Published in the March 22, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Appraisal delayed for 19617 N St. Vrain Drive sales agreement

by Amy Reinholds

The appraiser who is working with the Town of Lyons for a possible site that could be sold to the Town of Lyons was delayed in finding “comps” for the parcel, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported to the Board of Trustees on Monday.

Simonsen reported at the March 19 meeting that the appraiser evaluating the 2.13 acres at 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive said it was more complicated and difficult than anticipated to look at comparable sales in the area. He said he will do his best to get the appraisal completed by the end of next week, she said.

The seller said he wouldn’t be able to accept the agreement as currently written, but he was OK with waiting to see the appraisal.

On Feb. 20, the trustees approved a purchase and sale agreement with James D. Van Court for the town to purchase the land at 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive. After an appraisal to determine the purchase price, the next step will be to see if the seller accepts the agreement. The parcel would need to be annexed into the Town of Lyons, and if zoned as R-3, it could contain about up to about 23 units, according to reports at that February meeting.

The 2.13 acres are next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision. If the seller accepts the agreement, and the town decides to move forward, the Town of Lyons could also put out an RFP for affordable housing developers who are interested in partnering with the town for this parcel. According to the agreement, the purchase price will be equivalent to the fair market value as determined by an appraisal. The town will get an appraisal of the property by the end of the month, considering the value of the property both “as-is” and as if it were annexed into the Town of Lyons and connected to town utilities. The sales agreement is on the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/3590?fileID=8168.

In the past two years, 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. Other 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 $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have been pursuing several smaller options for housing.

On March 12, the Lyons Board of Trustees awarded a bid for an affordable housing development in Lyons Valley Park, Filing 8, Tract A to Summit Housing Group and directed town staff to finalize a memorandum of agreement for consideration by the trustees. Summit Housing Group’s proposal included two options, based on applying for and securing different levels of federal tax credits. Depending on whether the group can meet a June 1 deadline for a higher subsidy of federal tax credits for investors, there could either be 42 rentals available for households who earn 50-60 percent of the area median income, or – if the greater subsidy is attained – more of the 42 rentals could be set aside for households who earn 30-50 percent of the area median income.

On Jan. 29, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement with current owner Keith Bell, which 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 Bell, president of Lyons Valley Park, Inc., who lives in Kansas, and David Wickum of Wickum Properties and Realty, based in Lyons. 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.

A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers interested in partnering with the town for that Lyons Valley Park Tract A parcel went out on Feb. 2, with a due date of March 5. Then, after a selection committee (including representatives from the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association and the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission) brought forward two finalists, Summit Housing Group was selected on March 12 by the Lyons Board of Trustees.

The Town of Lyons currently has a total of 26 permanently affordable rental homes (already in Lyons before the September 2013 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. The only post-flood affordable housing currently being built is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building six homes (in three duplexes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer, sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.

The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes. 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.

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.