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Published in the June 8, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Second legal ADU, zoning for town land on Ute Hwy approved

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees approved two ordinances Monday, finalizing decisions from a May 22 Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) meeting. The trustees 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.

Now the second legal plan for a detached apartment on residential R-1 zoning in town limits, the conditional use review for a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street was approved 6-0 at the June 5 meeting. On May 1, the Lyons Board of Trustees also approved a plan for a garage apartment at 327 Seward Street. The Town of Lyons code changed at the end of 2016 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), and so far, plans for two ADUs have completed the process.

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

The conditional use review at the June 5 Board of Trustees meeting included a public hearing about the plan for a 528 square-foot apartment on the second story of a two-story garage, although no one spoke. It passed through the May 22 PCDC public hearing with recommendations to adopt requirements from the Lyons Fire Protection District, which the Lyons trustees also adopted, with a few clarifications in legal language. First, the parking space provided for tenants of the apartment cannot block the alley, which in this case means a vehicle can park on the property in a space that is parallel to the alley, but not perpendicular to the alley. Also, the fire department wants to see that the stairway to the apartment follows current building code, which allows enough space for emergency response. Because the proposed garage apartment is only 20 feet from the existing house, the fire department also requires a one-hour fire wall on the wall of the garage that faces the house, to slow down spread of fire between structures. Finally, to identify there is an apartment on the property, the fire department wants to see a 427 ½ sign posted at the front of the house.

The trustees, town attorney, and town administrator talked about how the approved detached apartment specific conditions in Lyons become a recorded use with Boulder County, affecting future property owners.

Also at the June 5 meeting, the trustees passed an ordinance approving the initial zoning of Town of Lyons owned land at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy, changed from Boulder County agricultural zoning to Town of Lyons municipal facilities (M) zoning for 2.15 acres and agricultural (A-1) zoning for the rest of the land.

The resolution passed 6-0. Trustees expressed that this zoning allows the town to build a new public works building on the 2.15 acres on the northern part of 4651 Ute Hwy. They said that leaving the remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the highway and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the highway at 4652 Ute Hwy zoned close to its previous zoning in Boulder County, gives the Town of Lyons the most control over future use.

Two neighbors near the parcels spoke during the public hearing, saying they wanted to be kept informed about what will happen on the land. Mayor Connie Sullivan, as well as other trustees including Barney Dreistadt and Dan Greenberg, said keeping the land in an agricultural zoning gives the Town of Lyons the most say in how the land is used in the future when sold to people who want to rezone it for business or residential use.

“Any future plans will go through a careful zoning process,” Sullivan said. “We want to make sure that whatever goes there is compatible with the surrounding area, and that includes neighbors who are in the Town of Lyons and those who aren’t.”

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 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 and public hearings.

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. Sources of expected funding include FEMA paying for the part of the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated and insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) paying 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.

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 the eastern corridor to increase the likelihood of development and increase the employment base in Lyons. At last month’s meetings, it was reported that the utilities expansion work must begin by mid-June to not lose the funding.

Why am I writing about this land? It has 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. Those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons should pay attention to both proposals for mixed business and residential use on the eastern corridor and what happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area. Then the centrally located land could open up for future affordable housing. The mayor and trustees have expressed interest in these kind of “land swaps.”

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.

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.