Published in the October 5, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Town considers purchasing land for affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

In previous columns, I covered the $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds that are currently still available for the Town of Lyons to create affordable housing after the 2013 flood. The Town of Lyons staff and elected officials have been looking at opportunities, including reaching out to land owners who want to sell land to the town or who might want to participate in a land swap to move to new town-owned land on the eastern corridor of Lyons.

The public learned a little more Monday night when Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen gave a housing update to the Board of Trustees. She said that if the Town of Lyons is going to use the $4 million disaster recovery funds that come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the town can’t use the funds to acquire properties that are in the floodplain. The board scheduled an executive session (closed to the public) at the end of the regular Oct. 2 meeting to discuss possible real estate transactions and negotiating positions and strategies for providing affordable housing in the town. In her housing staff report, Simonsen said she wanted to get direction from the trustees during the executive session and discuss the remaining options for available properties that aren’t in the floodplain.

Some of the properties on the list Simonsen collected after reaching out to property owners might fall off the list because of the floodplain issue, she said. Simonsen said that the town would be able to use the $4 million for properties in the floodplain if Lyons requests reimbursement after all flood-plain mitigation is completed, which would be years later, and too late. Instead, it might be better to look at using the $4 million to acquire land that is out of the floodplain, she said.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – Disaster Recovery funds are grants from HUD “to help cities, counties, parishes, and states recover from presidentially declared disasters, especially in low- and moderate-income areas,” according to the HUD website. You can learn more about these funds at www.hud.gov/hudprograms/disaster-recovery. According to time lines discussed at previous meetings, any project using the $4 million for affordable housing that would come to Lyons through the State of Colorado must be identified by fall 2017 and already underway in 2019.

As far as what properties the town might buying, we don’t know yet. State sunshine laws allow the details of real estate negotiations to be private, but the information will become public when a contract is signed with a seller and the Town of Lyons.

For the last month or two, town staff have been meeting with business landowners interested in hearing options for relocating to the land on the eastern edge of town. This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land from the City of Longmont 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. On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. 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.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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, beginning work this fall.