SOS Denver Letter February 5 2021

February 5, 2021

Michael Hancock, Mayor, City and County of Denver [mayorsoffice@denvergov.org]

Laura Aldrete, Executive Director, Denver Community Planning and Development Department [laura.aldrete@denvergov.org]

Allegra “Happy” Haynes, Manager, Denver Parks and Recreation Department [happy.haynes@denvergov.org]

David Gaspers, Principal Planner Principal, Denver Community Planning and Development Department [david.gaspers@denvergov.org]

Courtney L. Levingston, Senior City Planner, Denver Community Planning and Development Department [courtney.levingston@denvergov.org]

Nita Mosby Tyler, The Equity Project LLC [nita@theequityprojectllc.com]

Re: CPD Park Hill Golf Course land “Visioning Process” and Small Area Plan Process

Mayor Hancock, Ms. Aldrete, Ms. Haynes, Mr. Gaspers, Ms. Levingston, and Ms. Tyler—

As you know, Save Open Space Denver (“SOS Denver”) is a grassroots community group that has been working for over four years on issues related to the future of the Park Hill Golf Course (“PHGC”) land open space and conservation easement. Members of SOS Denver have participated in RNO meetings in which Community Planning and Development (“CPD”) has presented a “Visioning Process” and a Small Area Plan Process that CPD is planning to launch, and we now have learned that the first Zoom Steering Committee meeting will take place on February 9, 2021 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

SOS Denver is genuinely concerned that to date this planning process entirely reflects Mayor Hancock’s public support for development of the PHGC land by landowner real estate developer Westside Investment Partners, Inc. (“Westside”). As Ms. Aldrete explained in her January 7, 2021 presentation to the City Council Budget and Policy Committee, the announced planning process for the PHGC land is “market driven by a developer.” Most blatantly, the pro-development bias of this process is reflected in the following:

  • As Ms. Aldrete also explained to the Budget and Policy Committee, CPD inserted this PHGC land planning process ahead of many other planning projects that had been in the CPD planning queue for several years.
  • Although her District 9 Council District abuts the PHGC land on the west along Colorado Boulevard, Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, an opponent of development on the PHGC land, has not been afforded the opportunity to have CPD appoint a Steering Committee member from District 9. On the other hand, District 8 Councilman Chris Herndon, a proponent of development on the land, has been able to have CPD appoint his new PRAB appointee Andre McGregor to the Steering Committee.
  • CPD has loaded the Steering Committee with people who will support development on the PHGC land, and they have already publicly taken positions to that effect.
  • The Steering Committee lacks members who identify as representing the Colorado conservation easement community, the environmental health community, or the public health community.
  • All materials posted to date on the CPD website reflect only the Hancock Administration’s support for development on the PHGC land. For example, since CPD launched the website, it has prominently featured the pro-development video of the October 23, 2020 Brother Jeff Fard interview identified as “Meet the property owners: Westside Investment Partners with the Holleran Group” and it has failed to post videos that Brother Jeff Fard has conducted with open space supporters Penfield Tate and Tony Pigford. For further example, the CPD website has only included City-produced pro-development documents regarding the history of the PHGC land and its conservation easement without providing any balance by including on its website any documents on these same subjects generated by SOS Denver.
  • Mayor Hancock and his administration to date have refused to answer repeated questions from SOS Denver and its members regarding how the City and Westside intend to deal with the conservation easement termination restrictions of the Colorado conservation easement statute as they move forward with their development plans for the PHGC land. When again asked these questions in connection with a recent meeting of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc., the CPD presenters responded that they could not answer “in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege.”

Initially, SOS Denver requests that CPD cease moving forward with any “visioning” or planning process regarding the PHGC land. The PHGC land is protected from development by the conservation easement dated July 11, 2019 and recorded on July 12, 2019 at Reception No. 2019090259. The conservation easement cannot be terminated, released, extinguished, or abandoned without a court order pursuant to C.R.S. §38-30.5-107 that—based on changed conditions on or surrounding the PHGC land since the easement was granted on July 11, 2019—it has become impossible to continue fulfilling the conservation purposes of the easement. Since no such court order has been entered, it is premature as of now for CPD to engage in any such “visioning” or planning process for this land that cannot now be legally developed. Doing so will waste taxpayer money in payments to consultants and other third parties and to city employees working on the project. It will also force interested Denver citizens to unnecessarily spend valuable time and effort.

