Flood of Opportunity

IMG_1758I think everyone knows that the Town of Lyons and our surrounding community was changed forever in the flood of September 12th, 2013.   Those few days brought immediate devastation to a significant percentage of the community, as well as shutting down the town for a couple of months.  No one was untouched.  Unfortunately, though many were not flooded, no one in the community is unscathed.

As the unfolding story continues, we as a community are faced with how to respond to the changes that have been forced upon us.  And these cataclysmic changes are asking us to step up and make some hard decisions for the healing and health of our community.

I am starting with a premise that we as a community do want to heal and mitigate the damage to those who have been displaced and to our greater community.  From here I feel that we need to be willing to consider all options – many of which were unthinkable before the flood.

I have been going to the Housing Recovery Task Force meetings for several months, listening to a process that has been focusing on where replacement housing that meets the demographics of those displaced, could be.  I am also personally bringing forth a potential project  with cutting edge sustainable development, as an idea of what could be possible.

The task force has done extensive and excellent work evaluating possible properties specifically for replacement housing.  What they have come up with weeded through a lot of different options and concluded with land that has the greatest list of benefits with possibly the least amount of challenges.

After some of these ideas were presented at the March 8th open house, I heard some concerns from the community that are understandable, yet I believe are also manageable.   This is a process that we are in.  There is fear and sadness, as more are realizing that more change is needed to truly heal the community.

I want to talk about some themes that I have heard and would like to address them from my perspective.

“My property value will go down if we have an affordable housing development next door (or in town)”.

The focus for the new housing will be to meet multiple criteria and needs based on what was lost.  Unfortunately, what was lost did affect a high number in the lower income demographic in the community.  Thus, the new housing does need to be affordable for those who lost their homes.  That said, there are many ways that this can be accomplished that are and can be considered.

This community has always been economically diverse, and I believe this is one of the reasons it is an interesting, rich and desirable place to live for many people.

We live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  We are still less expensive than Boulder, so I don’t think we have hit the ceiling.  If we build beautifully, sustainably, and desirably, we will be even more desirable.  I have no doubt that we will have continued input on the ideas brought forward, and that whatever we do will only add to the value of the community.

“We can’t loose our open space (dog park – GOCO land).”

One of the main tenets of the task force from the beginning was “no net loss of open space”.  The reality of the flood is that the town (entire community) will be ending up with more open space where people lost their homes and it is not feasible to rebuild.  It has been hard to communicate this specifically, as there are many people up in the air on their status until the FEMA buyouts come through.  The bottom line is, there will be a new place for the dog park.  There will be places for the festival visitors to park.  There will be reasonable road access.  Dealing with these issues are all part of the process.

There are people who live near the current open spaces who could have their views, tranquility, and access to parks changed by more residential housing around them.  This is where the reality of no one being unscathed comes in.  I know this is distressing and I believe that people do care about the impact on those close to any new development.  Because of this I believe we need to, and will be, as sensitive as possible while designing new neighborhoods.

I’ve heard some people say: “let’s put them up in Stone Canyon, or build some high-density housing on a small piece of land in town (or east of town)”.

I think it is fair to replace similar property for what the town will gain and people have lost.  This means; closer to town, yards, etc.  I think this is why people live in Lyons and not in Boulder.

“We can’t remove conservation easements or change open space.”

Boulder County has removed or traded conservation easements and open space in the past. It is a case-by-case evaluation.  This is just one item that I think should be on the list of things on the table after the flood.  If doing this as part of the rebuilding makes sense for the community as a whole, then there is a good chance that the easements could be lifted with whatever conditions make sense.

“Boulder County, Town of Lyons, the task force members, some developers, etc. just want to build a development and are using the flood as an excuse.”

I have talked to Boulder County people working closely with us, as well as knowing the people on the task force very well.  Everyone is concerned with meeting the needs of the community – both with those who need homes as well as how it will impact the greater community.  I don’t see any ulterior motives here.  When I hear comments like this, I feel they add a layer of distrust and drama that does not help the conversation.  Before you say things like this, please make sure you have proof that there is something that seems improper, and then address them directly through the proper channels.  Come to the meetings.  Listen and participate in the discussion.  Please don’t make assumptions and accusations without real understanding of what is going on.  The town has many checks and balances to assure fair business practices and transparent processes.  I can’t say that nothing like this has never happened in the past, but I can speak for what I am seeing now.

This brings me to “conflict of interest”.

No one is free from a conflict of interest.  Some people have what they want and don’t want to “lose” it.  Others have lost everything and really need somewhere to go.  There are renters who lost their home and could not find a place in town because there is now less total housing.  I believe it is fair and beneficial to at a minimum, replace what we had, and be open to more if it makes sense.  There are people who have land that want to help and may “gain” something out of this (market rate value)?  I am interested in supporting the needed new housing by facilitating leading edge sustainable design, which is the kind of housing that I too would like to live in. Everyone has a stake in this.  The question is, can we come together and have honest and open conversations about how we truly and fairly meet the needs of individuals and the greater community?

I’m re-reading one of my favorite inspirational books:  The Impossible Will Take a Little While.  It has many stories about average people who persevered in making transformational changes in the world.  It has inspired me to stay engaged in this conversation and work towards solutions that achieve what is for the highest good for this community.  It is inspiring me to stand up to the fears being voiced and to have the perseverance to work through the concerns.  It is hard, sad, and scary for me – especially since I care about so many of my friends who are all impacted on both sides – (as if there actually were sides).  And I also know this is normal.

