In the latest update to an ongoing battle over the future of the Park Hill Golf Course, the developer that owns the land is now funding a ballot initiative that would effectively cancel out the effects of an existing ballot initiative that seeks to prevent development of the land.
The new initiative backed by Westside Investment Partners Inc., who purchased the golf course land in 2019, directly targets Save Open Space Denver’s initiative to require a citywide vote before the city can lift conservation easements, including the one currently on the golf course.
Westside’s initiative would change the legal definition of a conservation easement to exempt the Park Hill Golf Course.
This means, if both initiatives passed, nothing would change and the potential lifting of the golf course’s conservation easement would be left up to the Denver City Council, instead of Denver voters.
"Their effort basically undercuts our ballot initiative but with the twist that it would exempt their own property if it passes,” said Colette Carey with Save Open Space Denver.
Save Open Space Denver is a community organization that wants the land to be turned into a city park. The group submitted its required petition signatures Wednesday to get its initiative on the November 2021 ballot.
The group believes that, under the golf course’s conservation easement, the land must be used for any open space, like a park. However, Westside and city officials say the conservation easement only allows the land to be used as a golf course. Because of this, the conservation easement would have to be lifted before Westside could achieve its desired mixed-use development of the land.
Westside argues that lifting the conservation easement would also be required even if they were to turn the land into a city park, and that its counteractive ballot initiative would allow the developers to argue their case in front of the City Council instead of the general public.
Westside’s ballot initiative uses the same wording as Save Open Space Denver’s initiative, which will likely make it difficult for voters to tell the measures apart if they both make it to the ballot.
"(It) is the same language as Save Outdoor Space’s ballot proposal ... Strategy appears to be to sow confusion among the voters,” said Lisa Calderon, chief of staff for Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, in a release about the ballot initiative.
Westside’s legal counsel Thomas Rogers addressed the similarity during a meeting on Friday, saying the two initiatives are “identical” besides one addition: “Theirs would apply to, we believe, exactly one property – the Park Hill Golf Course – while ours would apply to no properties at all.”
Rogers argued that Save Open Space Denver’s initiative would take away from the community’s voice in how the land is used by opening the decision to the entire city and drowning out the input of the residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the Park Hill Golf Course.
Westside’s initiative still needs to be approved by a city attorney and the Denver Elections Division before the developer can begin to gather signatures to put it on the November 2021 ballot by the July 2 deadline.