The May 22 letter written by Robert Brakenridge was encouraging in one way. Robert demonstrates the vital aspect of public engagement in our town’s process as we decide how to tackle the issue of replacement housing in the flood’s aftermath. This is, unfortunately, where my encouragement ended. Mr. Brakenridge makes several points that are just not accurate, and it is important that as we have this town-wide conversation, facts are honored.
First, it is asserted that the Town of Lyons is seeking federal funds to expand the population of Lyons. The Board of Trustees (BOT) has consistently stated that the immediate goal of any development is to replace the housing that was lost. This was first stated by the previous board in March when it chose options defined by the Housing Recovery Task Force that focused on numbers that range from developing housing for those who wish to return up to the number of rooftops that were lost. This approach was reaffirmed by the current BOT on May 5, when it identified the three parcels for further study. The Lyons Comprehensive Plan does state that we need to address the lack of work force and affordable housing, and I see no reason for the Board of Trustees to take this important need off of the table as we decide how to replace what was lost.
Mr. Brakenridge mentions the expansion of Lyons Valley Park and appears to imply that this expansion will address the replacement and affordable housing needs of Lyons. The expansion of Lyons Valley Park will in no way address the housing needs of our displaced residents since the price range of these homes well exceeds the value of the homes that were lost. In conjunction with this statement, another piece of this puzzle Mr. Brackenridge misunderstands is the role of the Housing Authority. Just because the Housing Authority has helped us write grants and analyze potential sites, this does not guarantee that they will be hired as the master developer needed to guide the town through this process. Additionally, their involvement does not in any way mean that the development built will be a “large authority owned project(s)” as Mr. Brakenridge states. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Any development that occurs will use a variety of ownership models that meet the needs of our residents. On the table, but yet undetermined, are private development, community land trusts, Habitat for Humanity involvement, and yes some publicly held rental units that will help meet the needs of displaced residents who cannot meet the financial requirements of a bank to qualify for a loan or afford to rent in Lyons’ very competitive private rental market. The housing types and ownership models will be decided based upon what will meet the needs of Lyons and our residents.
Mr. Brakenridge also cites the Community Planning Assistance Team’s (CPAT) mention of the Valley Bank as a viable location for a dense housing development. He fails to mention that at the May 15 CPAT presentation, the north part of Bohn Park was also touted as an excellent parcel along with a road passing through Bohn Park that connects 2nd Avenue to Highway 7 creating more connectivity in town and helping to mitigate against future floods. The CPAT’s purpose was to engage Lyons residents in re-envisioning the lens by which we view our town, specifically the confluence area, and how to realize our love for the rivers and their economic benefits balanced with the hazards the rivers create. To be clear, the purpose of the CPAT team was not to create housing solutions. The public can learn more about CPAT at http://www.planning.org/communityassistance/teams/lyons/. To describe the Valley Bank location as an official housing recommendation is misleading to the CPAT intended purpose and omits important information.
Furthermore, when the Housing Recovery Task Force (HRTF) hosted a Q&A with private developers, Bohn Park and in particular the north side of Bohn Park was repeatedly mentioned as one of the best sites in Town to consider. The other parcel that Mr. Brakenridge finds acceptable is the Hawkins property. Most of this land is not currently developable under the current IGA (intergovernmental agreement) with Boulder County. The Hawkins property is not owned by the Town of Lyons and the BOT felt it appropriate to name properties for further study owned by the Town. There have not been any proposals or requests submitted to the BOT by private landowners stating interest in their land being part of the Town of Lyons housing recovery efforts. The closest any land owner has come to this is the Talmage property on CR69 and it was made clear that this project would be an effort independent of the town housing recovery planning, other than support for annexation.
The final part of Mr. Brakenridge’s letter that needs to be addressed is the notion that a false choice has been set forth by the Board of Trustees. Again, the public process is important, but hyperbole needs to be avoided. At no time have I heard a Trustee or the Mayor refer to this being a choice between a development and our displaced residents. Statements such as these are counterproductive to the goals in mind.
I sincerely hope that Mr. Brakenridge, as well as all area residents continue to engage in this very important conversation. Our town has changed and there is no way around that. Let’s stick to facts and figure out the best way to move forward with the goal of replacing the housing that was lost and getting as many people back home as possible. With that in mind, please refer to the articles written by the HRTF in our local papers and by reading updates on the Lyons Recovery Website (http://www.lyonsrecovery.com/housing-task-force.html)
Trustee, Town of Lyons