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.
PRESS RELEASE Contact: Harry Doby (ph. 303-870-0494)
Woody Garnsey (720-273-4600)
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.
October 21, 2019
Open Space advocates claim new state law makes Park Hill Golf Course land off- limits to commercial, residential development.
Please see the following letter to City Council which includes a statement by Jessica E. Jay. Jessica E Jay has been practicing land conservation law for 21 years. She represents landowners and easement holders including statewide, regional and local land trusts.
Please see the entire letter here