Conservation Easement Analysis

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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.”

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Letter To Council April 15 2020

Dear City Council Members,

As you surely know, Save Open Space Denver is comprised of the residents of Northeast Park Hill, North Park Hill, South Park Hill, as well as concerned residents of many other Denver neighborhoods.     Our members range in age from their twenties through their eighties, and every age in between.   We are all of diverse backgrounds and cultures, reflecting the diversity for which Greater Park Hill is renowned.   Many work hard at their jobs, some are retired; all have families, and love our community, just as you do.   There is not a single paid member.   We are all volunteers dedicated to our unified purpose of preserving the last large urban open space with mature trees left in Denver, fortuitously located in the section of Denver with the greatest need for it.   The reason the conservation easement protecting the Park Hill Golf Course land was created was to preserve this jewel, in whole, so that it wouldn’t continue to be broken up into small pieces until nothing remained.

Westside Investment Partners (note: they are investors first and foremost — they hire the developers, urban planners, lobbyists and public relations consultants as needed — many of whom perhaps have been in touch with you already) has one goal — to remove all obstacles to turning their $24 million plus investment into a profitable income stream for their investors.   That is fine — that’s what commerce is all about.   However, their interests do not always align with the best interests of the city or more critically, the community.   This is one such case.   We understand and completely agree that there is a critical need for mixed income, workforce and affordable housing in Northeast Park Hill and other amenities desired by the community.   And had Westside chosen to spend $24 million buying up some of the many available vacant or underutilized industrial properties on either side of Colorado Boulevard, including in Skyland, Clayton, or Northeast Park Hill, we would have applauded their vision and commitment to improving the quality of life in our community.   But no, they chose the one health-giving open space that has been the jewel of Park Hill for 90 years — the most obvious candidate for becoming a welcome addition to our parks system — targeting it to come under the blade of a bulldozer.

Save Open Space Denver is not anti-development.   We are pro-smart development. Green field development will necessitate outlandishly expensive infrastructure spending, paid for entirely by the future property buyers.   Since this cost is buried into future property taxes from Metro Tax Districts (controlled by the developer, not the city) rather than being reflected in the selling price of the residences, buyers are lured into purchasing homes that might at first blush appear to be a bit of a stretch, but doable (if you consider $550,000 starting prices affordable), but in reality may strain the finances of all but the upper middle class or wealthier clientele.   That is the formula for gentrification.   Meeting the need for truly affordable, mixed use and workforce housing would be better served if they were built on properties that already provide much of the infrastructure otherwise missing from open space — roads, sidewalks, water, sewer, power, etc.   This is available just a few blocks away from the 40th and Colorado Blvd. commuter rail station, leaving in place the conservation easement and Park Hill Golf Course land unmolested — to some day become the public park for which it is ideally suited.

Save Open Space Denver strenuously opposes the apparent plan of the Community Planning and Development Department to initiate a small area planning process for the Park Hill Golf Course land.  The land is protected by the perpetual open space conservation easement that cannot be terminated without a court order determining that based on changes on or surrounding the land since July 11, 2019 it is impossible to fulfill the conservation purposes of the easement.  These conservation purposes are to maintain the land “predominantly in a natural, scenic, or open condition…or for…recreational…or other use or condition consistent with the protection of open land, environmental quality or life-sustaining ecological diversity.”  As long as the conservation easement is in place, it is a waste of city and citizen resources for CPD to do a small area planning process for the land.

Furthermore, if CPD does in the future initiate some kind of planning process for land that includes the Park Hill Golf Course land, the planning area would properly need to be a significantly larger geographic area east and west of the protected Park Hill Golf Course land likely centered on the 40th and Colorado Blvd. commuter rail station. Such a planning area would allow the city and the involved neighborhoods to address the full range of community needs and desires and identify the appropriate places for residential and commercial development.

Finally, the residents of Denver do not owe a land speculation company any special favors in order to break a covenant made 23 years ago just so the speculator can recover from bad judgment or hubris in picking a controversial location to construct its next investment property.

We look forward to an open and thorough dialog.

For Save Open Space Denver:

Tony Pigford                    Harry Doby

SOS Denver Reply To Mayor and City Attorney

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.

https://www.denvergov.org/…/Park_Hill_Golf_Course_FAQ_amend…

Here is the SOS Denver response mailed to the City:
Read the entire letter here or by pressing the letter image

Open Space advocates claim new state law makes Park Hill Golf Course land off-limits to commercial, residential development

October 21, 2019

Open Space advocates claim new state law makes Park Hill Golf Course land off- limits to commercial, residential development.

Please see the following letter to City Council which includes a statement by Jessica E. Jay. Jessica E Jay has been practicing land conservation law for 21 years. She represents landowners and easement holders including statewide, regional and local land trusts.

Please see the entire letter here