If the City insists on proceeding with this “visioning” and planning process, it should at the very least be done in an authentic, honest, balanced and transparent manner. That is not happening now. To this end, SOS Denver makes the following requests:

  1. Prior to launching any planning process for the PHGC land, create a balanced Steering Committee that does not reflect Mayor Hancock’s strong desire to support Westside’s development plans for the PHGC land.
  1. Promptly provide SOS Denver and members of the Steering Committee and post on the CPD website a written explanation of why it is now appropriate for CPD to spend the money and to require expenditure of City staff time on a “visioning” and planning process for this land that cannot be developed without a court order pursuant to C.R.S. §38-30.5-107.
  1. Promptly provide SOS Denver and members of the Steering Committee and post on the CPD website a written explanation of facts that would support a judicial determination that based on changed conditions on or surrounding the PHGC land since July 11, 2019—it has become impossible to continue fulfilling the conservation purposes of the PHGC land conservation easement.
  1. Promptly provide SOS Denver and members of the Steering Committee and post on the CPD website a written explanation of how the City intends to comply with the provisions of C.R.S. §38-30.5-107 in connection with any plan for development on the PHGC land. And, if the City takes the position that it does not need to comply with C.R.S. §38-30.5-107, we request a written explanation of the bases for that position.
  1. Promptly add content to the CPD website to provide a balanced and transparent discussion of the Park Hill Golf Course land. The CPD website includes the following documents prepared by the City: (a) “GOLF COURSE USE RESTRICTIONS, Conservation Easement on the Park Hill Golf Course, October 1, 2019” and (b) “PARK HILL GOLF COURSE FAQ, Updated and Revised: November 4, 2019.” For balance, provide to members of the Steering Committee and post on the CPD website the following additional documents:
    1. the SOS Denver document captioned ”What Is A Colorado Conservation Easement?” (attached to this letter)
    2. the SOS Denver document captioned “Analysis of the Park Hill Golf Course Land Conservation Easement” dated December 15, 2020 (attached to this letter)
  1. Promptly add all the Brother Jeff Fard interviews regarding the Park Hill Golf Course land. As stated above, the CPD website includes the video of the October 23, 2020 Brother Jeff Fard’s interview identified as “Meet the property owners: Westside Investment Partners with the Holleron Group.” To provide balance, post videos of Brother Jeff Fard’s September 2, 2020 interview with Penfield Tate and his December 8, 2020 interview with Tony Pigford.
  1. Promptly provide the members of the Steering Committee and post on the CPD website the following additional documents:
    1. the SOS Denver document captioned “Facts Regarding Denver’s Need for Parks and Open Space” updated December 15, 2020 (attached to this letter)
    2. the SOS Denver document captioned “A Short History of the Park Hill Golf Course Land” dated October 2020 (attached to this letter).
    3. The SOS Denver document captioned “POSITION PAPER Regarding the Future of the Park Hill Golf Course Land Open Space” dated August 14, 2019 (attached to this letter).
  1. All Steering Committee members should promptly and publicly disclose the following at the outset of the Steering Committee process: any past or present contractual or employment relationship with the City or any of its agencies; any past or present contractual or employment relationship with or equity interest in Westside and/or any of its principals and/or its subsidiary companies; any past or present contractual or employment relationship with or equity interest in any entity under contract or negotiating a contract or interest with Westside and/or any of its principals and/or its subsidiary companies for the proposed development of the PHGC land; any past or present personal relationships with principals of Westside and/or any of its subsidiary companies; any past or present personal relationships with anyone in a senior position with the City; any commitments, promises or things of value received from Westside and/or any of its subsidiary companies; any present, promised, and/or anticipated pecuniary interest in development on the PHGC land.
  1. Include presentations and discussions in the early meetings of the Steering Committee that address the public health and environmental implications of open space and public park land as it relates to the PHGC land and the local and extended neighborhoods. SOS Denver should be included as a primary participant in such presentations and discussions.
  1. In addition to Steering Committee meetings, all meetings, including Community Navigator events such as #ParkHillGolfCourseTalks, should be publicly noticedat least seven days in advance and should be accessible to the public via remote teleconference and should be recorded with the recordings posted on the CPD website for public access. Meaningful time should be reserved at all meetings for public comment and questions and after each meeting CPD staff should post on the CPD website answers to all questions that were asked by participants and attendees and that were not fully answered during the meeting.
  1. Allow Councilwoman CdeBaca to appoint a representative to the Steering Committee and ensure that residents of her Council District 9 are fully represented on the Steering Committee.
  1. SOS Denver has previously notified Ms. Levingston that it was appointing Penfield Tate to be the alternate to Sandrea Robnett on the Steering Committee, and we understand that other organizations have also requested appointment of alternates. Promptly provide confirmation that CPD has accepted these appointments of Steering Committee alternates.

