The City’s Plan for Park Hill Golf Course Is…Launching a Small Area Plan

By Sara Flemming Westword Jan 8 2020

The Park Hill Golf Course is shuttered now. It could be years before its future is determined. Sara Fleming

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.

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The City’s Plan for Park Hill Golf Course Is…Launching a Small Area Plan

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

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

Request To City Attorney To Provide Opinion To Council

On October 22 2019 Council Women Candi CdeBaca and Deborah Otega requested from the City Attorney Kristin Bronson that she  provide City Council with an opinion letter regarding the power of the City and Westside to terminate, release, extinguish, or abandon the conservation easement in whole or in part and the legal and/or administrative role of City Council in connection with any such action regarding the conservation easement. Council needs this legal input for reasons including the fact that their constituents have expressed strong interest in the conservation easement and the fact that issues could soon arise regarding the Park Hill Golf Course land in connection with the Large Development Review process of the Community Planning and Development Department.

Please see the full letter here.

Park Hill Golf Club: Get ready for another Denver development debate Legal fights are over, but the development debate has just begun

Andy Cross, The Denver Post A small amount of remaining green grass gets mowed at the now defunct Park Hill Golf Club slated for development July 31, 2019.

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

The city of Denver is ready to end the legal conflicts that have ensnared a valuable piece of property in the city’s northeast. But a proposed settlement may be just the beginning of a long and contentious political fight over the future of the Park Hill Golf Club.

The property — a rare 155-acre chunk of open space in an urbanizing city — has been through a head-spinning series of legal maneuvers over the last few years. It has been the prize for intense wrangling between its former nonprofit owner, the city government and a for-profit golf company, and the subject of a couple lawsuits.

The developer Westside Investment Partners bought the land this summer for $24 million, but it still was shadowed by legal disputes. On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Hancock’s office announced that a proposed agreement “would end litigation involving the property.”

The settlement will not allow any development on the land. Only a vote of City Council can do that. “We wanted a guarantee that Denver would have a right to provide input about the property’s future,” Hancock said in a news release.

The biggest legal questions include a lawsuit over an ongoing city flood-control project on the land. Early this year, the city took possession of about 35 acres of the course to complete the project. The parent of the former golf course operator, Arcis Golf, sued the city for damaging its business.

The new owner, Westside, took over that lawsuit. City officials wouldn’t say whether the settlement included a payment from the city to Westside, saying that the agreement wasn’t final yet.

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Park Hill Golf Club_ Get ready for another Denver development debate