Paved With Good Intentions

Golden residents battle over a developer's gift to the city -- and the city's efforts to put a road through it.

When postal carrier Tim Ramsey bought his home on Ford Street in north Golden nine years ago, he knew he was acquiring a special slice of local history. The house had once belonged to prominent developer Joseph Mayford Peery, and in 1971 Peery had given four acres directly south of the property to the city for a park in memory of his son Norman, who'd died in combat in Vietnam.

Most of the parcel donated by Peery had been turned into a groomed park, with picnic tables and a playground. But the north end of Norman D. Memorial Park had remained untouched, a narrow greenbelt separated from the rest by a gulch and a creek. By design or accident, the city had left a strip of urban wilderness outside Peery's back door.

Ramsey knew that city planners had talked for years about putting a road through the area, one that would link Ford Street to State Highway 93. But neighbors told him not to worry: Who ever heard of a new road bisecting a dedicated park? He was further reassured when he finally met Mayford Peery at an ice-cream social at the park three years ago.

Road to nowhere: Tim Ramsey and his wife, Deborah 
Bettin, want to save a green belt.
Mark Manger
Road to nowhere: Tim Ramsey and his wife, Deborah Bettin, want to save a green belt.

"I ask him about the road," Ramsey recalls, "and he goes, 'What are you talking about? I never wanted a road there.' So I figured that if it ever did come up, I'd fight it. I just never thought I'd be fighting against Mayford Peery's son."

In recent weeks, the notion of a road through the park has evolved into a hotly debated proposal, packing city council meetings with irate neighbors -- including Ramsey, whose house stands less than twenty feet from the planned extension of Mesa Drive. Ironically, much of the impetus for the new road comes from the burgeoning traffic on Golden's once-isolated north side, and the impending arrival of a sixty-lot subdivision developed by Richard Peery, son of Mayford and brother of the late Norman.

Richard Peery acknowledges that the road would be "convenient" for both the new subdivision and his current home. At present, many north-side residents have to turn left onto the busy highway, then left again onto Washington Street, in order to reach downtown Golden. Although the road isn't essential to his development, which received approval from city council this month, Peery points out that a recent traffic study indicates the extension would help relieve other congestion problems in the area. "I don't honestly think there's another alternative available," he says.

Opponents of the road say that the city and Peery are subverting his father's intentions. "By putting this road in here, Dick Peery and his wife will be able to drive straight downtown," says Jim Smith, a real estate agent who lives in the area. "The heck with the fact that it goes through a park that was given by his father in memory of his brother."

This spring, city attorney Dave Williamson advised councilmembers that nothing in the elder Peery's conveyance of the property prevents the road from being built. "There would appear to be no legal impediment [to] using that portion of the property north of Tucker Gulch (which has never been used as a park) as a municipal street," he wrote.

"I stand by that point of view," says Steve Glueck, Golden's planning director. "This is totally a policy question."

But Smith has dug up old city documents that indicate the greenbelt area north of Tucker Gulch has always been considered part of the park. He's produced minutes from a 1971 council meeting referring to the gifted land and a thank-you note from the city to Joseph M. Peery "for your recent donation of greenbelt area to the City." The proposed road wasn't added to the city's master plan until 1985 and has only recently surfaced on planning maps.

"The fact that it's in the master plan doesn't make it legal or necessary or inevitable," Smith says. "They never held hearings about it, and they never checked the law to see if they could do that."

Smith says that he had his own encounter with the elder Peery three years ago while walking in the neighborhood, and that the park donor was "upset" about the prospect of the city building the road. Last month, Smith adds, he visited Peery at a local nursing home, where he now resides in a unit for Alzheimer's patients, and found that he was unaware of the renewed plans to build the road.

Smith's unauthorized visit outraged Peery family members. "There's nothing more infuriating than listening to these people talk about my father and referring to him as Mayford, as if they were close friends," says Richard Peery. "My dad doesn't remember my name."

The younger Peery and his wife, Tisha, say that Mayford Peery was supportive of their efforts. "Dad was never the kind of guy who'd put his money on black, and when it came up red ask, 'Can I have my bet back?'" he says. "He deeded that property to the city for their use, and he didn't restrict it. He wouldn't come back now and restrict it. He was a champion of property rights."

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