‘Flood’ Category

Flood of Opportunity

Monday, March 17th, 2014

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