Why Vote Yes

BALLOT TITLE

Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt a measure prohibiting the following without the approval of voters in a regularly scheduled municipal or special election:

  • any commercial or residential development on land designated as a city park and land protected by a City-owned conservation easement except where consistent with park purposes, conservation easement purposes, or for cultural facilities, and
  • any partial or complete cancellation of a City-owned conservation easement unless for the purpose of creating a new park?

CITIZEN INITIATED ORDINANCE

Park and Open Space Preservation

The purpose of this ordinance is to submit to the registered electors of the City and County of Denver a proposed amendment to the Denver Revised Municipal Code concerning a prohibition (1) on any commercial or residential construction on land designated as a city park and land protected by a City-owned conservation easement and (2) on any partial or complete termination, release, extinguishment, or abandonment of a city-owned conservation easement without voter approval.

Be it enacted by the City and County of Denver:

Section 1..  The Denver Revised Municipal Code is amended by the addition of a new Section 193 under Chapter 39 (Parks and Recreation), Article VIII (Natural Areas) to read as follows:

CHAPTER 39 (Parks and Recreation), ARTICLE VIII (Natural Areas)

§39-193 – Park and Open Space Preservation

  1. (1) Construction of any commercial or residential building on land designated as a city park or protected by a City-owned conservation easement and (2) any partial or complete termination, release, extinguishment, or abandonment of a City-owned conservation easement are prohibited without the approval of a majority of the registered electors voting in a regularly scheduled or special municipal election.
  2. The prohibitions of this section 39-193 do not apply to: (1) construction of and/or improvements to buildings used for limited commercial purposes related to cultural facilities or for park or recreational purposes, and (2) construction of and/or improvements to infrastructure on land protected by a City-owned conservation easement for limited commercial purposes consistent with the conservation easement, and (3) conservation easement cancellation related to the City’s acquisition of the protected land for designated park purposes.
  3. If any section, paragraph, clause or other portion of this ordinance is held to be invalid or unenforceable for any reason, the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance shall not be affected.

PRO:  Initiated Ordinance 301

Initiated Ordinance 301 is the “Green versus Concrete” ballot initiative.  This citizen-initiated measure will protect our parks and open spaces from unchecked development by requiring Denver voter approval before real estate development can occur on designated park land and land protected by a City-owned conservation easement. 

The 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course land is currently protected by a City-owned conservation easement that Denver voters approved and paid for to permanently protect this green open space from development. This conservation easement allows this invaluable green space to be used for open space and recreational activities such as: athletic fields; walking trails; running tracks; tennis and pickle ball courts; basketball courts; baseball fields; a swimming pool; and urban gardens.

Now a real estate developer wants to eliminate the conservation easement to smother this irreplaceable green open space with concrete. This push to gentrify open space will leave a sea of luxury townhomes and apartments with a few mature trees, 25 acres of stormwater drainage land, and a smattering of pocket parks between buildings.  We have heard the promises of developers in the past and have rarely seen those promises fulfilled.

Denver’s past visionary leaders committed to creating a “City within a Park.”  As increased pollution and climate change affect our health and well-being, that vision is in jeopardy.  Rampant real estate development is converting Denver into a city of concrete.  

While Denver grows, we need to preserve and protect our parks and other green open spaces to provide recreational, public health, and environmental benefits for the entire community.  Needs for additional housing and other desired built-environment projects must be met by construction on land outside of protected park and other green open space land—not on that invaluable land.  Once we lose green space, we will never get it back.  We need physical exercise and relief from noise, pollution, and scorching hardscape—not a mini-city built on legally protected green open space that is smothered with concrete. 

Critical Facts Regarding Initiated Ordinance 301:

  • Denver’s park land and green open space have not kept up with its dramatic population growth.
  • Only 5% of Denver’s land is used for parks and recreation compared to 15%, the 2021 average for America’s 100 largest cities. [Trust for Public Lands]
  • Nearly 50% of Denver (except for DIA)  is now paved or built up compared to about 19% in the mid-1970s.
  • Denver is 8th worst out of large U.S. cities for ground level ozone pollution. [American Lung Association]
  • In 2019 the EPA downgraded Denver’s ozone rating from “moderate” to “serious.”
  • Climate change is real.  â€śParks, recreation, and the urban forest are vital infrastructure to our city’s health.  Trees and vegetation in our parks…help clean the air we breathe and provide shade that decreases the cooling load on our energy infrastructure during our hot months.”  [Denver Parks and Recreation Game Plan for a Healthy City]

A “yes” vote on Initiated Ordinance 301 says we believe in the value of green space over concrete.  Vote “yes” on Initiated Ordinance 301.

CON:  Initiated Ordinance 302

This ballot initiative is financed and sponsored by a real estate developer who wants to tear up an existing perpetual conservation easement so that it can build mixed-use development on one of the last large pieces of open space that could be acquired for a Denver regional park, the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) land.  Today, this land is protected from development by a City-owned conservation easement.  

The developer has launched this misleading and deliberately confusing ballot initiative for the sole purpose of undermining citizen-initiated Initiated Ordinance 301.   Its proposed initiative dishonestly appears to be a “protect parks” measure by copying the exact language of Initiated Ordinance 301, but it sneaks in a poison pill that redefines the term “conservation easement” under Denver law to exclude the PHGC land conservation easement. This sneaky maneuver would eliminate the voter protections of Initiated Ordinance 301 for the PHGC land and support the developer’s plans to smother most of this pristine green open space with concrete for its sole profit.

The developer promises a grocery store, some “affordable” housing, and other “community amenities” on the PHGC land.  First, there is a fine fresh food supermarket three blocks away and a recent City-commissioned report proves the developer cannot deliver another supermarket.  Second, why build housing and other “community amenities” on protected green open space when there is significant undeveloped and underutilized industrial/commercial land west, north, and east of the PHGC land where such development should logically occur?  Third, how can these pie-in-the-sky developer promises be effectively enforced?  Once the conservation easement might be removed, there would be no limit to the amount of concrete that would cover these 155 acres of green open space.  

The reality is that the real estate developer’s project would leave us with mostly a gentrified sea of luxury townhomes and apartments with a few mature trees, 25 acres of stormwater drainage land, and a smattering of pocket parks between buildings.

Denver’s past visionary leaders committed to create a “City within a Park.”  As increased pollution and climate change affect our health and well-being, that vision is in jeopardy.  Rampant real estate development is converting Denver into a city of concrete.  

While Denver grows, we must preserve and protect our parks and other green open spaces to provide recreational, public health, and environmental benefits to the entire community.  Additional housing and other built-environment projects must be constructed on land outside of protected park and other green open space land—not on that invaluable land.  We need physical exercise and respite from noise, pollution, and scorching hardscape–not a mini-city of concrete built on legally protected green open space. 

This is a city-wide issue involving a City-owned real estate asset.  Simply put, passage of this measure would increase traffic and pollution and would be a disaster for the environment and Denver citizens and a multi-million-dollar gift to this developer.  Vote “no” on Initiated Ordinance 302.