Parks & Rec Board Urges City To Buy Golf Course; SOS Denver Pursues Ballot Measure
In May, the group Save Open Space Denver continued its push for a ballot measure to add a layer of protection to conservation easements and prevent development of Denver’s parks and open spaces.
SOS Denver is asking the Denver City Council to refer the ballot initiative to voters, to avoid being required to physically collect at least 8,265 valid signatures by July 7 for the Nov. 3 ballot. Proponents cite the impracticality of physically collecting petition signatures during the pandemic.
The immediate issue is the status of the Park Hill Golf Course land in northwest Park Hill. The 155-acre parcel is protected by a conservation easement for which city taxpayers shelled out $2 million in 1997. Despite the easement, the company Westside Investors bought the property last year with the hope of developing the land. At least two other conservation easements are in place that protect open space in other parts of the city.
Also in May, Denver’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board adopted a resolution urging the city purchase the Park Hill Golf Course land at its current market value. The board, which is appointed by the mayor and city council, recommends using unspent funds from the 2019 tax collections ($26.565 million) to acquire the property.
“We understand that this would be a departure from our earlier recommendations,” the board wrote on May 13. “We feel that the current economic conditions and our current cash-rich position enable us to acquire this land and we see it as a very important addition to our park system. Our intention is to recommend the purchase of this land and to recommend its preservation as zoned open space (OS). The land’s use, whether as a golf course and/or other recreational uses, should be determined through the regular DPR public outreach process after the land is acquired.”
Virtual Town Hall Draws 142
Participants, Many From Outside East Area Boundary
Denver planners held a virtual town hall on May 12 to provide updates on the controversial East Area Plan that would impact neighborhoods along the East Colfax corridor.
At the outset, the 142 participants were polled to identify which neighborhood they live in. Of those, 35 responded they do not live in the impacted boundaries of the East Area Plan, and another 33 declined to answer the question. Of respondents who do live in the affected area, eight were in Hale, 12 in the East Colfax neighborhood, 17 in Montclair and 37 in South Park Hill.
The draft plan includes a multitude of recommended changes that would impact land use, housing, mobility and quality of life in the neighborhoods. It is part of a citywide planning effort that was launched in response to past forecasts that Denver’s growth will continue at a staggering rate. In the wake of the pandemic and resulting double-digit unemployment, however, the current economic forecast is unclear.
The city’s insistence on moving forward while Denver was still in lockdown due to the pandemic drew criticism.
“There is no emergency planning need that justifies hurrying the East Area Plan through,” noted organizers from the group East Area Neighborhoods First. “Community members are being excluded from the process as a result of the city’s failure to provide in-person public meetings and failure to ensure that everyone in the community is included in the process.”
City planners have posted the newest version of the draft plan at DenverGov.org/eastplan. The city has extended its review period for the latest draft of the plan to July 1 and indicated it will also post a recording of the May 12 virtual town hall event. As of press time, answers to questions raised during the virtual town hall had not yet been posted on the city’s site.
Background and details of the city’s process are available at https://greaterparkhill.org/2019/09/not-so-fast/
Developer Planning Three-Story Housing For Seniors At 28th and Fairfax
Ralph Nagel, the developer of a proposed three-story residential apartment building for active seniors, is seeking support for a zoning variance that would allow him to add three extra feet to the height of the building.
The project is slated for the site of the former Xcel power station on the west side of Fairfax Street between 28th and 29th avenues. The building – called Parkview on Fairfax – will be directly across the street from the new city pocket park that will be located inside the unfinished block-long Park Hill Commons residential and commercial project.
Nagel provided an overview of the project to the board of GPHC, Inc. via a Zoom presentation in May.
The three-story building would include a mixture of 34 one- and two-bedroom residential units for people who are 55 years and older. Residential amenities would include a card room, community kitchen and indoor/outdoor gathering space.
The building would be constructed of brick/masonry. A 39-space surface parking lot would be located to the west of the building, with access from the alley. Demolition will likely commence this summer and construction will begin late 2020 or early 2021.
During the presentation, board members asked Nagel for details, including about affordability, parking and whether he has sought support from nearby neighbors.
Nagel said two of the 34 units would be designated as affordable housing, and the remainder would rent for market rates.
The current zoning for the property allows building to a height of 33 feet, which would allow Nagel to build a 3-story building with a sunken garden ground floor. The extra three feet allowed by the variance would place the ground floor at grade.
Check back next month for more on this project.