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.

FULL ARTICLE IS HERE

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