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.
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:
- 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]
- 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
- 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
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
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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