If approved by Denver, Colo. voters in April, the former course could be redeveloped to include up to 3,200 new housing units, retail and a grocery store. Save Open Space Denver and several individual plaintiffs are seeking to preserve a 2019 Conservation Easement and claiming the 155-acre property is “protected land.”
Save Open Space Denver and several individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Denver (Colo.) District Court seeking to preserve a 2019 Conservation Easement and claiming the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course is “protected land,” according the 20-page complaint filed by the Tierney Lawrence Stiles law firm, The Denver Post reported.
In July 2022, Club + Resort Business reported Initiated Ordinance 301, which strengthened the protections of the taxpayer-funded conservation easement that covers the land where the former golf course sits. As long as the easement is in place, no development that isn’t golf-related can take place on the property.
The plaintiffs assert “taxpayer standing to seek to enjoin the unlawful expenditure of public lands and disposition of a valuable taxpayer funded real estate asset owned by the city for the benefit of its residents,” according to the complaint, The Post reported. “Each of the individual plaintiffs, as residents of the city and county of Denver, has a personal and economic interest in preserving and protecting the precious remaining open space, recreational and aesthetic assets of their city and community.”
The land is owned by a Delaware limited liability company, ACM Park Hill JV VII LLC, a subsidiary of Westside Investment Partners, according to the complaint, The Post reported. The property owner is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The conservation easement, granted to the city in 2019 “by the then owners of the Protected Land,” is attached to the complaint as an exhibit, The Post reported.
“A conservation easement may only be terminated, released, extinguished or abandoned by a court determination – at the joint request of the property owner and holder of the easement – that conditions on or surrounding the encumbered property have changed, since the effective date of the easement, so that it has become impossible to fulfill its conservation purposes that are defined in the deed of conservation easement,” the lawsuit said.
The easement was granted to the city “to maintain the … scenic and open condition” of the property and to preserve it for recreational use, the lawsuit claims, The Post reported.
Plans to repurpose the parcel have “proceeded, at considerable taxpayer expense” and in “direct violation” of the easement, according to the complaint, The Post reported.
Last month, the City Council referred a question to the April 4 municipal election that would give voters the option to wipe out the legal agreement that prevents most development on the site, The Post reported. If approved by voters, the land could be redeveloped to include up to 3,200 new housing units, retail and a grocery store. The City Council voted 11-2 to put the future of the property before the electorate.
The upcoming ballot question reads: “Shall the voters of the city and county of Denver authorize the release of the city-owned conservation easement on privately owned property known as the Park Hill Golf Course, which requires the land to be used primarily for golf-related purposes, and allow for commercial and residential development, including affordable housing, and public regional park, trail and open space,” The Post reported.
At the same Jan. 23 meeting, the City Council approved rezoning the land, turning it from privately owned park space into a variety of zonings that will clear the way for development, The Post reported.
“The city and City Council proceeded in excess of their authority, acted illegally, arbitrarily and capriciously, abused their discretion, and denied due process to the protest petitioners in approving ACM’s Rezoning Application,” the lawsuit claims. “The approval by the city and City Council of ACM’s Rezoning Application should be declared void.”
This debate has been around since 2017 when the city announced a $20.5 million deal to sell the course. City officials had made no commitments regarding their planned use of the 155-acre property beyond 25 acres for a stormwater detention area.
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