COMMENTARY: What’s The Future For Affordable Housing In Lyons?

By Amy Reinholds
This week the Board of Trustees (BOT) held a workshop about the building permit process with the Lyons Fire Protection District to discuss ways to better integrate the permitting process for Town of Lyons commercial and residential building permits, including ADUs.

As I've written about in previous columns, the BOT voted in December 2016 to change to chapters of Town code for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on single-family residential lots, including removing additional utility connection fees. The Trustees passed two ordinances to change Town of Lyons code in chapter 13 and chapter 16. The biggest change is allowing ADUs on single-family home lots to share tap fees with the primary house (saving property owners utility connection fees, approximately $15,000-$16,000). This recommendation came out of research by the Planning Commission and Town Staff of other municipalities in Colorado and other states, and was also agreed upon by the Lyons Utilities and Engineering Board. You can read more at http://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/trustees-change-lyons-town-ordinances-to-encourage-adus.

Defined in Town code, ADUs are 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.

However, in that December meeting, the Trustees and Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen talked about how Lyons homeowners who are considering creating ADUs also need to work with the fire code from the Lyons Fire Protection District, which the Lyons Board of Trustees does not have control over (see http://lyonsfire.org/need-to-know/fire-inspection-permit).

At a workshop at the January 17 BOT meeting, Trustees, Town of Lyons Staff, representatives from the Lyons Fire Protection District, and representatives from Charles Abbott Associates (the company contracted to conduct building inspections for Lyons) discussed ways to better integrate the permitting process for homeowners.

The fire department enforces the fire code, and the Town of Lyons enforces the building code. Reviews are done in parallel and should not delay the process for the applicants. The fire department is looking for confirmation that the permit process will not move forward without the approval of the fire department. They are considering ways an electronic process that Charles Abbott and Associates uses could integrate approvals from the fire department.

Lyons Town Staff has prepared a draft of a “Building Permits and You” document that states “The Town of Lyons and Lyons Fire Department work in conjunction to ensure the health and safety of our Town’s citizens.” The draft document clarifies when the fire department must be notified, and the number of copies that must be submitted to the town and the fire department when property owners submit building permits. For example, for any new ADU, homeowners must submit one set of plans to the Lyons Fire Protection District and two sets of plans to the Town of Lyons.

In addition to making sure new units meet fire code, the fire department has previously expressed that knowing the location of ADUs is important for emergency response, to know where people are living in single-family zoned areas of Town of Lyons, if not in the same house.

As of January 17, of this year, no applications for ADUs were received.

Also since my last column, the Mayor Connie Sullivan and Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen hosted a special summary “Town Hall” meeting on January 11, to update the public about 2016 budget and flood recovery projects, and a list of projects and goals for 2017. New affordable housing (in addition to the six Habitat for Humanity homes to be built northeast of Park Street and Second Ave.) is still on the Town of Lyons priority list.

They told the public that $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds (community development block grants) is still available for new affordable flood-recovery housing in Lyons, but all that money must be obligated to a specific project by September 2017 and spent two years later.

Sullivan and Simonsen said the Town of Lyons is negotiating with the City of Longmont to buy the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of town limits. Because of inability to place the Lyons Public Works building that was damaged in the flood elsewhere in town, they said that a part of the City of Longmont land is the best location available, if the Town of Lyons can line up the funding sources to purchase it. The Town of Lyons could use reserves in the Town’s enterprise fund to purchase the entire property from Longmont, both on north and south sides of Hwy 66, totally more than nine acres. Then the Town of Lyons could annex the land into Lyons town limits, subdivide it, and sell off other parcels to private sector buyers who want to build commercial or mixed use residential to reimburse the town’s enterprise fund.

In addition to possible mixed use or other residential away from the highway on the eastern corridor, if interested affordable housing organizations buy the land, a somewhat complicated land swap with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) might also open up land in the Town of Lyons for housing.

The Mayor and the Town Administrator said that CDOT would be willing to relocate from a current location in northwest Lyons near Eagle Canyon to the eastern corridor land near a Lyons Public Works site, if the Town of Lyons buys the land from Longmont. Then the Town of Lyons could have the old CDOT location for residential land. CDOT was not planning on moving its location but would be willing to move to help Lyons with housing needs, Simonsen said. However, Lyons would need to pay about $1 million in costs to relocate CDOT to the eastern corridor.

For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at https://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. All town meetings of the elected Lyons Board of Trustees and appointed town boards and commissions are open to the public and are supposed to be posted on the town calendar at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx. This column is a weekly commentary in the Lyons Recorder. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds@ hotmail.com.

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