Criticism Clouds the Park Hill Golf Course Visioning Process

Westword

| March 9, 2021 | 6:02am

As part of a city-organized “visioning process,” a community steering committee will meet today, March 9, to discuss what to do with 155 acres of land comprising the defunct Park Hill golf course, a prized swath of undeveloped land now owned by Westside Investment Partners.

“My job is to facilitate the steering committee process and meetings so that people have answers to questions or, when debating what things say, I can help broker resolutions. But there might be cases where we’re not going to reach consensus on things. For me, it feels too early on to know that,” says Nita Mosby Tyler, who runs the Equity Project, a Denver-based consulting firm, and has been hired by the city for this project.

The group Save Open Space Denver wants all 155 acres to remain open space — albeit a massive park rather than a golf course. Westside, which purchased the property from a trust for $24 million in 2019, wants to develop the land to include commercial and residential areas, and has said it would leave at least 60 acres of open space; affordable-housing advocates have expressed support for that development plan.

But there’s a confounding factor to any future development: For decades, the land has been under a conservation easement. According to the Denver City Attorney’s Office, that easement requires the primary use of the land to be a golf course. Save Open Space Denver, which counts former mayor Wellington Webb and former mayoral candidate and state legislator Penfield Tate as members, maintains that the conservation easement protects the land as open space generally, and doesn’t require that an 18-hole golf course remain there.

Both groups agree that any major development project would require the easement to be lifted, which would involve both a Denver City Council vote and a judge’s order. But SOS Denver believes that even with the easement left in place, the land could become a large public park.

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Park Hill Golf Course Visioning Process Tees Off This Week

WESTWORD

A steering committee will meet for the first time this week to tee off a “visioning process” for the 155-acre property that encompasses the now-closed Park Hill Golf Course.

“Committee members will meet monthly to help review and consider public feedback, engage others in the visioning process, and ultimately recommend actions for consideration by Denver City Council,” according to the Denver Community Planning and Development website. The 27-person steering committee includes, among others, nearby residents, representatives from local neighborhood organizations, and officials with Westside Investment Partners, the development company that bought the land from a trust for $24 million in 2019. The committee’s first meeting is set for 5 p.m. February 9.

Not to be one-upped by the city, however, at 10:30 a.m. today, February 8, proponents of keeping the golf course property as open space will hold a press conference to “expose some of the very important concerns facing the future of the Park Hill Golf Course land and its conservation easement.”

“It’s our point of view that the entire visioning process is inappropriate and premature. It’s inappropriate because the city has acknowledged it’s developer-led, which is problematic, and it’s not based on city needs overall,” says Penfield Tate, a former state lawmaker and Denver mayoral candidate who has been one of those fighting to keep the land as open space.

That easement dates back decades. Initially, the City of Denver planned to purchase the land, which had been used as a golf course since 1932, from the George W. Clayton Trust, which is managed by Clayton Early Learning, a nonprofit that caters to low-income children and runs a preschool and educational research institute, using $2 million generated by a 1989 bond measure. (At one point, the city had been the trustee of that trust, but was removed in the 1980s.)

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Stop the development of the Park Hill Golf Course

Denver Post, February 7, 2021

By Woody Garnsey

Guest Commentary

Mayor Michael Hancock and his administration are again showing their true colors in support of developing the Park Hill Golf Course land in north Denver. And, they’re doing this despite the fact that the land is zoned “open space-recreation” and is protected from development by a perpetual open space conservation easement that can’t be terminated without a court order.

A month after Hancock’s 2019 reelection victory, real estate developer Westside Investment Partners, Inc., a major pro-Hancock PAC donor, purchased the land subject to the recorded conservation easement.

Here’s how Hancock and his administration have handled the proposed development of this open space land: First, Mayor Hancock clarified in the fall of 2017 that he supported Park Hill Golf Course land development when the city and the then-landowner Clayton floated a plan for the city to purchase the land for development. This plan failed after Clayton’s golf course operator sued to enforce its contractual lease rights.

Second, during his 2019 reelection campaign, Hancock’s opponents and the news media finally forced him to admit that he had development plans for the land.

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Park Hill Golf Course Area Visioning Process

The Denver Department of Community Planning and Development will hold the first meeting of the Community Steering Committee for the “Park Hill Golf Course Area Visioning Process” on February 9, 2021, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This virtual webinar via Zoom will be open for members of the public to observe, but CPD will not allow public participation. Attendees must register in advance at https://denvergov-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_42fG_ZcAQsm7Oq5QuvQw_A .

Denver Starting Small-Area Planning Process for Park Hill Golf Club

Conor McCormick-Cavanagh| October 23, 2020 | 7:55am
Westword

Denver will soon initiate a small-area planning process for the 155-acre property that includes the now-closed Park Hill Golf Club, and the developer that bought the property has agreed to participate.

“I want to reaffirm our commitment to honestly listening to the people who will bring this project to life and to a transparent and equitable dialogue,” says Kenneth Ho, the project lead at Westside Investment Partners, in a statement announcing the agreement. “We recognize that there is a higher bar for community benefits on this site, and we are committed to ensuring that the end result of this project reflects the values and needs of the community.”

The announcement comes two months after Denver City Council voted against referring a measure to the ballot that would have required voter approval for the city to lift any conservation easements, which limit development possibilities for the property. For decades, the Park Hill Golf Club has been under a conservation easement that largely prevents it from being used for anything other than a golf course, according to an analysis by city attorneys.

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