Published in the March 7, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Trustees approve agreement to sell 7.58 acres of Eastern Corridor land
by Amy Reinholds
On March 4, the Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved a final reading on a purchase and sale agreement with Paul Taburello for the town-owned land near U.S. 36 and Colorado 66. The agreement is to sell a total of about 7.58 acres for $851,000. The earnest money required is $40,000, and the buyer is required to submit a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application with the Town of Lyons within one year from the closing date or pay a penalty of $100,000.
About 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 to use a portion of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The land was annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land. The town put out the request for 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, who was the founder of GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, told the Trustees on March 4 that partnering with Donna Merten and the University of Colorado for food agriculture is still a possibility. Tamburello also said that a possible use of some of the land on the parcel south of Ute Hwy that was discussed earlier was lodging in tiny homes on wheels (which he described as RVs) because building public structures in flood plain areas might be difficult.
Since the original plans that the Greens partnership submitted in late 2017 and early 2018, “We provided affordable housing in another location, so the desire around that changed,” Town Planner Paul Glasgow told the trustees, referring to Summit Housing Group’s plan for building affordable housing in Lyons Valley Park. The State Housing Board recently 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. That specific funding wouldn’t be available for Thistle Community Housing to use for affordable housing on the Eastern Corridor land the town in selling.
However, Tamburello said that “We’re still in conversation with Thistle and other affordable housing developers.”
The first actually proposal that could come forward for the land might be a new location and headquarters for the Green Goo by Sierra Sage company, which make natural first-aid and body-care products. Owner Jodi Scott lives in the Lyons community and currently has retail space on Main Street. Tamburello said that development would be proposed for the north side of Hwy 66, which is near the Town of Lyons public works building site, currently under construction.
“Green Goo is looking to relocate, and it would be great to keep her headquarters in Lyons,” Tamburello said. “If the owners of Green Goo want to do something, and we buy the property, we’ll begin conceptual planning for the north side right away.”
According to the documents available with the March 4 agenda, “The purchase price $851,000 will fully refund Town for the cost of acquiring the water treatment property from the City of Longmont including the purchase price and other closing costs. It also reflects the average commercial real estate increase for commercial real estate in the Denver Metro Area.”
According to the same “cover sheet” document for Ordinance 1052, Glasgow, and the town attorney, the Board of Trustees and the Greens group have worked together for the past eight months to create a mutually agreed upon contract. The Greens group is also requesting that the Town sell its portion of the old railroad right of way between the southern parcel and the Colorado Department of Transportation right of way to encourage redevelopment of a larger area and increase the developability of the southern parcel.
A memorandum of agreement was created for the 0.77 acre parcel of the railroad right of way, because several issues prevent the parcel from being included in the rest of the sales agreement. Because the Town of Lyons plans to invest funds from the Economic Development Administration to develop utilities in the old railroad right of way, the town will need written approval that selling the land after the utilities are installed is acceptable. That land has not yet been subdivided. The town is selling for services in lieu of monetary amount, and Tamburello would give an easement for a possible future connector pedestrian and bike trail that could link downtown Lyons with Longmont. There is also a minor discrepancy in the legal description that staff will be working on.
Tamburello, of Generator Development, based in Denver, presented slides to the trustees and stated that “Any investment in real estate is first an investment in a community.” He said mistakes he has seen in Denver development is not considering what is best for neighborhood communities.
“Denver has destroyed communities when trying to maximize profits.”
He said that some of the next steps in the process for Lyons are due diligence on the land purchase and meeting the neighboring property owners to understand their setting and “historical land mines.” Tamburello also said he will clarify the regulatory process and define the mission and supporting values.
The community can follow the progress of the sale and closing on the purchase by listening to updates at upcoming Board of Trustees meetings. If the closing is completed, the PUD process will include public hearings before the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees. Tamburello said he would look into whether there could be one PUD for the land on the north side of Hwy 66 where the Green Goo headquarters might be located, and a second PUD for the land south of Hwy 66, which might take longer to plan and develop.
That afternoon, before the regular meeting on March 4, the Board of Trustees held a workshop with PCDC chair Gregg Oetting about expected work for the commission in the coming year. Work that will come before the PCDC this year related to affordable housing in the Town of Lyons include the development plan for 29 rental homes in multifamily housing that Summit proposes on Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8 and an updated PUD for the Habitat for Humanity homes at 2nd and Park because the footprint of the porches for some of the duplexes went outside the original PUD footprint.
The PCDC is also expected to take up preliminary work for a new, town-wide “Lyons Comprehensive Plan” in 2020.
There was a disconnect between Trustee Jocelyn Farrell’s request to the PCDC to look at bumping up the minimum time period for renting ADUs to 90 days or longer – a proposed change to the existing Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance, which is intended to encourage more long-term rentals in town. She has said that three to six months as a required minimum rental period (for example a three-month lease or a six-month lease) would encourage more of a community vibe in our residential neighborhoods than if month-to-month rentals were allowed. However, based on their comments at the workshop, both Oetting and Glasgow seemed to think Trustee Farrell was asking to raise the minimum rental period for short-term vacation rentals, which is 30 days or less. Short-term vacation rentals are allowed in the Town of Lyons for homeowners who get short-term rental licenses to rent out rooms in the homes where they live, but short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in ADUs, including carriage houses or tiny homes on wheels.
Under current town code, all ADUs (including tiny homes on wheels) must be used for long-term rentals (defined as lease periods of 31 days or longer). Trustee Farrell is proposing those minimum lease periods for ADUs be three months or longer, maybe even 6 months or longer.
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, few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued. The only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 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.
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.