Denver Development

Fore! Denver to Vote on Park Hill Golf Course Easement in April

Denver voters will weigh in on the Park Hill Golf Course in April.
Denver voters will weigh in on the Park Hill Golf Course in April. Anthony Camera
After three lengthy public hearings that featured more than a hundred commenters, Denver City Council voted 11-2 in the early-morning hours of January 24 to advance a measure to the April municipal ballot that would lift the conservation easement that rests on the Park Hill Golf Course property and allow for development.

"If we fail to build housing, young people in Denver are not going to have a future," Tobin Stone, an affiliate of YIMBY Denver, said during public comment. "The people that are going to be hurt the most in this crisis is the next generation."

Denver City Council also voted 9-4 to establish a metro district funding mechanism for future infrastructure on the property, 9-4 on a rezoning for the property, and 10-3 on a development agreement.

"Planet Earth simply needs more green space for the health of this rock on which we live," said Councilman Paul Kashmann, who voted "no" on all of the Park Hill Golf Course items. "I very much think the city should have purchased this land, and I think we could have gotten our needs met better on fewer acres."

The measure will be on the same April ballot with more than twenty mayoral candidates and dozens of candidates for various city council seats.

The Park Hill Golf Course has been a mainstay hot-button political item in Denver politics since Westside Investment Partners bought the 155-acre property for $24 million in 2019.

Supporters of developing the Park Hill Golf Course have argued that the vacant property represents a perfect opportunity to add housing, a quarter of which would be affordable, in a city where rising rent prices continue to price people out. The development could also bring a vibrant mixed-use community, including a grocery store, to an area of Denver — Northeast Park Hill — that has struggled with a lack of investment. There would also be 100 acres of open space, according to a development agreement signed by the City of Denver and the developers, 25 of which would be part of a flood detention area, that could still be landscaped, but just can't be the site of any structures.

Opponents of the measure, led by a group called Save Open Space Denver, have argued that the Park Hill Golf Course is an important piece of open space in a rapidly developing city. The City of Denver placed a conservation easement on the property in the past to prevent development at the golf course, and these opponents, including former state legislator and current mayoral candidate Penfield Tate, say the land would best serve Denver if the city turned it into a municipal park.

The fight between the two sides flared up in the run-up to the November 2021 election, during which voters approved a ballot measure that called for a citywide vote in order to lift the defunct golf course's conservation easement. A separate ballot measure that was bankrolled by Westside seeking to exempt the Park Hill Golf Course easement from the other measure failed.

Following the election, with an increased challenge to its development plans, Westside upped what it was offering in terms of open space: an initial plan for 60 acres of open space turned into the present-day 100 acres. But those associated with Save Open Space Denver refused to budge, willing to accept nothing short of zero development on the property other than a potential recreation center.

In the lead-up to the January 23 City Council meeting — which extended into January 24 — opponents of development on the property attempted to submit petitions from nearby property owners to force a supermajority vote. That would have required a majority vote of ten rather than seven councilmembers for the rezoning, which passed on a 9-4 vote. However, the Department of Community Planning & Development and the City Attorney's Office determined that the petitions did not meet the necessary thresholds, a ruling that Save Open Space Denver advocates disagreed with.

Capturing the seemingly endless timeline for the Park Hill Golf Course fight, Westside's lead on the project, Kenneth Ho, said at the January 23 meeting, "This has been a long journey."

And now it's got at least a few more months to go.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.

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