Published in the April 11, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Lyons celebrates the first Habitat for Humanity duplex home dedication
by Amy Reinholds
Habitat for Humanity held a dedication of the first duplex at 112 Park Street in Lyons on April 7. For Habitat for Humanity staff, an Americorps team that helped build, and other volunteers and donors, it was a celebration of the 99th and 100th home built by Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. For the community of Lyons, five and a half years after the flood disaster, it was a celebration of the first new affordable housing constructed after years of determination. For two families who purchased the homes, it was a celebration of a new start after years of uncertain housing situations, and gratitude for an affordable mortgage and a new future for their children.
For everyone who attended Sunday’s event, it was a joyful time to pause and appreciate the milestone of the completed building, to recognize the work of the past 4 years. Looking back at the wide range of emotions experienced about affordable housing in that time, Sunday was a time to breathe a sigh of relief and appreciate everyone’s hard work.
This accomplishment required a combination of community members, non-profits, town staff, elected officials, and future homeowners who persevered.
Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the September 2013 flood. In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rental homes and some Habitat for Humanity affordable for-sale homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. But Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, continuing the discussion with possible available land in Lyons, and eventually purchasing the land at 2nd and Park from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners in the fall of 2016.
We wouldn’t have arrived at this day without a wide range of people who helped with individual steps in the journey that helped make these homes a reality. The Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force, started by former Lyons Trustee Dan Greenberg, formed after the flood with the hope that affordable housing in Lyons was possible during their earnest work in 2014 and 2015. And then after the failed vote for the Bohn Park proposal in March 2015, a new Lyons Special Housing Committee volunteer Tom Delker suggested that Ferguson subdivide land he was planning to buy from Valley Bank that spring and sell some of it to Habitat for Humanity. Ferguson and his LLC partners invested in the Valley Bank land originally and then completed the PUD and subdivision process before selling the residential lots to Habitat for Humanity. The Lyons Board of Trustees led by Mayor John O’Brien voted in June 2015 to wave utility connection fees that the town has control over for the six future Habitat for Humanity homes. The total of about $173,500 in savings helped Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget for the Park Street homes, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners.
When the Board of Trustees approved final rezoning and subdivision for the Habitat homes in July 2016, I noticed not only how tired everyone seemed, but I also was struck by all the thank-yous shared at that meeting. Mayor Connie Sullivan thanked Dave Emerson, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St Vrain Valley, and the applicants/property owners Ferguson and his business partner Jerry Moore, for staying at the table with the Town of Lyons for the long rezoning and subdivision process, which started in the fall of 2015. Ferguson thanked his Planet Bluegrass business partners for their support. In addition to his financial investments as a business partner, Moore invested a lot of time in negotiations and documentation preparations. Lyons Housing Recovery Coordinator Cody Humphrey invested a lot of time on this work during his short appointment with the Town of Lyons. And Rosi Dennett, the town planner who picked up where two other town planners had worked previously on that application, also deserves thanks for all her work during that challenging time.
You can read all my coverage of Habitat for Humanity in Lyons in the archives of my blog.
Thanks to all the volunteers both from Lyons and communities across the region who came to Lyons to build on weekends or weekdays starting in January 2018. Later this spring and summer the other two duplexes are expected to be finished. To volunteer, no specific experience is needed, and training is on the job for each the 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. volunteer shift. On the website 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. To donate online, go to www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons.
This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers atlyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.