Resolution Supporting The Continued Protection of The Park Hill Golf Course Land Conservation Easement
The Democratic Party of Denver Central Committee Meeting, January 25, 2020
WHEREAS The Platform of The Democratic Party of Denver states in its opening paragraph that “We stand for individual freedom and the needs of the community. We believe government should serve all the people. We believe the economy should be democratically owned and controlled in order to serve the needs of the many, not
to make profits for the few”; and
WHEREAS The Platform of The Democratic Party of Denver goes on to say that “We must protect land, water and air as we manage growth and modernize our transportation and energy infrastructure. We must conserve limited water resources and expand and preserve Denver’s parks, wetlands and green and open spaces;” and
WHEREAS the Platform of The Colorado Democratic Party states in its values-centered preamble that “Colorado is beautiful. And we want to keep it that way. Our economy and health depend on it. The health of our land, air, and
water–and the health of future generations–cannot be bought and sold;” and
WHEREAS The Platform of The Colorado Democratic Party goes on, in its section on Environment, to say that
• “Our local, state, and national leaders must manage growth, pollution, and the extraction of natural resources while providing for the long term protection of our people, our communities, and our environment over and above the interests of short term needs and profits.”
• that “we oppose selling public lands outright or leasing them at minimal rates, except for the purpose of conservation or protection of ecology, habitat, and contained species;”
• that “We support public and private efforts to conserve and preserve land through open space programs; we support coordinated regional and state control of growth and open space acquisition;”
• and that “We call for expanding and strengthening local and state conservation easement programs;” and
WHEREAS the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) land is zoned Open Space-Recreation (OS-B) and since 1997 it has been protected by the perpetual open space conservation easement that Denver taxpayers paid $2 million for under the Webb administration; and
WHEREAS the land was purchased in July, 2019 by Westside Investments (WI) at well over the market value for land designated as open space but well under the market value for land to be developed; and
WHEREAS WI is reportedly working to find a way to remove the conservation easement from the land; and
WHEREAS Denver voters overwhelming supported Referred Measure 2A on the ballot in 2018 to provide $45.94 million to acquire additional land for parks, trails, and open space and to improve and maintain new and existing parks, trails, and open space in Denver; and
WHEREAS the 155-acre PHGC land is the largest remaining undeveloped tract that potentially could be available to fill the park shortages in Denver; and
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that we, The Central Committee of The Democratic Party of Denver, call for Denver City Council’s continued protection of the perpetual open space conservation easement for the Park Hill Golf Course land and oppose any effort to remove the conservation easement from the land.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution shall be sent to the members of Denver’s City Council and to a comprehensive list of Denver media outlets.
By Sara Flemming Westword Jan 8 2020
There has been no shortage of strong opinions on what should happen to the historic 155-acre land that was once Park Hill Golf Course after Westside Investments bought the property in a controversial sale last July. Some residents have been vocal about their desire for the entirety of the land to remain open space. Others want to see affordable housing or a grocery store.
The uncertain future of the land has stirred tension in the historic neighborhood, and Westside and the city have long promised a public community planning process before any big moves. The city’s Community Planning and Development (CPD) department now confirms that it will kick off a formal “small area planning” process for the property some time in 2020 — despite an active conservation easement that prevents the land from becoming anything but a golf course, much less being developed.
“We need to engage the community and have a conversation about what we want to happen,” says Sarah Showalter, the city’s interim planning manager.
The city will facilitate a series of public meetings led by selected community members who reside, work or are otherwise involved in the neighborhoods surrounding the golf course. They will discuss their preferences on issues such as land use, transportation, density, design, parks and other aspects of urban planning. Within about a year after the process starts, CPD will produce a lengthy document that will outline a vision for the golf course, ideally based on a consensus reached by those involved.
Laura Swartz, CPD’s communications director, clarifies that the small area planning process will be separate from Westside’s efforts to remove or modify the conservation easement, which will require approval from Denver City Council, and possibly approval by a judge. Open-space advocates sent a letter to city council and the mayor in October, citing an attorney who wrote that because of a 2019 state statute change she helped draft, removing any conservation easement requires a judge’s declaration that the easement’s original conservation purpose has become impossible to fulfill. The city says it believes there is a clear legal path to removing the easement, though the Denver City Attorney’s Office has not elaborated on what that will entail. If Westside cannot remove the conservation easement, it may be liable to restore the property to a golf course at its own expense.