We write in opposition to Referred Question 2 O because we all believe that the perpetual Park Hill Golf Course land conservation easement is a unique and invaluable City-owned real estate asset that must be preserved for the health and recreational benefit of generations of Denver citizens to come.
The City made the visionary purchase of the conservation easement in 1997 in order to maintain the 155 acres of land in a “scenic condition” and to preserve the land for “recreational purposes” forever. Just like in the early 20th Century during Mayor Robert Speer’s administration, the elected City leaders in 1997 had the vision to recognize the need for the growing city to remain a wonderfully livable place with significant open spaces and parkland.
Since 1997, the city’s population has increased by 68% from about 500,000 to about 820,000 but the percentage of land used for parks and recreation has dropped dramatically. In 2019, the Department of Parks and Recreation’s “Game Plan for a Healthy City” identified a 1,400-acre citywide deficit of parkland that it projected to be 3,800 acres in the next decade. And, a City-commissioned study found in 2021 that the Northeast Park Hill, Elyria-Swansea, and Clayton neighborhoods immediately surrounding the Park Hill Golf Course land need 183.5 acres of park land just to meet the national average of 13 acres per 1,000 residents.
Additionally–in the face of climate change–Denver suffers from one of the nation’s worst “heat island effects” while the EPA has recently downgraded the city’s ozone rating from “serious” to “severe.” As stated in the “Game Plan for a Healthy City,” “parks, recreation, and the urban forest are vital infrastructure to our city’s health.”
With massive support from the current City administration, real estate developer Westside Investment Partners is likely spending well over $1 million on a deceptive political campaign to convince voters to break the conservation easement and open the land to a massive mixed-use development. Most importantly, the ballot language drafted by the City administration inaccurately and deceptively presents voters with a false choice between (1) Westside’s development plan and (2) a golf course. The land does not need to remain a golf course if the conservation easement is preserved because the City and Westside can amend the easement for other permitted uses as long as new permitted uses are consistent with the easement’s open space and recreational conservation purposes .
And, approval of Referred Question 2 O to break the conservation easement would constitute a gift from the City and its taxpayers estimated by the Denver Post to be $184 million. This amount of the gift would represent the difference between the fair market value of the land with and without the conservation easement. This gift to Westside would not only be irresponsible public policy but also a violation of the Colorado Constitution’s prohibition against public entities making donations to private parties.
Developers can’t buy Denver. Build around—not on the protected Park Hill Golf Course land. We urge voters to vote NO on 2 O.
Wellington Webb, Penfield Tate, Dottie Lamm, Jeff Fard, Rafael Espinoza, Tom Noel, Al Yates [former CSU President], Ann Yates, and James Mejia.