Commentary: What’s The Future For Affordable Housing In Lyons?
By Amy Reinholds
The Lyons Board of Trustees heard two updates on June 4 about affordable housing proposals. Summit Housing Group is continuing due diligence activities for the site at Lyons Valley Park, considering a proposal for only 29 rental homes there – as Lyons Valley homeowners suggested at a presentation last month – if other homes can
be built at another location like 19617 North St. Vrain Drive. Also, the Greens, a partnership of food production, commercial development, and Thistle community housing, is still moving toward a sales and purchase agreement with the Town of Lyons for land on the eastern edge of town.
Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees Monday night that Summit is in preliminary discussions with the owner of 19617 North St. Vrain Drive about a possible purchase of the 2.13 acres in Boulder County next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision. She stressed that these discussions are only in the early stages and nothing has been confirmed, but that Summit is willing to consider dual sites to build the number of affordable rental homes they originally proposed, funding approximately 43 affordable homes with federal disaster recovery funds that have been earmarked for Lyons and investments through low-income housing tax credits.
Summit, based in Missoula, Montana, is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60% of the area median incomes or less. The latest homes in Colorado are at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont.
In the past two years, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds set aside for Lyons housing. Other federal funds were lost in 2015 when 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 to 70 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. However, with $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have pursued smaller options for housing.
At the end of January, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement with current owner Keith Bell, for an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8. A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers interested in partnering with the town for that Lyons Valley Park Tract A parcel went out in February. A selection committee (including representatives from the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association and the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission) brought forward two finalists who presented to the Lyons Board of Trustees, and Summit Housing Group was selected by the trustees in March. Then the purchase and sale agreement with Keith Bell was then assigned to Summit Housing Group.
Also at the affordable housing report at the June 4 meeting, the trustees also supported continuing to work with the Greens partnership on a proposal to purchase land east of U.S. 36 that the Town of Lyons owns. However a discussion with town staff and the trustees confirmed that no one advised taking the risk of relocating the planned site of the new Town of Lyons public works building, planned for the northeast portion of 4651 Ute Highway, which has taken years to negotiate with FEMA, even if it moved to somewhere else in the 4.3 acres on the north side of Highway 66 based on some proposed ideas from the Greens partners. The public works building is funded by three different funding sources, all which have deadlines that require the project to be completed by end of 2019 at the latest. The trustees and town staff discussed how they didn’t want to risk losing the approximately $3.5 million counted on from a combinations of FEMA funds, federal disaster recovery funds, and insurance from the flood-destroyed building.
More than a year 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 recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The land has been 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. The Greens partnership proposes purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of the highway (4.3 acres at 4651 Ute Highway and 3.28 acres at 4652 Ute Highway) for a mixed-use development that includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, and affordable rental homes.
The Greens partnership, originally the only group to submit a fully completed application at the end of 2017 for proposals to purchase the land the town owns, has presented several updates to the Board of Trustees since then. In May the Greens partners presented and a workshop and at the following meeting, the trustees agreed to direct town staff to pursue next steps for a purchase and sale agreement. The Greens partners are Donna Merten, who owns a real estate development company and is getting a masters degree from the University of Colorado in sustainable food systems, Paul Tamburello, who runs a real estate development firm and serves on the board of the indoor farm and marketplace GrowHaus in Denver, and Mary Duvall, CEO of affordable housing nonprofit Thistle.
At the June 4 meeting, Kathie Guckenberger, consulting attorney for Town of Lyons, said that Tamburello has been working with the town attorney firm on moving forward with a purchase and sale agreement proposal.
The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.
There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority. The only post-flood affordable housing currently being built is at Second Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer or donate, see www.stvrainhabitat.org.