Two Critical Words
As a lifelong Park Hill resident, a Greater Park Hill Community board member and an active member of Save Open Space Denver, I’m writing in response to Kenneth Ho’s guest opinion piece in the May edition regarding land speculator and real estate developer Westside Investment Partners’ development plans for the Park Hill Golf Course land. Mr. Ho is one of Westside’s owners and Westside’s point person trying to convince our community that Westside should be able to build a mini-city on the invaluable 155-acre open space.
Glaringly, Mr. Ho failed to use the two critical words – “conservation easement” – anywhere in his opinion piece. Mr. Ho, Westside, and the Hancock administration want to pretend that there are no legal impediments to their development plans.
Here are the undisputable facts: In 1997, Denver taxpayers paid $2 million for the perpetual open space conservation easement that forever protects the Park Hill Golf Course land from being developed. The “conservation purposes” of the conservation easement are to conserve the land “as open space” and “to maintain [the land’s] scenic and open condition and to preserve [the land] for recreational use.”
When Westside purchased the land in July 2019, it purchased the land subject to the conservation easement. The conservation easement is governed by the Colorado conservation easement statute that prevents its termination unless Westside and the City could secure a court order that – based on changed conditions on or surrounding the Park Hill Golf Course land since recording of the current easement version in July 2019 – it has become impossible to accomplish the “conservation purposes” of the easement. Based on current facts, there is absolutely no way they could prove such impossibility.
It’s time for Mr. Ho, Westside and the Hancock administration to stop blowing smoke at our community!
Sandy Robnett, Park Hill
Forever Should Mean Forever
An Open Letter to the Park Hill Community:
I am a 10-plus year resident of this amazing neighborhood, a Greater Park Hill Community board member, and an Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation board member. This is my response to the opinion piece by Westside Investment developer and principal Kenneth Ho in last month’s issue titled “City Should Pursue Planning Process.”
What I find to be increasingly alarming in Mr. Ho’s piece and prior narratives by lobbyists is the absence of acknowledgement for the perpetual open space conservation easement that Denver purchased 23 years ago. This easement preserves the land from any development. It is critical we emphasize the word “perpetual” from the easement contract because it means “continuing forever.”
Under Mayor Wellington Webb’s administration, the prior owner of the golf course land, Clayton Early Learning, sold the development rights when it agreed to the conservation easement in exchange for $2 million of Denver taxpayer dollars. When Mr. Ho’s company, Westside Investment, purchased the land last July, it did so subject to the perpetual conservation easement, preserving it forever as open space. I am disappointed that the city and Mr. Ho are forging a planning process under these clear restrictions.
Instead, Mr. Ho wants to berate the Save Open Space Denver group and community supporters for opposing the current administration’s announcement to begin a “small area planning process” for the land. It is their responsibility to explain why additional money, time, and energy should be wasted on a planning process for land that we, the taxpayers, have already preserved as open space. The land cannot be developed and it is not our responsibility to bail out the developers.
I find it strange that Mr. Ho argues that “parks have the potential to cause gentrification.” As a resident, it seems development causes gentrification. We have seen this gentrification in Park Hill and adjacent neighborhoods. I encourage you to check out the developer’s website westsideinv.com and consider a built environment like 9th and Colorado Boulevard over a vibrant open space that will be utilized for recreation, wildlife, and combat pollution now and for the benefit of future generations.
Stay healthy, neighbors!
Blair Taylor, Park Hill
Politics At Play
Statement to Denver City Council on May 11:
The letter comes with the utmost appreciation for your services to the city of Denver, especially at this juncture as we are greatly challenged by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Greater Denver Interfaith Alliance (GDIA) is a nonprofit organization located one block away from the Park Hill Golf Course. We have served the greater Denver area for 20 years as a catalyst for network development and coalition building across faith contexts and among existing service providers at the local, state and federal level. Our mission has been to coordinate and expand resources to mitigate the disparities facing marginal and underserved populations, especially people of color.
We know the history of Northeast Denver well and more importantly the people who have resided in Northeast Park Hill, past and present. Over the years, GDIA has witnessed how special interests groups have united to broker power to influence the politics and systems that ultimately serve to undermine the often disenfranchised residents of local neighborhoods – many of whom who have been displaced as a result.
At this point, GDIA’s main objective is to advocate for small area planning. Those who live in the Northeast Park Hill neighborhood should give the guiding input to the ultimate outcome for what happens with this land. Special interest groups speak of diversity in terms of age, background and culture in general terms, but rarely mention the racial/ethnic diversity which has been declining as the affluent class moves forward with its agenda, forcing out former residents who can no longer afford to stay in Park Hill.
They speak of changing neighborhoods as a given, yet fail to acknowledge that their interests and privilege are the driving forces behind the population change. Now, the more affluent class demands that this particular open space be preserved at all costs, even when there is consideration for multiple-use of this land which could include space for a good size park, attainable/affordable housing (amid a housing crisis for lower income families), and other community needs at the same time.
Small area planning is optimal. As long as Westside Investment Properties, Inc. is willing to engage the surrounding community for the purpose of developing multiple land uses that are accountable to the collective needs of this community and accommodating to neighborhood living for the co-habitation of a truly diverse community (across income levels and race/ethnicities), GDIA will be supportive of building a collaborative community partnership.
To those pushing for a citywide vote, we see this as a political ploy designed to silence the voices of the residents of the community and a deterrent to having us adequately represented. Therefore, our hope is that Denver City Council will invest in representing the cultural particularities of the people of the Northeast Park Hill community and, therefore, make resources available for small area planning to go forward. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Carroll A. Watkins Ali, Ph.D., Skyland
Editor’s Note: Ali read this statement to the Denver City Council on May 11, and submitted it for publication as a letter to the editor.
A Moment Of Clarity
In the midst of this pandemic, I had a small moment of happiness. I was looking at the skyline of Denver – which I enjoy from my home – and realized the view was pollution-free. On television, I saw the same phenomenon in other large cities.
COVID-19 has given us a glimpse of what life could be like if we did not have gasoline-powered cars clogging our roads and airplanes polluting our skies. It has shown us the reality of a dramatic reduction in our use of fossil fuels.
In signing the 2016 Paris Accord, we partnered with the rest of the globe to meaningfully address climate change. But President Trump announced his intent to pull us out of that agreement the very next year.
How do we move forward? It will take more than replacing Trump in November. We must have a Senate that believes the climate crisis is real—a Congress that does not ignore the science behind global warming.
Sen. Cory Gardner does not represent our climate values. While 62 percent of Coloradans believe climate crisis is a serious problem, Sen. Gardner opposed the Clean Power Plan, which curbs emissions of greenhouse gases. He voted to appoint Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to run the Environmental Protection Agency. And he supported eliminating methane limits and drilling for fossil fuels on federal lands.
That is why we must elect former Gov. John Hickenlooper to be our next U.S. Senator this November. Doing so will be a key step towards ensuring the Senate is led by Democrats in 2021. With a Democratic majority, our country can rejoin the Paris Accord and reassert itself as a global leader in keeping our skies blue and water clean.
Polly Boe, City Park
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