Published in the July 21, 2016, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Survey respondents support affordable housing on the Eastern Corridor
by Amy Reinholds
At a July 18 meeting, the Lyons Board of Trustees reviewed results from a survey about citizens’ priorities and values toward affordable housing, including annexation of Town-owned property in the Eastern Corridor.
Trustees said they saw support for annexing property from the Eastern Corridor that the Town might be able to buy for affordable housing because 74.6% of respondents said yes to the question “Should the Town purchase and annex property in the Eastern Corridor for the purpose of promoting affordable housing and economic development? (Town owned property does not require a vote for annexation regardless of size.)”
A total of 366 people responded to the online survey that opened at the end of June: 83.9% said they were Town of Lyons residents, and 10.7% said they didn’t live in town limits but lived in the 80540 zip code area.
Trustee Barney Dreistadt said the number of survey respondents was not huge but “is a reasonable number.” He said that the ordinance that requires a vote for private landowners who request annexation of more than 5 acres is based on a ballot initiative that had a lower voter turnout than the number of people who responded to this new survey.
Trustee Dan Greenberg said it was a “positive endorsement of moving forward” that when asked how important it is for affordable housing to be available in Lyons, 65% said it was “essential” or “very important” (41% “essential,” 24% “very important”) and only 13% said it was “not important.” (Also, 21% said affordable housing was “somewhat important.”)
The trustees discussed if the opportunity presented itself to have the Town of Lyons buy and annex a parcel in the Eastern Corridor that was more than 5 acres, would they all feel comfortable moving forward with annexation. All trustees said they felt comfortable moving forward. Even though town-owned property does not require a vote for annexation regardless of size, they talked about how the survey results showed support from the community. See full results of the survey at https://co-lyons.civicplus.com/497/BOT-Surveys-Outreach.
Mayor Connie Sullivan and the Board of Trustees have said the survey was meant to be aninformal way to get input from the public. Survey questions about affordable housing were based on draft survey questions that came from the former Special Housing Committee that worked with the previous Board of Trustees in early 2016.
The previous Board of Trustees, including four members of the current board, had discussed different ideas for what kind of survey about affordable housing would be helpful to the town. They arrived at decision to request that the Special Housing Committee draft questions for a short survey to help future trustees understand what education or outreach is needed about affordable housing. A draft survey was included with the background information that the Special Housing Committee gave the outgoing trustees in April (before the trustees sunset the housing committee and passed the affordable housing resolution).
At a June 6 Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Sullivan asked trustees to review an updated survey that included a question about the annexation of property in the Eastern Corridor to promote affordable housing and economic development. The Eastern Corridor is the part of the Lyons Primary Planning Area that is eligible for future annexation to Lyons (based on an intergovernmental agreement that the Town of Lyons has with Boulder County). The Eastern Corridor includes land that is currently outside town limits, east of McConnell Drive and Stone Canyon Drive, out to Highland Drive (on Highway 66 east of Highway 36), including the 85-acre Loukonen property that abutts Highway 36.
Last year, when the Town of Lyons submitted a proposal that included affordable housing and a safe haven community center as part of the National Disaster Resilience Competition, the Town entered into option-to-buy contracts for two parcels on the eastern corridor: the former Longmont water treatment land on the north and south sides of Hwy 66, and the Ernst property: the Shady Lane mobile home park near the eastern intersection of Highland Drive and Highway 66. It turned out that Colorado wasn’t awarded any funds from that competition, but the work completed for that proposal can still be useful to the town if other funding sources are found.
The Lyons community also recently participated in the Eastern Corridor Primary Planning Area planning process in March and April, providing input on future land use in that area, whenever future landowners apply to annex to Lyons. Affordable housing, senior housing, small cottages, and mixed residential, business, and retail use were some of the land uses that the public strongly supported for the Eastern Corridor. The Primary Planning Area planning process, also including areas to the North and West of Lyons, is planned to be completed this fall.
Also, at Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported during Town Staff reports about two market-rate lower-priced rental housing units in town. Erin and Adam Ross, who own rental property at 224 Seward St, have submitted a new application to replace two damaged mobile homes that they own and rent, this time mentioning that the damage was due to a weather event, the intense rains in 2013. Simonsen said the town intends that this replacement should be allowed.
The property is only zoned as three R-1 residential lots (which would allow 3 housing units), but it has been used for 14 units (both mobile homes and motel-style apartments) for many years. Therefore, the current owners would normally need to apply for rezoning to higher density if they removed and replaced housing units. The damage from weather events is an exception. After the two damaged mobile homes are replaced, Simonsen said the owners will be able to do routine maintenance or repair but not replacement (without rezoning to higher density) unless it’s due to a weather event.
Keep up with upcoming Board of Trustees and PCDC meetings and all town meetings, which are open to the public and posted on the town calendar at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx. And keep following my columns in both Lyons papers for news about accomplishments to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons. For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous Lyons Recorder columns at www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/opinions/40-housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.
Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee in the past year. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.