Re: Character of Lyons, and Zoning in Eastern CorridorI have lived just outside of the Lyons Town Limits for almost 36 years. During this time I have been employed in the Town, attended Church in the Town, volunteered in the Town, and two of my children graduated from Lyons Middle/Senior High School. I participated in the formulation of the updated Town Comprehensive Plan as a member of the Community Advisory Committee. Our family might be considered one of those Pioneer Families since we have been in Boulder County since 1898.
I have seen many changes take place here. I believe that many of these changes have been for the better. Whether by luck or wisdom, Lyons has been able to maintain a small-town character, with award winning schools, in spite of or perhaps due to, all of the new housing development that has come about in the last 35 years. Come to think of it, many of the people who are active in the town now are living in those homes. Lyons has managed to maintain its unique personality even though Diamond Shamrock, ReMax Realty, Coldwell Banker, Subway, Bank of the West, True Value, Valley Bank, and Milestone Medical just to name a few of what might be considered “formula” businesses have existed in and around the town borders.
When I first moved here there were no Music Festivals, no Art Walks, and no Lyons Community Foundation among other things. The growth and changes that have come seem to have added value to the community not detracted from it. How does a community decide when it is time to shut the door and stop further development? When “I’ve got mine”? It is hard to know where the balance is.
Members of the community spent many thoughtful hours formulating the Lyons Comprehensive Plan. One of the “Guiding Principles” was to balance the demands of trying to achieve environmental and economic sustainability. That included commercial and job growth which would expand the employment opportunities and generate additional revenue for the Town. A desire was expressed to make Lyons more self sufficient with the addition of an affordable grocery store, convenient lodging for visitors, and additional businesses that might preclude spending gas money on trips to neighboring towns for services- shopping local.. Many of these businesses require space to build. One way to achieve this is to have the potential of annexation of adjacent land before it is totally surrounded by Boulder County Open Space.
At the moment the Town is formulating the zoning for the Eastern Corridor to attract businesses that will complement the downtown area and be compatible with Lyons’ unique small-town character and quality of life. There are numerous land uses allowed to achieve these ends. The issue at hand is the treatment of any of these businesses if they fall under the definition of a “formula”/”chain” business. This would apply to businesses such as: Best Western, Holiday Inn Express, University of Phoenix, H&R Block, Great Harvest Bread, Starbucks, Sunflower Market, City Market, Noodles and Co., Wok & Roll, Mad Greens, Panera Bread, Great Clips, Good Times, and Jamba Juice to name just a few potential businesses.
There is a proposal that these businesses would be required to go through an additional review process at considerable expense and time with no surety that they would receive approval at the end of the process. In this economic environment when Lyons is competing with other towns that are giving additional incentives to attract businesses, a virtual roadblock such as this would effectively turn these businesses away if they were even in line to begin with!
The ability to generate new jobs and new tax revenue requires that some entity build on (“develop”!) a piece of land. Even small, independent businesses move into buildings that already exist. Now comes the sticky part. That requires someone with money or the ability to borrow money. That is a scenario that is becoming rarer in these economic times. When a developer contemplates building a structure, and attempts to acquire funding for this endeavor, a potential viable tenant must be part of the equation. The reality is that businesses such as “chains” or “formula businesses”, tend to have a better track record than “Mom and Pop”, and creative upstart businesses. Lenders are more likely to support projects that have at least one or two businesses with proven success. Virtually ruling out these types of businesses will put Lyons at a disadvantage in trying to achieve our economic goals.
Lyons has had a reputation of not being business friendly in the past and this will not dispel that impression.
Which is fine if that is what the community of Lyons as a whole wishes to have happen. And it will happen unless you let the BOT know your wishes for it to be otherwise.
Squeaky wheels get the grease and there is a contingent of people in town who are opposed to some of the development discussed. You may have heard warnings of “Big Box” stores, urban sprawl, unbridled development, putting at risk or destroying the uniqueness of Lyons that we know and love, “cookie cutter development”, silent takeovers, and assaults to Lyons’ character to name just a few. Scare tactics can be both effective and dangerous and I’m sorry to find them in the discussions of how to move The Town of Lyons forward.
There are many individuals in this town- with divergent needs and desires. Everyone is in agreement wanting to maintain Lyons’ small-town character - but that needs to be defined before that can be done. It means different things to different people. For some, any change at all is detrimental, for others there is a desire for more access to affordable services. Lyons is a wonderful place to be a self-sustaining artist/poet/ musician but where can our kids find jobs locally? There is great income disparity in this town- what can be done to keep everyone happy?
Studies have shown that locally owned businesses retain more revenue to circulate in a town. It is also true that corporate businesses have lower operating costs and efficiencies that keep them affordable. In addition, many are able to provide employees with health and vacation benefits that “Mom and Pop” businesses do not. They are often generous in donating to local communities with goods, services, and matching fund programs. It should be about the uses that are needed and desired, not who owns the business.
Lyons will always be different from “Anytown USA”. Mother Nature has taken care of that with the red rock cliffs and the St. Vrain running through. As long as consideration is given to requirements of design and green building standards, respecting and protecting natural areas, it will continue to be a beautiful gem of a town. There’s not enough room for an outlet mall, and strip malls wouldn’t work in the design guidelines. Worry or fear about a Wal-Mart or a Costco or a Home Depot can be alleviated by limiting the square footage allowed in retail businesses.
As far as the appearance of the Eastern Corridor providing a Gateway to Lyons and a first impression is concerned, it would not be too hard to improve upon the existing gateways- a large tube across the highway or a prison-style chain link bridge over the St. Vrain River.
The point here is that those who live in Lyons know who they are and are not defined by the businesses in town, especially those that make living here more sustainable. The Eastern Corridor could serve a different population than Downtown Lyons. There has long been talk about how to get the thousands of people driving through town on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park to stop here. Travelers tend to stop and spend money at places that are recognizable and reliable- “formula businesses”. Our kids would not have to drive from the high school to Longmont for their lunch break or informal dates, and might actually get some fast, affordable, healthy food in this area. The Eastern Corridor might be able to provide a needed place for entry level jobs for young people in our community. The high school students expressed both of these needs during the Comp Plan workshops. At the same time, the downtown area could maintain its charm and grace– for those whose needs are met in that area, those who want something more unique and want to “sit a spell”, have a more leisurely shopping or dining experience, and interact with the community
Maintaining the small-town character is important for those who were here before, for those who are here now, and for those who might want to come in the future. There are many ways to achieve this that could help Lyons meet its ability to be economically sustainable without ruling out business we may actually want.
Thanks for letting me express my views. What are your opinions? The BOT is asking for public input to help them with this decision. Please communicate your thoughts to them now, or at the Public Hearing of the Second Reading of the Ordinance at the next BOT meeting June 6th, 2011 at 7:00 pm.
Old Lovers Lane- East of Lyons