Published in the March 23, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. 

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

Lyons trustees vote yes on Longmont water treatment plant purchase and annexation master plan

by Amy Reinholds

At a Monday March 20 meeting, the Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved both purchasing the Longmont water treatment plant land east of town, and ratifying the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, an amendment to the Lyons Comprehensive Plan to guide decisions about future annexation requests.

Both actions at the Monday meeting were in the works for a long time. The City of Longmont first started talking with the Town of Lyons in 2011, and the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan process started about a year ago. And both actions could provide some opportunities for affordable housing in Lyons.

A contract to purchase almost 10 acres on the eastern corridor

After hearing from a few comments during the public hearing, none opposing the purchase, the trustees unanimously approved entering into a purchase agreement with Longmont, with an expected closing date of April 21. The Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the two parcels, east of U.S. 36: 6.45 acres on the north side of Colo. Hwy. 66 and 3.43 acres on south side, a total of just under 10 acres. Using money from the town water enterprise budget fund, the Town of Lyons will pay $10,000 in earnest money and then make three $305,000 annual payments – the first at closing (expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and the other two payments in 2018 and 2019.

This price came down from higher sales prices that City of Longmont had wanted in the past, such as $1.22 million, in 2015, based on an appraisal which assumed the parcels were already in town and hooked up to town utilities. Also, an advantage is the title passes to the town upon closing on the purchase, even though payments continue through 2019.

The City of Longmont was expected to vote on the agreement the following day, and closing is expected to be April 21.

FEMA will pay for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated, on 2 acres in the furthest northeast corner of the northern parcel. Insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) will pay for the new public works building, which was destroyed in flood.

After the Town of Lyons has the land, The Board of Trustees can determine the best path forward for the remainder of the parcels, and when sold, reimburse the enterprise fund. The land is acceptable for mixed use, and residential and commercial development, including light industrial. The town might also consider offering incentives for light-industrial businesses to consider swapping land near the center of town that could be residential for land on the eastern corridor. The Board of Trustees will also consider whether this land could be part of Lyons Urban Renewal Authority for another possible funding sources.

The area has been a possible area for affordable housing, discussed in the past when the town applied for a national resiliency grant (which it did not receive). If light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this land, it could also open up land for future affordable housing in more centrally located areas.

Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen’s report said “The five-acre rule allows that annexing land owned by the Town does not require an election, which would save time and money in the process… The enterprise funding for the purchase of the properties, partial reimbursement by FEMA, installation of sewer and water lines to the sites, town-wide land use planning, and annexation and zoning in place should make the parcels more attractive and affordable to potential developers.”

It will cost $1.5 million to bring water and sewer out to the eastern corridor. In 2015, Lyons was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency as matching funds to extend the sewer and water to this site in order to increase the likelihood of development and increase the employment base in Lyons. The water and sewer extensions will be sized to serve the entire eastern corridor subarea, so there is enough capacity to serve all. A lift station would also be put on town-owned land.

Demolition of the existing buildings has been estimated to cost in the range of $600,000-$700,000.

The Town of Lyons goal is to have the public works facility operational by end of September, about the time that the water and sewer lines will be completed. The lift station is expected by the end of December. Property owners in the area well be able to choose to connect to the Lyons water and sewer (with lower costs for those that are annexed into town) but will stay on Longmont electric service for a period of time.

The Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan for future annexation

After hearing varied comments from the public, and discussion about areas of the plan and the purpose of the plan, the board of trustees voted unanimously to ratify the 85-page Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan document as a component of the 2010 Town of Lyons Comprehensive Plan (the overall planning document for the Town of Lyons)

The 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. The Lyons Primary Planning Area, an area surrounding Lyons that landowners can petition to annex into town, is defined in an Intergovernmental Agreement (also called an IGA) between the Town of Lyons and Boulder County, first established in 2002, and updated in 2012.

The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved the plan with minor changes on March 13. The final version of the Primary Planning Area Master Plan from the March 20 meeting is available here: www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/1717?fileID=3722 and the appendix is available at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/1717?fileID=3723.

You can read my column about the March 13 PCDC meeting at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/planning-commission-approves-lyons-plan-for-future-annexation/.

The Lyons Primary Planning Area master plan process started a year ago, in March 2016, with three planning workshops with neighbors and other members of the public for each of three subareas of Lyons Primary Planning Area: the Eastern Corridor, South St. Vrain, and Apple Valley. 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. At the end of November 2016, the PCDC began reviewing drafts of the master plan from Ricker|Cunningham, a practice of Real Estate Economists, and planners and engineers from Kimley-Horn, hired by the town to conduct the master plan process.

The vision for the Eastern Corridor Subarea is described as “a commercial and employment-anchored gateway with uses including retail, restaurant and lodging operations serving daytime and nighttime populations as well as visitors to, and travelers through, the community. Established residential neighborhoods beyond the US 36 and State Highway 66 corridor will host a range of housing product types addressing the lifestyle needs of households at different price points. Natural amenities will be enhanced and protected and the quality and character of physical improvements informed by established and amended standards for development.”

The vision for the South St. Vrain Corridor Subarea is described as “an established neighborhood of residences, rural in character and reflecting the community’s heritage as a gateway to the Rocky Mountains with features including steep slopes, Boulder County open space, and the South St. Vrain Creek Watershed surrounding and bisecting the area. Any new improvements will be context-sensitive (consistent in character, design and intensity) and introduced in a manner that preserves and protects the natural environment.”

The vision for the Apple Valley Subarea is described as “a natural residential setting, rural in character and convenient to Town, yet sufficiently separate to be peaceful. With features including steep slopes, wildlife crossings, Boulder County open space, and the North St. Vrain Creek bisecting the area, any new improvements will be context-sensitive (consistent in character, design and intensity) and introduced in a manner that preserves and protects the natural environment.”

Then, at that same March 20 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a resolution that formally initiates annexation proceedings for Planet Bluegrass, applying to annex land located south and west of St. Vrain Drive (Highway 36) and north of Apple Valley Road. The multi-step annexation process begins with a public hearing on May 1.

Reminder for Habitat for Humanity orientation meeting Saturday

Also, the Habitat for Humanity application process is continuing for 6 homes in Lyons. Anyone who isn’t already in the application process, but is eligible and interested can get more information at the in-person application orientation this Saturday, March 25th at 10am at Rogers Hall, 400 High St. See www.stvrainhabitat.org/lyons/ for details.

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 lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. 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) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes.

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