Published in the May 2, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?)
Trustees to review sixth ADU proposal since 2016
by Amy Reinholds
The Lyons Board of Trustees will be considering approval of a conditional use review for an apartment above a garage in May. This latest proposed accessory dwelling unit (ADU) would be the sixth one approved since the Board of Trustees changed town code in December 2016, hoping to inspire homeowners in residential neighborhoods to build more smaller rental units at the lower end of the market.
Homeowners who want to build detached ADUs, also known as carriage houses or mother-in-law apartments on single-family-home residential (R-1) lots in the Town of Lyons now save up to $20,000-$40,000 in utility connection fees after that 2016 change allows even detached ADUs in separate buildings to share the utilities with the main house. Homeowners must still complete a conditional use review application (which includes several steps including notification of neighbors and public comment), they must live on the property (in either the main house or in the ADU), and they cannot use the property for short-term vacation rentals. The trustees approved the town code changes with the stated purpose to encourage more long-term rentals in town.
This proposed garage apartment would not be adding to the rental market in Lyons, at least not in the near term. Instead, as the contractor, Joe Kuckla, described in the public hearing April 22 before the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), “It is literally a mother-in-law suite.”
The conditional use review for 406 Prospect was approved April 22 by all the six PCDC commissioners who were present, and now it goes on to the Trustees for additional reviews and a public hearing. Town Planner Paul Glasgow also said that the Lyons Fire Protection District wants to review plans in detail.
Kuckla, who spoke on behalf of the applicants, said “They recently had a baby, and this will be a place for both of the couples’ parents to stay, and other visitors.” He added, “In the long run, it may become a rental property. That’s what we’ve discussed.”
Glasgow said the 592 square-foot, one-bedroom apartment will be built above a garage would be taller than the primary residence, “but because it is the 100-year floodplain, it is safer [at the higher location].”
Two people spoke at the April 22 PCDC public hearing (which can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbIawf4oN3s). Neighbor Rick DiSalvo didn’t have a problem with size or the height above the garage. He said he didn’t see a problem with the viewshed. Neighbor Pam Barnes agreed. She added that she was concerned that if it does become a rental in the future, it wouldn’t be at a monthly rent that was “affordable for low-income people” who work in local businesses (a concern she shared about all ADUs in town, not aimed at this particular ADU).
In the 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018, conditional use reviews were completed and approved for four new detached ADUs that went under construction in Lyons: a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, an apartment in a separate building at 327 Seward Street, an apartment above a garage for a new home being built 1024 4th Ave, and a separate 600 square-foot one bedroom apartment at 600 Indian Lookout Road, approved for an undeveloped parcel where a new home was planned to be built. Then, in June 2018, a conditional use review was approved for an apartment already built above a previously constructed large garage building (rebuilt after the 2013 flood) at 310 5th Ave. Despite concerns from four neighbors, the ADU was approved by a majority of the PCDC commissioners and the Board of Trustees.
After June 2018, no additional ADUs came through the conditional use process until now. A proposal for 227 Park Street application for an existing building seemed to have stalled in the process. No other conditional use reviews for ADUs were held until this one at on April 22.
Town code defines ADUs as separate apartments with kitchens that can either be located in the primary residence, such as a basement, or detached in a separate building. All detached ADUs require a conditional use review for single-family residential zones. Detached ADUs can be up to 800 square feet, based on the size of the primary home. Basement ADUs can be the size of the entire basement.
With the five approvals for new construction of ADUs, there are currently about 60 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the Town of Lyons. Research that town staff reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees in August found approximately 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons (including allowed historically non-compliant ADUs built before some areas had town zoning).
In January of 2019, five members of the Board of Trustees approved allowing tiny homes on wheels RVs, in addition to modular homes and stick-built homes, as detached ADUs. However, so far no property owners have brought forward any conditional use review applications for using that kind of RV structure as an ADU.
Glasgow told the PCDC commissioners on April 22 that there were four ADU applications in various stages, one that they would see that night and two that are “submitting or ready to submit” applications.
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. All 40 homes would be rented to households with incomes at 60 percent or less of the area median income. 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.
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.