Dear Editor,A couple of years ago, the Lyons Recorder was full of articles about the Town’s disappearing revenues and the dire need for budget cuts and new revenue sources. It seems the Town had been keeping its budget balanced by charging large fees for each new home built; this kept the population growing (and needing additional services), but could only last as long as there was land available for building new homes (assuming there was financing available for both the developers and the potential home buyers, which there was before the “housing bubble” burst).
In the long process of updating the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, we heard repeatedly that in order for Lyons to be economically sustainable, it would be necessary to move to a more stable economic base. This included adding employment, which generates additional sales tax when local employees spend their income locally. With spirit, the Town also encouraged local residents to shop locally. With good management and a skillful Mayor, the Town has received grant funding for major improvements downtown, which promote additional publicity and good will. With great persistence, the Town has recently negotiated with Boulder County to allow for future annexation into the Town’s jurisdiction of lands just east of Lyons, for purposes outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. The Plan (also approved by Boulder County, per State Statutes), designates the Eastern Planning Areas as Employment Area “due to the urgent need for well-planned commercial development to provide employment opportunities and generate tax revenue that will see the Town through the current global economic crises and sustain the Town’s unique character in the decades ahead.”
As the Town prepares the details of how such employment development will be encouraged, ways to maintain Lyons’ small-town character, and scenic natural environment must be addressed. I think it would be useful to think of East Lyons as the “industrial” support section of the downtown artistic community. We need both. There are many industrial land uses that may be less compatible with our downtown spirit than franchise businesses (which are often a way for local people to afford to participate in a business). Recently I was one of many who received an email message with alarming messages about the takeover of Lyons by “ill-advised and inappropriate development” that would destroy the spirit of Lyons (franchises).
I wonder, if a person could look back over the past 150 years, how many times this fear arose. Just look at the many different sections of town and how they reflect the spirit of their own particular eras. Personally, I like the quirkiness of Lyons’ development, although I couldn’t really call it beautiful. Yesterday on the way to Rocky Mountain Park, I noticed that the entrance to Estes Park has a number of well-placed, well-included businesses that would fit the definition of “formula business.” None was intrusive or less interesting than the surrounding local businesses. I would encourage anyone frightened about these businesses destroying the spirit of Lyons to visit Estes Park, Boulder, and other communities to see how well-designed, small buildings with small identifying signs can fit into an existing community.
Having worked in local governments for 30 years, and half of that in Planning, I believe it is possible to find both economic sustainability and sustainability of our small-town spirit and small-town character. Lyons is strong, thoughtful, creative, and attractive. We need an economic base to support a much larger population than when we had only a few families supported by stone quarries.
Thanks to all who have worked hard to get us where we are now. It’s time to plan for the next steps, so our bills can be paid in the future. Let’s find a way to develop East Lyons to support downtown, the natural environment, and all we hold dear. Let’s not limit our chances by reacting in fear to new development that can support our wonderful artistic community.