Published in the December 28, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Trustees to hear report about eastern corridor affordable housing and aquaponics farm proposal on Jan. 16
by Amy Reinholds
The selection committee for the request for proposals (RFP) decided to move forward on a recommendation for a proposal from a group that wants to build affordable housing and an aquaponics farm on town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36. According to Town of Lyons Director of Community Development Paul Glasgow, the committee plans to make an official report to the Lyons Board of Trustees on Jan. 16. (The regular meeting was changed from Jan. 15 to Jan. 16 because of the Martin Luther King Day holiday.)
The application for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP proposes buying town-owned land and building 45 affordable housing units for rent, an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. The partnership that submitted the RFP includes the regional affordable housing non-profit Thistle, a developer who has worked in the Denver Highlands neighborhood and on a local greenhouse, and Donna Merten of Colorado Group, who is interested in aquaponics farming.
At a previous workshop with trustees on Dec. 4, Glasgow reported that this proposal was the most detailed proposal out of two received. Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen and Glasgow said that the other application was only two pages, proposing a storage facility and workshop space for local businesses that are interested in moving from another part of the community.
This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 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. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.
The group’s proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of Hwy. 66. and also mentions a possible hotel or micro-apartments for rent on the south side of Hwy. 66.
Trustees at the Dec. 4 workshop expressed interest in the housing and business combination proposed by the Thistle partnership, and Simonsen and Glasgow said that it appeared to meet the Lyons Comprehensive Plan, the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, and sustainability goals of the town.
The selection committee for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP includes Simonsen, Glasgow, Director of Community Relations and Programs Kim Mitchell, and chairs of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Economic Development Commission (Gregg Oetting and Lora Gilson). The committee met Friday, Dec. 15, and determined to bring forth an official report to the trustees (scheduled for Jan. 16) that recommends the selection of the applications.
As part of regular town process, after the town sells the land, the new owners or their developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the both the PCDC and the trustees.
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 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. Demolition of existing buildings for construction of the new public works building started in 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 are available for sale. The Town of Lyons put out an RFP for potential buyers this summer to propose ideas to develop parts or all of the available land. For more details, you can see the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP (now closed) on the Bid Opportunities page of the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/140/Bid-Opportunities. A purchase and a sale contract was originally targeted to be first quarter of 2018.
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.
This proposal sounds promising for those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons. Because of the need for rentals for people who can’t afford homes in the current high-priced real estate market, I’m glad to hear that the proposal is for 45 affordable rentals. To learn more about Thistle and the affordable housing the non-profit builds and manages in Boulder and Longmont, see http://thistle.us.
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. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build three duplexes – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.