The mayor was all for it. The city council blessed it twice with unanimous approval. The developer was on board, and so was a group of local residents who stood to benefit from the deal.
But somebody forgot to ask the citizens of Lakewood whether they wanted to swap 22 acres of Iron Spring Park to Carma Colorado, the company that's building an 1100-home, master-planned community along Alameda Parkway, in exchange for land owned by Carma east of the park. When the public was finally consulted, in a special election forced by opponents of the swap, the result was a stunning upset: 14,216 against the deal, 10,594 in favor, according to uncertified results announced by the city clerk last night.
As detailed in our article "Trading Spaces" last month, opponents of the land trade claimed that the city would be giving up park land with tremendous views of Red Rocks and Dinosaur Ridge for a "drainage strip" along a natural gulch. Led by local activist Rita Bertolli (pictured), the "Don't Switch for the Ditch" crowd contested the official appraisal of the two parcels and gathered enough petitions to challenge the city's effort to complete the deal without a public vote.
Backers of the deal claimed that it would preserve a popular hiking and biking area, albeit on private land, that links Green Mountain open space with parks to the south. Bertolli insists the developer probably isn't going to extensively develop the ditch land anyway, but the "vote yes" campaign, working closely with Carma, easily outspent the opposition with an ambitious phone-and-flyer campaign.
The tally for the mail-in ballot amounted to nearly a third of all Lakewood voters — despite the blizzard, the holidays, and other factors that seemed to predict a dismal turnout. The thumbs-down won't affect Carma's general plans for its $550 million project, but it does suggest that many locals believe that parks ought to be parks, and stay that way.
Even if their elected officials don't think so. -- Alan Prendergast
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.