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Published in the February 14, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.

Town authorizes agreement with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park to purchase tract for affordable housing

COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS

By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – In the past year and half, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds set aside for Lyons. Last month’s news was a partnership proposing to purchase town-own land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 for 45 affordable housing units for rent (built and managed by Thistle), agricultural food production with vertical greenhouses, a farm grocery, and a commercial kitchen. The trustees were supportive of town staff continuing to work with the partnership to gather more info.

Then on Jan. 29, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement that gives the Town of Lyons an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8, already intended for 43 units of multifamily housing. The town signed a joint letter of intent between Keith Bell, president of Lyons Valley Park, Inc., who lives in Kansas, and David Wickum of Wickum Properties and Realty. It states the Town of Lyons intends to purchase Tract A and work with public and private sectors to replace some of the housing lost in the 2013 flood, and that Wickum intends to purchase Lots 15-32 of Block 2 to develop single-family housing.

If either Wickum or the Town of Lyons discontinues pursuing an intended purchase, Bell and Lyons Valley Park, Inc., will negotiate with the other party for a possible purchase. For example, if Wickum discontinues purchasing the Block 2 lots, the Town of Lyons could negotiate to purchase those as well. A price for all the tracts and lots won’t be negotiated until an appraisal is conducted, per Bell’s request. According to the agreement, Wickum and the Town of Lyons also plan to work in good faith to share infrastructure costs.

At a Feb 5 meeting, Mayor Connie Sullivan repeated that the timing of the federal funding required having a sales agreement in place while the town determines if the land will work for affordable housing.

“The one thing that’s really important to know is that we are four-plus years post-flood, and the CDBG-DR funding for housing expires if we couldn’t be in a purchase and sale agreement by the end of January,” Sullivan said. “So, not having a purchase and sale agreement by the end of January in essence loses $4 million – even the hope of spending $4 million.”

She continued: “And it doesn’t even mean that we will get it. We still might lose that money. We still might lose a portion of that money. But what that purchase and sale agreement did for us is kept us in the game so that we have a possibility of looking at a land parcel that is available to see if it’s even viable for development.”

Trustee Jim Kerr summed up a key point: “The owner already has the right to develop the land,” he said, referring to an existing intention for 43 homes in multifamily buildings in Lyons Valley Park Filing 8. “You’re already going to face that development.”

The difference is that instead of just market-rate multifamily housing sometime in the future, the Town of Lyons might be able to leverage the federal CDBG disaster recovery funds to purchase Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8 and partner with an affordable housing developer to build units that are affordable to households that earn about $42,000 to $49,000 a year (60 percent of the area-median income for a one-person or two-person household). For example, rents might be $1,300 a month or less, depending on household size. “Affordable” monthly costs are determined as no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income. The area median income changes every year.

The board heard public comments from about 15 people at the Feb. 9 meeting about the purchase and sale agreement. Videos of Board of Trustees meetings are now available to view online at www.townoflyons.com/588/Board-of-Trustees-Meeting-Videos.

“Mr. Bell said he always hoped this would be a development that would contain multifamily units that looked like the larger homes, fitting in with the neighborhood,” Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen said, giving an example of multifamily residential units that look like the Lyons Valley Village co-housing that was built in the same neighborhood in 2006.

A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers who are interested in partnering with the town for the Tract A parcel went out on Friday, Feb. 2, with a due date of March 5. A meeting and a walk-through of the property for applicants (and also open to the pubic) was scheduled for Feb. 9. A Town of Lyons email provided more information to the public, including a link to the 8th Plat Filing for Lyons Valley Park document at www.townoflyons.com/DocumentCenter/View/1294.

A larger amount of federal funds were lost in 2015 when a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. However, with the $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have been pursuing several smaller options for housing. Lyons can receive a maximum of $40,000 in CDBG-DR funds per each new affordable housing unit (up to $4 million total if 100 new affordable housing units are built).

To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.  The Town of Lyons currently has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave.

This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints, contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build three duplexes – see previous columns at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.

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