Published in the April 6, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. 

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

Pre-closing documents signed for Foothills Mobile Home Park buyout

by Amy Reinholds

After years of negotiations with state and federal officials about funding for a post-disaster buyout of a flood-destroyed mobile home park, the Town of Lyons signed pre-closing documents with the owner of the former Foothills Mobile Home Park on Monday.

Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported at the April 3 Board of Trustees meeting during a staff report that pre-closing documents were completed that day, and the closing date was expected to be in three weeks. (As of the Lyons Recorder deadline, the closing date was not yet finalized by the title company. It is now set for April 28. )

The former 1.26-acre Foothills Mobile Home Park at 104 5th Street had 16 residential units, some rented lots for owned mobile homes, and some rented units, most which were destroyed by the Sept. 2013 flood. The Town of Lyons will complete this buyout with federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds. The State of Colorado set priorities for how the FEMA funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program could be used for buyouts of flood-destroyed homes, prioritizing single family homes (the buyouts Lyons saw in the past year) over the Foothills Mobile Home Park, considered a commercial property. But now the buyout can be completed with the Community Development Block Grant funds. The appraisal value and sale price will be public information when the sale is completed.

Finalizing a closing date for the buyout will be a welcome move for owner John Baranway, who has expressed since the flood that he wanted to develop a new mobile home park, if he received buyout funds and was able to buy other property in the Lyons area that is out of the floodplain. And this buyout also provides some additional federal funds under the Uniform Relocation Act to the 16 displaced households of the Foothills Mobile Home Park – funds that are only available for mobile home park residents displaced by a federal buyout.

And for neighbors, this buyout is an opportunity for an extension of undeveloped, deed-restricted buyout land, and completed demolition and cleanup of remnants of the destroyed mobile homes. Deed-Restricted Buy Out Properties (DR BOP) Use and Management Plan meetings have been going on since November. A Neighborhood Lot Handbook meeting is scheduled for April 12 at 6-7:30 p.m. at Lyons Town Hall.

The Town of Lyons is required to grant a 90-day notice after the April 28 closing date to a current renter of a house at the west end of the property. Then after those 90 days, when the tenant moves out, the demolition can begin. The time-frame requirements for reimbursements of demolition and cleanup costs are mandated by the federal funding sources.

Look for more details in upcoming columns as information becomes available.

To learn about possible options for new mobile home parks in Lyons, see the Manufactured Housing and Flood Recovery in Lyons, Colorado report that was prepared in 2015. The study was commissioned by the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) in November 2014 to understand the potential role of manufactured housing in Lyons’ long-term flood recovery.

The report defines “manufactured houses, sometimes called mobile homes or trailer homes,” as “housing units that are built in a factory and on a permanent steel chassis” and describes the role of mobile homes in Lyons before the 2013 flood and demographics of who lived in mobile home parks affected by the flood. The report describes the damage to the Foothills Mobile Home Park and the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, the local, state, and federal regulations, flood recovery fund eligibility, potential strengths and weaknesses as a type of affordable housing, and potential scenarios for new mobile home parks.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com. 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 the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend 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.