Sunday, December 5, 2021

Editorial: Empower Northeast Park Hill residents to demand more at the old golf course

Before explaining why we oppose both competing Issues 301 and 302 Denver, we want to take the time to give Denver’s residents important history and perspective – 155 acres on the former Park Hill golf course were transferred to a security easement in 1997. with the explicit intention of protecting the land from development.

Denver taxpayers have spent $ 2 million to ensure that if Clayton Early Learning ever decides to shut down their charity golf course, the land will not be built up. It was a brilliant move on the part of Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. Twenty-four years later, the easement allowed the city to acquire a unique asset for the benefit of all Denver residents.

Land in Denver has become so expensive that acquiring a new park or adding public housing projects or even building new infrastructure has become prohibitively expensive. Land in Denver is so expensive that today developers buy beautiful houses, demolish them, build mansions and still make a profit. Park Hill Golf Course represents one of the latest opportunities for the city to acquire a large, unbroken piece of land.

Unfortunately, the land was bought out of town by a developer when the golf course operator sued to take advantage of the preemptive right in the lease / operation of the golf course.

And now developers, Westside Investment Partners and its new partner The Holleran Group, are working hard to build a mixed-use project on the ground, despite the environmental easement.

The question arises, is there nothing sacred?

Can developers now ignore conservation easements across the state, buy land at a bargain price because it is sheltered from development, and then lobby for local elected officials to remove easements? This is a dangerous precedent.

It is also what appears to be supporting the city of Denver, led by Mayor Michael Hancock. The city’s website is fraudulently phrasing the problem and deliberately misleading people who live near Park Hill golf course, so their expectations will be low and they will demand very little from the owner.

This is a huge mistake, and it also prompted a group of Denver residents to put a question on the ballot paper – 301 – which asks voters if a public vote should be held to abolish the conservation easement. There is now very little faith that the city is concerned with the best interests of society in this matter.

The question is not whether this land should remain a golf course?

The question arises: should the land be used for public benefit or should the land be used for personal gain?

If the answer is personal gain, then the people who should be most upset about this ordeal are running a nonprofit for young children in Clayton. They could have sold at least twice as much land, if not three times as much, if the city abolished servitude for them.

That being said, we cannot bring ourselves to support 301 or 302.

Because while we don’t trust the strange game the city is playing, we still trust the residents of Northeast Park Hill who were sent to task force to come up with a vision of the earth.

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Lamon Knowles met with two developer representatives and The Denver Post last week. She described decades of inequality and abuse plaguing blacks and Hispanics in Northeast Park Hill. Her words were sincere and passionate.

“I feel like this area is caught in the crossfire between anti-development sentiment and lawyers, okay. Whatever these legal situations are, they have to deal with reality, ”she said. “The reality is that we cannot continue to allow our area to be disenfranchised. This place on Colorado Boulevard and 35th Avenue has been inactive for a long time. Even when Clayton and the golf course sellers had it, they had no intention of using it as a viable golf course. He took the place. This is an eyesore and we have the opportunity to change that. “

Knowles’ call to Denver voters was to simply not take away the vote from her neighborhood by passing 301 and passing the decision to voters across the city. We agree with Noles and urge voters to vote no on both 301 and 302 counts.

“We have 26 people on the steering committee, half of whom are people of color living in the neighborhood. It’s time for people to listen to what we want, ”she said.

However, Knowles and her steering committee colleagues should feel entitled to demand much more from this land than is being proposed.

For example, Knowles and Norman Harris and Holleran mentioned on several occasions that the area needs a grocery store – shops in nearby Central Park (formerly Stapleton) don’t seem to be accessible to the community. The only way to prevent the same is to transfer the land to a city-owned trust so that any business that comes in has an affordable (subsidized) rent and can actually sell food at prices that the local community can afford. If Whole Foods opens in this location on a marketplace owned by a developer, it will not be able to meet the food needs of the low-income population.

When developers talk about low-income housing, the task force should be demanding that the talk is about granting land to Habitat for Humanity and the Denver Housing Authority so that those units are completely deducted from the table.

And when developers talk about 60 acres of open space, the task force should demand that, in addition to this continuous block of public land (not divided between drainage ditches and sidewalk buffers), parcels of land be set aside for a city-owned recreation center, public outdoor pool, skate -park, basketball court and other essential amenities such as driveways that provide direct and unhindered access to the northeast of Park Hill.

The easement of conservation is not a weak document and the target group has the upper hand in these negotiations. This is not a golf course by default. The default is public land serving the population.

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