hotmail.com.

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