Thank you for your attention to these issues. We request that CPD promptly provides a copy of this letter and its attachments to members of the Steering Committee.

Save Open Space Denver

By:_______________________________________

Maria Flora

mjflora@msn.com

Copies by email to City Council members

A Short History of the Park Hill Golf Course Land

As one of Denver’s first real estate barons, George W. Clayton owned vast amounts of land when he died in the 1899 without any heirs. His estate was transferred to the George W. Clayton Trust (“the Trust”), and from 1899 to 1984 the City of Denver (“the City”) was the Trustee of the Trust. One of the many parcels of real estate was the farmland that later became the Park Hill Golf Course (“PHGC”) in 1930. The Trust still owns the beautiful Clayton Early Learning Campus on the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard. In 1984, Clayton Early Learning replaced the City as Trustee of the Trust.

In 1989, the Trust and the City talked about the possibility of having the City purchase the PHGC land. These discussions resulted in the City including $2 million in a 1989 bond issue earmarked for the City to purchase the land. Nothing then happened until 1997 when, during the Wellington Webb administration and after a few years of further discussions between the Trust and the City about the Trust’s financial needs, the Trust and the City reached an agreement with the City whereby the Trust forever relinquished its development rights for the PHGC land. In this agreement, the City paid the Trust $2 million in exchange for the Trust granting a perpetual open space conservation easement to the City protecting the PHGC land foever from development. This easement was granted pursuant to the Colorado conservation easement statute.

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Appraisal Of Park Hill Golf Course July 26 2018

Attached is an appraisal commissioned by the city in the summer of 2018 in connection with its need to pay compensation to Clayton Early Learning [the then land owner] and Arcis [the then golf course operator] for damages resulting from the city’s stormwater detention project in the NE corner of the PHGC land.  Here are some takeaways from the appraisal:

  1. The encumbered value of the land prior to the “taking” pursuant to the condemnation agreement between Clayton and the city was $2,941,648 which was slightly lower than the $3.1 million appraisal commissioned by Clayton in 2015 [page 8]
  2. The appraised amount of the compensation damages was $415,300 [page 8] excluding the cost of returning the land to a golf course at the end of the project
  3. Therefore the $6 million paid by the city to Westside in connection with the November 2019 “Settlement Agreement” apparently included (a) $415,300 to settle the condemnation “takings” claims made in the two lawsuits and (b) $5,584,700 for the hypothetical cost of returning the land to a golf course at the end of the stormwater detention project which Westside will never do.

REAL PROPERTY APPRAISAL REPORT – Appraisal (Final) Park Hill Golf Course – Nelson 7-23-18

Response To January 15 Letter By Laura Aldrete

On January 15 2020 SOS Denver wrote Mayor Hancock, City Attorney Kristen Bronson and CPD Executive Director Laura Aldrete. The letter is here for reference. On January 31 the following letter was received.  Please select the letter below or go here to full contents of letter.  On February 3 2020 SOS Denver responded

Response from SOS Denver

See full letter here

Save Open Space Denver Press Release

PRESS RELEASE Contact: Harry Doby (ph. 303-870-0494)

Woody Garnsey (720-273-4600)

OCTOBER 22, 2019

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

Individual City Councilmembers look to City Attorney for confirmation.

“In 1997, when I signed the conservation easement into law, the intent was to ensure that this parcel of land would continue as a golf course or was used for recreational purposes.  I believed then as I believe now,  it is critical for the health and welfare of our community that our children, families and seniors have access to open space. We made a commitment to be good stewards of our land and to ensure we are leaving our children and our children’s children a city that values green space. Today, we see that state law agrees with us and that Park Hill Golf Course land is off limits to commercial and residential development.” Hon. Wellington E. Webb

Keep It Colorado stands behind perpetual conservation easements. A perpetual easement is a tool intentionally used to protect land forever, put in place for a purpose and with an expectation from the public that it will be honored in perpetuity. We believe the law is clear on upholding perpetual easements and that terminating an easement requires a judicial process and proof that it is impossible to uphold the conservation values of the easement.” Melissa Daruna, Executive Director of Keep It Colorado

The Colorado law known as HB 19-1264, passed and signed by the Governor this year, makes it virtually impossible for the City and the land-owner real estate developer to terminate the Conservation Easement that covers the Park Hill Golf Course land.

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