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.
Some want all the trees and grass to stay. Others want some trees and grass, but homes and businesses too. Courts might end up deciding.
David Sachs The Denverite 10-23-2019
Woody Garnsey leads a rally on the edge of Park Hill Golf Course demanding the space not be redeveloped. Oct. 22, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Denverites resisting development on golf course land in Park Hill say a recent change to state law gives their cause a leg up over developers and the Hancock administration, who see the green swathe as a place for homes, businesses and parks.
The 155-acre chunk has been entangled in a legal and political jungle for about three years with four big players arguing over its future: the city government, former golf course operator Argus, the land’s original nonprofit owner Clayton Early Learning, and developer Westside Investment Partners.
Westside bought the land from Clayton in July for $24 million. While various lawsuits endure, the big question right now is whether Westside will be able to build stuff.
Save Open Space Denver, a group backed by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, claims the company cannot. Members held a press conference Tuesday to amplify a state law signed in June that they say makes it harder to kill an agreement that protects the land from development. The agreement, known as a conservation easement, has been a part of the golf course’s deed for decades.
Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb speaks at a rally on the edge of Park Hill Golf Course demanding the space not be redeveloped. Oct. 22, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
The law states that it cannot be terminated unless a court says the conditions on or around the golf course have changed to make its continued conservation impossible. Advocates say the language makes building illegal.
“I believe that Westside wasn’t aware of that (law), because if you take a look at when the deal was closed, it was closed right after the law went into effect,” Webb said.
Denver City Council members Debbie Ortega and Candi CdeBaca have asked the mayor’s office for its legal opinion in an official letter
On a recent, blazing-hot Friday, the Educare campus at Clayton Early Learning is abuzz with children playing in t he halls and swarming their teachers. These children, from months-old infants to five-year-olds, enroll in Clayton’s programs through the summer months, receiving research-backed care and evaluation funded by a historic philanthropic trust.
Nearly all of them come from families that live below the poverty line, but you wouldn’t know it looking down the clean, spacious hallway of classrooms in a facility that most public high schools would envy. Clayton’s Educare campus was built in 2006 as an addition to the century-old red-brick Historic Clayton Campus, a registered national landmark on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Colorado boulevards. “Often the families, when they come in here for the first time, go, ‘Wow. I never thought anybody valued me and my child to build us a place like this,’” says Charlotte Brantley, Clayton’s outgoing CEO and president.