City Council Split on Putting Park Hill Golf Club Question on Ballot

Westword | May 19, 2020 | 5:22am

The Park Hill Golf Course remains one of the largest expanses of open space in metro Denver…for now. Anthony Camera

In the pre-COVID-19 era, proponents of maintaining a conservation easement on the Park Hill Golf Club planned to gather enough signatures to land an initiative on the November 2020 ballot.

“Some things are really inviolable, and they should be. Like open space,” says Woody Garnsey, a leader of Save Open Space Denver, the group that’s fighting for the preservation of the conservation easement. Depending on whom you ask, that easement prevents the land from being used for anything other than a park or for anything other than a golf course.

Now, however, with signature-gathering next to impossible until both the state and city work out kinks in a possible electronic signature-gathering process, proponents of the initiative have found an ally in Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who is pushing for Denver City Council to refer the initiative to the November ballot.

FULL ARTICLE HERE

Denver City Council Debating Park Hill Golf Club Question _ Westword5-19-20

Denver Parks and Recreation Board White Paper

The PRAB approved the below recommendations to the DPR Executive Director Happy Haynes which include a recommendation that the city acquire the PHGC land for a park.

Approved by Parks and Recreation Advisory Board May13, 2020

We, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, recommend to the Executive Director the following for 2020 and 2021:

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we recommend immediately and indefinitely:

An immediate increase in funding for rangers, maintenance, and sanitary facilities (e.g., hand-washing stations and restrooms) on DPR land including parks, trails and parkways. Evaluate and establish protocols and potential safety measures that consider any additional health and safety procedures (e.g., equipment cleaning, etc.).

Consideration of access to our municipal golf courses for pedestrian use of the paved golf cart trails.

 

  • Pursuit of the purchase of the Park Hill Golf Course open space at current market value using the unspent funds from 2019 158-2A tax collections ($26.565 million). We understand that this would be a departure from our earlier recommendations; we feel that the current economic conditions and our current cash-rich position enable us to acquire this land and we see it as a very important addition to our park system. Our intention is to recommend the purchase of this land and to recommend its preservation as zoned open space (OS). The land’s use, whether as a golf course and/or other recreational uses, should be determined through the regular DPR public outreach process after the land is acquired.
  • Achieve and implement a pilot cooperative relationship with DPS for the purpose of developing a significant amenity and/or property access consistent with Game Plan’s goal of ten-minute accessibility.

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Ballot measure targeting Park Hill golf course land would require a vote to develop Denver open space

At least one city council member wants local legislators to refer the measure to the ballot to protect the public from collecting signatures during a pandemic.

The Denver skyline stands tall behind the Park Hill Golf Club. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

By David Sachs Denverite 5/11/2020

Activists who want to stop homes and businesses from being built on a defunct Park Hill golf course have pitched a ballot measure that would require Denverites to vote before development could occur on that site and other park-like lands in the city.

The Park Hill open space saga is long and complicated, but here’s the quick-and-dirty:

There are 155 acres of grass and trees sitting along Colorado Boulevard, fenced off to the public, that once housed the Park Hill Golf Club. Some people want to see the land rise into a new district of homes, businesses and parks. Others want to see the land preserved and used as a public park.

Westside Investment Partners, a development firm, owns the land. The company has plans to build places to live, work and play near the 40th and Colorado RTD station. While a $6 million settlement last year ensured a public process and approval from the Denver City Council prior to any development, some open space advocates say a 1997 conservation easement on the site prevents any development at all.

The ballot measure, filed by five activists including former state legislator and Denver mayoral candidate Penfield Tate III, would make Westside’s plans for the property moot.

FULL ARTICLE FOUND HERE

Ballot measure targeting Park Hill golf course land would require a vote to develop Denver open space – Denverite, the Denver site!

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