I want to say to those who have been displaced, please know that you are cared about and that I, and others, will continue to work to help you (all of us).  And we need to hear your voice, and what you want and need.  I also want those who are scared and uncertain about the changes you may feel are being thrust upon you, to know that every decision can include your voice and, at the same time, I offer you an invitation to be part of the solution(s).  Finally, I want to inspire those who have been working to help, to not get discouraged and stop doing what you feel is right.  We need you.

Right now we have an opportunity to grow as individuals and as a community.  Together we can work through our real and imagined fears and concerns.  I know we all can choose to step into our greatest selves and find creative and inspiring solutions.  Change has come to Lyons.  We now have a flood of opportunity to respond in ways that will make Lyons better than ever for everyone.

I have finished the Song, Higher Ground  – with its final ending:

We’ve climbed to higher ground
And watched our small town drown
But we will rise again
Cause together we are strong
Together we are strong
And everyone belongs…..

With love and appreciation,
Diane Dandeneau

12 Responses to “Flood of Opportunity”

  1. Carrie Says:

    Thank you

  2. Mary E Hunt Says:

    Many who lived in the confluence area and who have been displaced were seniors and of the low income group . Some of them had lived in Lyons a good portion of their lives and through hard work and good management had been able to stay in their homes in their beloved Lyons. They have worked hard in the community given back of themselves to build the community in their retirement years only to lose everything in the flood,Whoever made these comments should ask themselves WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO BUILD LYONS. Property value is one thing community service is another

  3. Diane Says:

    Mary, I know a couple of these people, and I know they have done a lot. Others, I don’t know. I am also pointing out that there is fear and grieving that everyone is going through and this is an invitation to come together and heal together. Thank you for writing.

  4. Lee Says:

    The real bottom line is that living in Lyons is not cheap. We can talk about putting in affordable housing all day long but in the end, services here are ridiculously high. If Lyons REALLY wants to do something for low income people, they should start by making utilities affordable instead of increasing them and wanting to have them on a steady increase so other BOT don’t have to face it. (that’s the summary of the talk last increase). The FACT of the matter is that Lyons needs to manage what they have better. We have a great agreement with power provider.. if we don’t go over so many watts. Once we do it jumps to a higher rate and we are charged that for the entire day. If the town was smart, they’d put in battery back ups so at the peak times these generators would kick in and keep us at the lower usage rate, thus saving us the expense. Instead the town passes their problems onto the customers.

  5. Diane Says:

    Hi Lee,
    Thanks for your comment. I am actually working on a grant that might bring batteries and solar to town. That said, it is WAY more expensive to buy them than purchase from our power supplier. The reality is costs are going up and It is expensive to live here. I also want to point out that WE are the TOL and the BOT is a subset of us. And we can always to better. I think the utility costs are being reviewed again and so, hopefully they can be aligned more fairly in the future.

  6. Lois Says:

    Thank you Diane.

  7. Mark Browning Says:

    Very thoughtful and well put. I agree that the housing task force has done a thorough, excellent job, with everything open to the public. Lyons wasn’t an easy place to build housing before the flood, and it’s much more difficult after the flood. The community as a whole has some tough choices to make, including answering the “big picture” question of: “Are we willing to sacrifice some things we value — parkland, money, time, views — to recover the community’s economic and cultural diversity?” I hope the answer is yes, though there will be disagreements about the best way to do that. As Mayor Von Damelen said last night, ongoing, open public dialogue without rumor-mongering and unnecessarily personal comments can lead us a to a collective decision that is in the best interest of the Town as a whole.

  8. Mystie Brackett Says:

    Thank you, Diane, for a balanced, inside view of one of the recovery processes. There’s such an inner impulse to ‘want to know’ and, in situations like this, there are alot of unknowns. I appreciate your invitation to become involved in the process and to check out one’s own fears as well as rumors before fanning any fires. My experience in savvy, intelligent groups such as Lyons citizens is that most people are operating from an honest, sincere place and those who have a personal agenda reveal themselves by it and get spit out. My point is, lean into the process, trust the process, become part of the process or, at least, allow it to work.

  9. Diane Says:

    Thank you both, Mark and Mystie for adding your voices.

  10. :aVern Johnson Says:

    Hi Diane: You should send your letter to Letter to the Editor. it has good thinking, and certain gives us the feel of those displaced. Yes, we need to get them back; in spite of the Open space, the Dog Park, whatever..We need to “put ourselves into their shoes”.
    As to the utility bills..we would all like them cheaper, but with 900 households to pay for the infrastructre, it is high. I do say the town is trying, but have not found anything good solution.
    As in all businesses, we have to pay our employees the going wage, or lose them to other towns..which we have done several times in the past. I don’t know any answers, but we are trying.
    LaVern 303 823 5925

  11. Emilyn Inglis Says:

    Thank you for a look at the situation from many directions. It’s important for us to remember that we are in a grieving process, so we may respond differently than we might usually do. We’re probably feeling a bit more fearful than usual; thank you for responding to the fears.

  12. Deborah Davis Says:

    Dear Diane, thank you for publicly leading the way from love, faith and trust. I agree with you that this is such a great opportunity for so much, as yet, unseen benefits to blossom out of the tender process of meeting the needs of so much diversity. I can imagine that for some people who are challenged with any kind of change in their lives that this has all be very huge and frightening for them. Such a situation really demands compassion from everyone. From that space, it is my experience, that miracles will happen and the processes will become more easeful and even more brilliant. Blessings on this outward (and inward) journey for everyone effected.