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Published in the July 20, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

How to buy town-owned land on the eastern corridor

by Amy Reinholds

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. At the end of this month, a request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers is expected to be ready.

On April 25, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont: 6.45 acres on the north side of Colo. Hwy. 66 at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.43 acres on south side at 4652 Ute Hwy. The Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont had agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land about a month earlier. The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in May to annex the land into Town of Lyons, and in June to approve municipal facilities (M) zoning for the public works building parcel and initial zoning of agricultural (A-1) zoning for the rest of the land (aiming to keep it similar to its Boulder County zoning before annexation).

On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building (which was destroyed in the 2013 flood and temporary located at 4170 Ute Hwy after the flood). Sources of expected funding include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paying for 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 building itself. FEMA has told town staff that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale. The Town of Lyons can put out an RFP for potential buyers who want to propose ideas to develop parts or all of the available land. After the land is sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund.

According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, created 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 use (similar to existing residential and commercial uses in that area). This area 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 two areas: 1) Are there proposals for mixed business and residential use on the eastern corridor that could include permanently affordable rentals (or a mix of rentals and home-ownership)? 2) What happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area? Can the centrally located land could open up for future permanently affordable rentals (or a mix of rentals and home-ownership) after the light-industrial businesses move east? The trustees have expressed support for these kind of “land swaps” if current light-industrial businesses are interested.

At a July 3 workshop, the Lyons Board of Trustees gave input into the draft of an RFP for the town land for sale, described in that draft as “Lyons Village East” land. Trustees suggested highlighting goals such as replacing lost housing, creating workforce housing (housing that workers at local businesses can afford), and giving existing local light-industrial businesses the opportunity to move to the eastern corridor. They said they wanted to see proposals for use of the land that results in greater housing diversity in the Lyons area. They also suggested that the RFP highlight uses in the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan and in the Town of Lyons Master Plan, including hotels, housing, and services and light-industrial businesses that contribute to the local tax base and create local jobs.

Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees at the July 3 workshop that if the RFP was out by the end of July, applications could be due Sept. 15. Simonsen confirmed this week that the goal is still to have the RFP out and available to prospective purchasers by end of the month.

After the town sells the land, the new owners and/or their developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Landowners and developers will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews and public hearings.

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. After the September 2013 flood, 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. 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.

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