The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved a development plan on March 10 for 21 townhomes on Tract A of Filing No. 8 in Lyons Valley Park subdivision, all affordable rentals to households at 60 percent of the area median income. The next step in the process is a Development Plan Agreement before the Lyons Board of Trustees, possibly in April.
The PCDC approval comes with more than a dozen conditions, including required bike parking of at least one per home, electric vehicle charging stations, enclosed storage units for each home, an easement to allow access from Carter Drive to the adjacent 12993 N. Foothills Highway property and easements for town utilities, bear-proof trash receptacles, and a detention pond concept to be added and implemented in the development plan to prepare for a 100-year stormwater event, approved by a town engineer before a building permit is granted. The PCDC commissioners also added a prohibition against short-term vacation rentals in the lease agreements as a condition. The conditions came from concerns from neighbors, PCDC commissioners, and consulting agencies such as the Lyons Ecology Board and the Lyons Utilities and Engineering Board as described here.
The applicant, Summit Housing Group, is under contract with landowner Keith Bell to purchase both Tract A of Filing No. 8 for multifamily buildings, and 19 existing platted single-family-home lots in the subdivision (the latter of which will go through the regular town building permit process). Summit will be paying all required development fees, impact fees, and connection fees, and won’t receive any tax breaks for the development. The funding comes from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and also the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds. In February 2019, the State of Colorado Housing Board approved Summit’s application for CDBG-DR funds (at a maximum of $100,000 per home, $4 million total for 40 total rental homes).
The plan for Tract A is for a total of 21 townhomes, all with two bedrooms. There would be five buildings: four two-story fourplex buildings and one two-story fiveplex building. The project name is Lyons Valley Townhomes.
An affordability covenant for the site is required for 35 years, based on both the LIHTC and Disaster Recovery funding requirements and oversight. “We would typically look to re-syndicate and extend the affordability period another 30 years,” said Rusty Snow, president of Summit Housing Group. That’s at least 35 years of affordability, and quite likely 65 years of affordability, which is more than I expected when I researched oversight for affordability requirements for a February 27 column.
Snow showed a chart for area median income (AMI) for Boulder County that showed 60 percent AMI as an annual income of $47,000 for a single person, $54,540 for a two-person household, $61,380 for a three-person household, and $68,160 for a four-person household. Rents would be set to be affordable at those income levels.
The PCDC commissioners also directed town staff to determine more specifics on the fiscal impact (at the request of Commissioner John Petrey), to explore additional mitigation of outdoor lighting, and to explore traffic calming measures on McConnell Drive and work closely with the neighborhood. The town is already purchasing temporary speed bumps to use as needed.
During their discussion, PCDC commissioners contrasted what a market-rate developer could build on Tract A and what Summit is proposing for this federally funded and regulated affordable housing development. When they spoke during their discussion, some PCDC commissioners referred to Summit with the term “non-profit developers” in place of “not market-rate developers.” In reality, Summit Housing Group is a for-profit developer that builds rentals with LIHTC–federally subsidized developments with required and monitored affordability for households with specific incomes (in this case, 60 percent of the AMI or less).
Several commissioners, including Clay Dusel, who lives in the Lyons Valley Park Subdivision, mentioned advantages of working with a developer building federally subsidized housing instead of market-rate developers that would take advantage of maximum use and density of the parcel. Dusel said that market-rate developers who had the same parcel would probably try to maximize profit by building homes right on the hill, selling those houses, and leaving, but Summit’s intention is to continue to own and manage the property. If the parcel was sold to a market-rate developer, Dusel said, “There would be a row of multi-story houses right on the edge of the hill with a great view.” He added, “And there would be very little any of us could do.”
Chair Gregg Oetting called the proposal a win because the issues that the town wouldn’t have control over with a market-rate developer were negotiated with Summit’s plan. The homes were built farther back, with fewer buildings and a lower density than was allowed. The architect’s plans showed how the buildings are placed behind the hill and screened with trees so that the visibility of the homes from Carter Drive will only be the top half of the top story. “And I’m glad it’s not going to be a cul-de-sac, and that the fire marshal got what he wanted,” Oetting said. “My sense is the community is fairly overwhelmingly in favor of this, but there are a few pockets of people who are not satisfied,” Commissioner Petrey said.
About 45 to 50 people were in the audience during the public hearing, and 15 people spoke during the public comment. Deputy Town Clerk Marissa Davis also included comments in the packet and printed out several that were sent in the day of the meeting.
Several spoke in support of the plans that improved the viewshed from Carter Drive by not building up on the hill, and using design, colors, and materials that match the existing homes in the subdivision. A Green Communities requirement from the Colorado Housing and Finance Agency (CHFA) is to use outdoor lighting that is compliant with Dark Skies, and the architect also eliminated some street lights from the plan. Some who spoke liked this design change as well, and some asked for even fewer street lights.
Neighbor Betsy Wagner said she was glad to see a complete loop through the development instead of a cul-de-sac, for fire department access. “The people we will be housing will be an asset to our community,” she said. Nick Dudas said his concerns were mitigated by the latest proposal and thanked the developer. Caitlyn Dudas said she really appreciated the architectural work on the designs to match the homes in the subdivision, but she wanted to see connectivity to open space continued. A woman who lost the home she rented on Apple Valley Road in the 2013 flood sang a version of “Take Me Home Country Roads,” saying how she wanted to return to Lyons.
Lyons Valley Park HOA president Jim Crowder spoke in opposition, saying that he thought the sales tax figures were too “rosy” and that this project “will cost the town.” Neighbors Sarah Vasel and Keith McGuire spoke about traffic concerns, and McGuire suggested a four-way stop sign between Raymond Court and McConnell Drive. Justin Spencer said he was impressed with the project, wanted to see affordability in Lyons, and was also in favor of more traffic calming.
The PCDC commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the development plan. You can watch a video of this March 10 development plan public hearing on YouTube (on the Lyons Board of Trustees YouTube channel, although it was a PCDC meeting). Materials related to this decision include the public hearing documents from March 10 and the development plan documents posted on the town website.
A much larger issue in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood is traffic. The Lyons Valley Park subdivision and its streets were planned for full build out. The development plan that the PCDC approved fits in with that, and would even result in fewer residents than full build-out of the subdivision would allow. The facts are that Summit is building under federally subsidized and monitored low-income housing programs, and that they took input from the public and decided to build less densely on Tract A (5.5 units per acre) than what is allowed (7.7 units per acre). A market-rate developer could build as densely as allowed to maximize profits, and Summit is not doing that.
My column is not called “What’s the future of traffic in Lyons?” so I won’t opine about traffic speed and safety in neighborhoods. But I will say that the traffic issues that the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood and the streets near the Lyons Middle and Senior High School face are serious and important for our community to address. Because the traffic problems are intertwined with the school, I would encourage a multiple-agency collaboration, involving residents of Lyons Valley Park Subdivision, the broader Lyons Valley Park neighborhood, the St. Vrain Valley School District, and law enforcement. This is a much broader issue and has been for several years. It needs to be addressed regardless of any developer with any proposal for Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Subdivision.
I mentioned to one mother concerned for the safety of her kids with traffic in the area that the new residents who would move into the neighborhood in Summit’s proposed buildings would probably include mothers with kids who ride bikes, and who also care about traffic safety in the neighborhood. It’s an opportunity for more caring neighbors who are part of the community to get involved in making the neighborhood better for everyone. Let’s continue working to make Lyons a better place to live.