Published in the June 20, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
A few housing updates from this week’s Trustees meeting
by Amy Reinholds
The June 17 meeting of the Lyons Board of Trustees included a few brief updates related to affordable housing.
The purchase and sale agreement with Paul Tamburello for town-owned land near U.S. 36 and Colorado 66, is still underway, and steps are continuing. Tamburello and “the Greens” Partnership originally proposed a mixed-use development including commercial, food agriculture, and affordable rental homes. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported that a meeting with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) representatives helped Tamburello firm up development plans. CDOT said there could be a traffic signal at the east end of Highland Drive but not anything in between that location and the 36 and 66 intersection.
At the last Trustees meeting on June 3, Simonsen said the closing date with Tamburello is set for Sept. 30, 2019. In March, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved an agreement is to sell a total of about 7.58 acres of the eastern corridor property to Tamburello for $851,000. More than two years ago, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont. The Town of Lyons is building a new public works building on a portion of the land and is selling remaining parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The town requested proposals for prospective buyers with development plans in the fall of 2017. At that time, the Greens Partnership (consisting of Tamburello, Donna Merten, and Thistle Community Housing) proposed purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of the highway (4.3 acres at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.28 acres at 4652 Ute Hwy) for a mixed-use development that includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, and affordable rental homes.
Tamburello told the trustees in March that he is still in discussion with Thistle Community Housing. Affordable rental homes could still be a possibility on some of the land he plans to purchase, but Tamburello is expected to bring forward a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for commercial development first. At that time, he said that the Green Goo company was interested in a new headquarters at the location.
Since the original plans that the Greens partnership submitted in late 2017 and early 2018, Summit Housing Group’s plan for building affordable housing in Lyons Valley Park moved forward more quickly, and the State Housing Board approved Summit’s application for the full $4 million in federal funds set aside to build new affordable housing in Lyons after the 2013 flood. Thistle Community Housing wouldn’t have access to any of that funding for affordable housing, so it is less certain that Thistle affordable housing would be included in early development of that eastern corridor land.
Also at the June 17 meeting, Trustee Barney Dreistadt reported that a discussion with Boulder County about the Lyons Urban Renewal Authority and tax increment financing (TIF) included the possibility that some of the TIF funds raised in the future could be used for affordable housing. TIF is a public financing method that is used to subsidize infrastructure, redevelopment, and other community-improvement projects. Lyons has two Urban Renewal Authority districts – one in the commercial district in the downtown area, and one on the eastern corridor.
A third issue to consider related to affordable housing was also mentioned at the June 17 meeting. Simonsen reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would like to use the Town of Lyons as a formal case study for how the town was able to complete a Recovery Management Plan. FEMA representatives will be visiting Lyons in August.
I recall the year following the flood that many volunteers in town, including people who were still not living in their flood-damaged homes, participated in forming the Lyons Recovery Action Plan. A final version is available at http://www.townoflyons.com/documentcenter/view/388. Now is a good time to reflect on what worked well from that planning. The goals related to housing recovery were:
- HOU 1.3.1: Encourage the development/construction of housing that is affordable by: a) virtue of the lot size, regulatory incentives, construction methodology and material usage, density; b) the use of financial subsidies and volunteer organizations. Responsible party: The Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force.
- HOU 1.3.2: Encourage the development/construction of manufactured housing (including prefabricated, modular, and mobile homes). Responsible party: The Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force.
- HOU 1.3.3: Encourage the construction of alternative and sustainable housing developments with different ownership models. Responsible party: Sustainable Futures Commission.
- ACH 1.1.1: Create a live-work development that can provide affordable housing for artists as well as a space to incubate their trade and business. Responsible party: Lyons Arts and Humanities Council.
- INF 1.1.2: Incentivize the implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures to create resilient and sustainable energy distribution. Responsible party: Sustainable Futures Commission.
With the FEMA case study at the end of the summer, we can review and ask how well our community has done so far in achieving these goals.
Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. In March 2015, 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 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.
The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots. The first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buildings. At www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can review all volunteer days with openings and sign up for one or more of the specific days they are available. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.
This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.