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Published in the May 25, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Planning commission approves second ADU, initial zoning for town land

by Amy Reinholds

This week, the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved both a conditional use review for another accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and an ordinance for initial zoning for the land that the Town of Lyons purchased at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy.

At a public hearing on Monday, May 22, the PCDC approved a conditional use review for a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, the second detached ADU application this month in the Lyons old town north neighborhood. This ADU, if approved at a public hearing of the Board of Trustees, will be the second since Town of Lyons code changed at the end of last year to allow ADUs in separate buildings to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners about $15,000-$16,000 in additional connection fees). On May 1, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved a plan for a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street.

With the aim of encouraging more smaller apartments on single-family residential lots as lower-priced market-rate rentals that people who work in town can afford, the PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees changed town code in December 2016. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed ADUs on single-family residential lots in the Town of Lyons, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. You can read the updated ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

Also at the May 22 meeting, the PCDC held a public hearing and approved recommendations for initial zoning for town-owned land on the eastern corridor, which the Lyons Board of Trustees recently voted to annex into the Town of Lyons. The 2.15 acres on the northern part of 4651 Ute Hwy that will be used for the new home of the Lyons public works building are recommended to be zoned as municipal, and the remaining 4.3 acres are now joined with the 3.28 acres on the south side of the highway at 4652 Ute Hwy, recommended as a placeholder zoning of agricultural.

The land that is not used for the public works building will start with this basic zoning, and when the town sells other parts for mixed use, commercial, and residential, the individual developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The regular Lyons zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Developers and landowners who purchase parcels on this eastern corridor land will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews.

The Town of Lyons closed April 25 on purchasing the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town from the City of Longmont. In March, the Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land. FEMA will pay for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated. Insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) will pay for the new public works building, which was damaged in the 2013 flood. FEMA has said that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

The Town of Lyons purchased the land to find a new home for a public works building, damaged in the 2013 flood, and the land has also been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, discussed in past years when the town applied for a national resiliency grant that it did not receive. For those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons, we should watch what happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area. Then the centrally located land might be available for future affordable housing.

Now that the Town of Lyons owns the land, and it is part of town limits, the Town of Lyons can put out requests for proposals (RFPs) or requests for quotes (RFQs) for landowners and developers who want to propose ideas to develop other parts of the land. When sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund. According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, developed with many months of input from neighbors and community members, the land is determined as acceptable for mixed use, residential, and commercial development, including light-industrial. The town might also consider offering incentives for light-industrial businesses to swap land near the center of town that could be residential for land on 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 utilities expansion work must begin by mid-June to not lose the funding.

At the end of the May 22 PCDC meeting, the commissioners and Lyons flood recovery planner Matt Manley briefly discussed parts of a proposed Lyons short-term vacation rental policy that is expected to be ready for a public hearing by June 12. Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in ADUs, which are intended to encourage longer-term rentals that people who work in town can afford. However, a new policy might allow limited use for on-site homeowners who want to rent rooms or part of their homes as short-term vacation rentals.

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.