Save Open Space Denver is asking City Council to place the “Let Denver Vote” charter amendment on the November 3 ballot. The charter amendment would preserve open space by requiring a city-wide vote before any present or future city-owned conservation easement is cancelled or before there can be residential or commercial construction on land protected by such an easement. The charter amendment would protect the perpetual open space conservation easement on the Park Hill Golf Course land in the same way that the charter now protects designated park land.
What can you do? Urge Council to place the charter amendment on the November 3 ballot. The Council will consider the measure at its meetings on August 17th and 23rd. Please send an email (and ask at least five of your Denver friends, family members and neighbors to send emails) before August 17 to each Council member, either in your own words or by cutting and pasting the following suggested subject line and email text. The Council email addresses below can be copied and pasted as a group into the emails. If you have a personal connection with any City Council members, please consider both sending a personal email to them and sending the group email to the others.
The Conservation Easement Granted July 11, 2019 by the George W. Clayton Trust to the City of Denver
I. What Is the Language of the Conservation Easement Covering the Park Hill Golf Course Land?
a. The “Conservation Easement” granted July 11, 2019 by the George W. Clayton Trust to the City of Denver and recorded at Reception No. 2019090259 (“the 2019 Conservation Easement”) is clearly labeled “Conservation Easement” in the heading. The 2019 Conservation Easement preserves the entire 155 acres of the Park Hill Golf Course land (“PHGC Land”) as open space.
b. The fourth Whereas Clause of the 2019 Conservation Easement states that that Denver “desires to acquire a conservation easement” and that the conservation easement is granted “pursuant to Title 38, Article 30.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes”, commonly referred to as the Colorado Conservation Easement Statute (the “Act”). The Act provides the statutory rules governing all Colorado “conservation easements in gross.” See C.R.S § 38-30.5-101.
c. Paragraph 2 (Grant of Easement) of the 2019 Conservation Easement grants to the City “a perpetual, non-exclusive conservation easement in gross.”
On August 10 2020 some members of SOS Denver appeared at City Council during their open comment period. Shortly after Maria Flora made her comment she received an email from CM Kevin Flynn regarding her comments. Email From Kevin Flynn
See below for the response from Maria Flora on behalf of Save Open Space Denver
VIA EMAIL ONLY
August 11, 2020
Thank you for your email. I am very pleased to have an opportunity to address the issues regarding interpretation of the perpetual open space conservation easement that protects the Park Hill Golf Course land (“the PHGC land conservation easement”) from development.
First of all, I think you would agree that the PHGC land conservation easement is not the best drafted legal document that we’ve ever seen. In fact, there are some internal inconsistencies that I will discuss below.
The starting point for analyzing the PHGC land conservation easement is the Colorado Conservation Easement Statute, C.R.S. §38-30.5-101 et seq. The conservation easement applicable to the PHGC land states explicitly that it was created pursuant to this Colorado statute. Although Clayton and its attorney Bruce James, during Clayton’s ownership of the land, and now Westside, have always wanted to try to diminish the legal effect of the conservation easement by calling it a “use agreement,” it is in fact a conservation easement created under and governed by this Colorado statute.
In relevant part, the statute defines a conservation easement as follows:
a right in the owner of the easement to prohibit or require a limitation upon…a land
area…appropriate to the retaining or maintaining of such land…predominantly in a natural, scenic or open condition, or for wildlife habitat…or recreational…or other use or condition consistent with the protection of open land, environmental quality or life-sustaining ecological diversity…. C.R.S. §38-30.5-101.
An interpretation of the PHGC land conservation easement must begin with an analysis of the conservation purposes that are consistent with this statutory definition of a conservation easement. These overarching conservation purposes are “for the conservation of the [land] as open space” (paragraph 1) and “to maintain [the land’s] scenic and open condition and to preserve [the land] for recreational use” (paragraph 2). These conservation purposes are completely consistent with the statutory definition of a conservation easement and they are the legal essence of the PHGC land conservation easement.
From Greater Park Hill Community Newsletter Aug 2 2020
I take great offense to Kenneth Ho’s letter in the July issue of Greater Park Hill News regarding the development (or not) of the Park Hill Golf Course.
As a principle in Westside Development Partners, the company that wishes to develop the golf course, Mr. Ho stands to make a great deal of money on the project. That’s the business of business, I get that. Yet, in his letter, he’s all about convincing us that Westside’s primary motive is for the betterment of our community. I call bull.
He states that Westside supports a “civil, transparent community process.” Well, the members of Save Open Space Denver are members of our community. They are neighborhood volunteers. They are our community activists. Listen to them. But, no, what Westside wants is the appearance of community input and, then, they will proceed in making as much money as they can off the project. Because why? Because Westside is not a charity: it is a business and the business of business is to make money.
Mr. Ho also refers to green gentrification. He refers to it as “such a big issue that there is an entire field of study around Parks-Related Anti-Displacement Strategies (PRADS).” He infers, I believe, that it’s such a complicated thing we poor, lowly community members cannot possibly understand it. But we do understand it. We understand it all too well.
Further, the very article Ho suggests we read (nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2019/December/greening-without-gentrification/) says “for large park projects in low-income neighborhoods, planning for PRADS needs to begin at the same time as planning a park before investors recognize the potential of new park projects.” Let me repeat that: before investors recognize the potential of new park projects. (What? Did Mr. Ho not bother to read it? Or, did he think we wouldn’t read it?)
Thoughts On Conserving The Park Hill Golf Course
by Maria Flora, Woody Garnsey and Penfield Tate
We are writing to address issues raised in Kenneth Ho’s letter to the editor published in the July issue. We are longtime Park Hill residents and members of Save Open Space Denver. One of us is a practicing attorney and two of us are retired attorneys.
First, it is important to underscore the fact that Stapleton resident Mr. Ho is an employee and part owner of Westside Investment Partners, Inc. Westside is the real estate developer and land speculator that in July 2019 acquired the Park Hill Golf Course land as encumbered by the recorded perpetual conservation easement.
Purchased by Denver taxpayers in 1997, the conservation easement is intended forever to preserve the land for the conservation purposes explained below. Westside purchased the land banking on its ability to use its vast financial resources, its political connections, and its hired gun consultants and lobbyists somehow to break the conservation easement and allow the company to make huge profits on the land. Let there be no mistake—Westside did not purchase the land as Mr. Ho implies to address any perceived community inequities. It bought the land to maximize the company’s profits from developing the land.
Second, Mr. Ho incorrectly interprets the conservation easement in an effort to sell the idea that the easement always requires the land to be used as a golf course.
The starting point for interpreting the conservation easement is to determine its overarching conservation purposes. The conservation purposes are to maintain the land’s “scenic and open condition” and to preserve the land “for recreational use.” The conservation easement defines permitted recreational uses as including a golf course and other “unrelated recreational uses such as ball fields, tennis courts, etc.” All of these permitted uses are consistent with the easement’s conservation purposes.