Unveiled at a campaign event in former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb’s front yard, signs bearing the phrase “Green v. Concrete” boiled down to three words the debate over the future of the former Park Hill Golf Club property.
This message proved effective in the city’s 2021 elections. Ordinance 301 introduced on Thursday night was set to be passed with 63.2% support, according to the city’s latest unofficial count.
What 301 does sets a new, higher bar for the long-running effort to redevelop the Park Hill property. Under the terms of the measure, the primary owner Westside Investment Partners would not be required to amend the taxpayer-funded protection easement just to gain city approval, since 1997 stipulated that the property be a regulation-length, 18-hole. Golf course is home. The firm must win over voters in a citywide election if it wants housing or any commercial development allowed on 155 acres of land on the east side of Colorado Boulevard, north of East 35th Avenue.
Efforts to prepare something up for election are at the top of the developer’s to-do list.
“We understand that residents want to hear more details about what this could be,” Kenneth Ho, a principal at Westside who is leading the firm’s efforts at the golf course, said this week. “I think what the initiative does now is that we need to come up with a plan for voters to vote on. I think the next step is to develop it and put some specifics around the plan. “
Ho emphasized that passing 301 does not turn the former golf course into a public park. It is still private property.
The city paid Westside $6 million in 2019 to replenish land that had been affected by the city’s drainage project. That agreement gave Westwide at least three years to work on a redevelopment plan of the land without operating the golf course under the terms of the conservation easement. That window remains open, Ho pointed out.
Not only were the 301 passing in preliminary results, but preliminary Ordinance 302, a counterclaim supported by Westside, which would have exempt golf courses from the city-wide election requirement, was failing by a 2-1 ratio as of Thursday.
Among the likely winning pair are supporters of 301 and Save Open Space Denver, a group fighting against any commercial redevelopment of the golf course, hoping for some more rest from watching the next steps.
“The people of Denver and the people of Colorado love and will fight for open space,” Webb said of his interpretation of the results this week. “For me, what’s next is to reconnect with my Nuggets tickets. Then we go back and see what areas are up for some degree of reconciliation.”
Penfield Tate, the former state legislator and Denver mayoral candidate who has been at the forefront of Save Open Space efforts, also called for a cooling-off period after an unnecessarily unpleasant and hurtful campaign.
He felt that the Pro 302 campaign sought to draw a line between Northeast Park Hill, an economically depressed neighborhood where the majority of residents are people of color, and the rest of Denver, a majority white city, to preserve open space. The means of the efforts were uneven. .
On Election Night, the Empower Northeast Denver campaign issued a press release quoting Northeast Park Hill resident Sammy Burnett, endorsing 302, “It is disappointing that voters have decided to take away the voice of our community and allow the city as a whole.” Supported, which has very different priorities, take decisions related to this property.”
Tate hopes that when the two sides talk again the focus will be on ways to update the property into a recreational facility that invites people with a wide variety of interests, not just golfers.
“We never told anyone what open space and entertainment should be and the community should have a say in how active it is as open space and recreational space,” Tate said.
The duel measures came against the backdrop of an active planning effort organized by the city. The Park Hill Golf Course Area Visioning Process, which began in January, is expected to hit a key milestone next week when the city, which has contracted to lead it, convened to discuss options for Issues a summary of the recommendations of the 27-member Steering Committee. future of property.
By Thanksgiving, the city hopes to combine those recommendations with the results of a community survey sent to 6,000 homes within a mile of the property and use face-to-face and small group conversations to summarize the process thus far. Input gathered through this, said Laura Swartz, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning and Development.
“We’ll report back ‘Here’s what we’re hearing is most important and here’s what the city will do to make it happen,'” Swartz said. “The city has two priorities here. First engagement. The second is making sure we are creating quality open space in this neighborhood.
Westside is committed to preserving at least 60 acres of the property as open space.
That city planning process has also been controversial. Webb, Tate and others are co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in June against the city’s mayor Michael Hancock and the head of the city’s planning department, which sought to halt an effort that sought to prevent taxpayer-backed was using the money. Protection comfort.
The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in July. The case is on hold while both sides wait for Denver District Court Judge Ross Buchanan to rule on that motion.
Northeast Park Hill resident Shanta Harrison is part of the 27-member steering committee. He is also firmly in the camp that wants to see the golf course protected as an open space and recreational land. He said that the vision of the city has been in favor of development from the very beginning. She said it was also a challenge to make conservation easier at monthly virtual meetings of the committee this year.
Harrison doesn’t think the process should be scrapped entirely in the wake of election night, but he does think it needs to be put on hold until the trial is resolved.
“I think a judge eventually needs to explain what can be done on this land and then, once that process is sorted out, I think that’s what we decide to do. Proceed accordingly,” she said.