Denver’s Push For Planning Process On Protected Land Makes No Sense
By Woody Garnsey
For the GPHN
Mayor Hancock and his administration are again showing their true colors in support of developing the Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) land. And, they’re doing this despite the facts 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 pursuant to the Colorado conservation easement statute.
A month after Mayor Hancock’s 2019 reelection victory, real estate speculator and developer Westside Investment Properties, a major pro-Hancock PAC donor, purchased the Park Hill Golf Course. The land, at the northwest corner of Park Hill, is protected by a conservation easement.
Hold Mayor and Council Candidates Accountable On May 7
By Woody Garnsey and Sandy Robnett
Special to the GPHN
The open space future of the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course land is in jeopardy and needs an outpouring of public support to save it. The land is the last sizeable parcel of core Denver open space that could someday become a public park.
The land, currently a golf course at 35th and Colorado Boulevard and stretching east and north, is zoned Open Space-Recreation (OS-B). It has been open space forever, and, since 1997 has been explicitly protected by the perpetual open space conservation easement that Denver taxpayers paid $2 million for.
Pursuant to an October 2000 agency agreement between the George W. Clayton Trust (Clayton) and the City, Clayton now holds title to the land “as agent of the City, to hold for the benefit of the citizens of the City and the general public.” Clayton currently leases the land for golf operations to Arcis, a Texas-based golf operator and commercial development company. The lease includes a right of first refusal for Arcis to purchase the land. Arcis’ current lease term expires at the end of 2023, and it has one more 5-year option to renew through 2028.
So, what could possibly go wrong for protection of this invaluable open space? The short answer is: Clayton wants to sell the land to support its early childhood learning programs. Arcis wants to buy the land. And, the current City administration and many City Council members have demonstrated both a desire to have the land developed for mixed residential and commercial use and also a willingness to tear up the perpetual open space conservation easement.
With this dynamic in play, the open space could become part of what Denver Post reporter Bruce Finley recently described as Denver’s “Concrete Metropolis.”
Happy Haynes is the executive director of Parks and Recreation for the City and County of Denver.
You may have read recently that Denver is losing park land. That’s simply not accurate.
A series of articles from January, “The Densification of Denver,” implied that Denver is losing park land and open space with no plans to reverse the trend.
And then a recent guest commentary raised concerns about the City of Denver’s commitment to preserving green space at Park Hill Golf Course and elsewhere in the city. The piece also referenced the densification series.
Both the commentary and the flawed reporting are wrong on several counts.
With respect to Park Hill Golf Course, current use restrictions do not allow the city to require the property to be used for a regional park or any open space purpose other than golf. It is not accurate to say that the city is seeking to develop housing on the site, nor is it accurate to say that there is any deal in place for developing the land. The mayor and city attorney have been working diligently to explore ways to acquire this land and if we are successful, the community will have a major say in what happens to it, including preserving it for open space.
On the larger issue of preserving open space and park land, the Hancock administration believes strongly in preserving and acquiring open space as part of an inclusive growth strategy.