An editorial appearing in the Denver Post 11-13-2019 by Mayor Wellington Webb
The definition of the word conservation is “prevention of wasteful use of a resource,” and Colorado conservation easements are voluntary, legal agreements that permanently limit uses of land in order to protect its conservation values for future generations. Until June of this year, Colorado conservation easements like the one that preserves the Park Hill Golf Course land open space could be terminated simply with the mutual agreement of the two parties that created them.
In 2017 the Denver city administration and the landowner, Clayton Trust, thought they would be able to terminate the conservation easement between themselves simply with a wink and a nod and city council approval. Had it not been for Arcis Golf, the company that operated the golf course crying foul, termination of that agreement would have flown under the radar, tucked into a measure for a vote by Denver City Council to approve the sale and development of that 155-acre, tree-filled green space.
Then, in July, Westside Investment Partners, Inc., a real estate development company, purchased the Park Hill Golf Course land for a price far in excess of the land’s appraised value, encumbered as the land was with a perpetual conservation easement and “open space-recreation zoning” in place. They speculated that they would be able to terminate the easement and change the open space-recreation zoning easily — but they were wrong.
This year the Colorado General Assembly took action with a dedicated group of conservation-minded nonprofit land trusts — members of the statewide coalition Keep It Colorado — to successfully strengthen the law governing the termination of conservation easements. On June 30, 2019, House Bill 1264 amended the Colorado conservation easement statute. HB 1264 establishes a higher standard for the entire state and puts the true intent of perpetual conservation easements into practice.
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Webb_ Park Hill Golf Course land can and must be preserved under new conservation law
Mayor Michael Hancock posted this on his Face Book Page November 7:
“Let me set the record straight about the future of Park Hill Golf Course. The easement on the property states the property can only be a golf course – not open space – and the settlement reached with the property owner means that easement remains in place. I want the community to guide the future use of the property, and the settlement ensures this.”
“You should have the facts. Here they are.
Here is the SOS Denver response mailed to the City:
Read the entire letter here or by pressing the letter image
The legal battles are over, but the future for the 155-acre Denver property is as murky as ever.
The Denver skyline stands tall behind the Park Hill Golf Club. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
From the Denverite
The City of Denver reached a settlement with the owners of a golf course in Park Hill this week, forking over $6 million to put an end to a complex series of legal battles.
The settlement ends all of pending litigation over the property but does not add any sort of clarity to the future of the 155 acres of land, which has embroiled the city, open space advocates and the various owners and operators of the golf course for years.
The agreement between the city and the property’s owner, Westside Investment Partners, will maintain a long-standing conservation easement on the land, which prohibits development on the property. The agreement gives Westside at least three years to finalize their plans for the property and start a public engagement process to vet other possible uses for the land. To develop the property, Westside would need to get City Council approval to remove the conservation easement and rezone the property.
According to city officials, the settlement was designed to allow the city to disentangle itself from the legal mess surrounding the golf course, while still giving Denverites some say in what happens on the private property.
“My priorities for the property and for the neighborhood have always been preserving open space and extensive community input. This agreement ensures we will have both,” Mayor Michael Hancock said via a press release Tuesday. “The easement will be preserved while the neighbors who are most impacted by this property will be able to guide its future use.”
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