Save Open Space Denver files lawsuit over Park Hill Golf Course future

A lawsuit was filed Friday in Denver District Court against the city over proposed redevelopment of the Park Hill Golf Course.

Save Open Space Denver and several individual plaintiffs filed the lawsuit seeking to preserve a 2019 Conservation Easement and claiming the 155-acre parcel is “protected land,” according the 20-page complaint filed by the Tierney Lawrence Stiles law firm.

The plaintiffs assert “taxpayer standing to seek to enjoin the unlawful expenditure of public lands and disposition of a valuable taxpayer funded real estate asset owned by the city for the benefit of its residents,” according to the complaint. “Each of the individual plaintiffs, as residents of the city and county of Denver, has a personal and economic interest in preserving and protecting the precious remaining open space, recreational and aesthetic assets of their city and community.”

The land is owned by a Delaware limited liability company, ACM Park Hill JV VII LLC, a subsidiary of Westside Investment Partners, according to the complaint. The property owner is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The conservation easement, granted to the city in 2019 “by the then owners of the Protected Land,” is attached to the complaint as an exhibit.

“A conservation easement may only be terminated, released, extinguished or abandoned by a court determination – at the joint request of the property owner and holder of the easement – that conditions on or surrounding the encumbered property have changed, since the effective date of the easement, so that it has become impossible to fulfill its conservation purposes that are defined in the deed of conservation easement,” the lawsuit said.

The easement was granted to the city “to maintain the … scenic and open condition” of the property and to preserve it for recreational use, the lawsuit claims.

Plans to repurpose the parcel have “proceeded, at considerable taxpayer expense” and in “direct violation” of the easement, according to the complaint.

Last month, the City Council referred a question to the April 4 municipal election that would give voters the option to wipe out the legal agreement that prevents most development on the site. If approved by voters, the land could be redeveloped to include up to 3,200 new housing units, retail and a grocery store on the property off of the northeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and East 35th Avenue. The City Council voted 11-2 to put the future of the property before the electorate.

The upcoming ballot question reads: “Shall the voters of the city and county of Denver authorize the release of the city-owned conservation easement on privately owned property known as the Park Hill Golf Course, which requires the land to be used primarily for golf-related purposes, and allow for commercial and residential development, including affordable housing, and public regional park, trail and open space.”

At the same Jan. 23 meeting, the City Council approved rezoning the land, turning it from privately owned park space into a variety of zonings that will clear the way for development.

“The city and City Council proceeded in excess of their authority, acted illegally, arbitrarily and capriciously, abused their discretion, and denied due process to the protest petitioners in approving ACM’s Rezoning Application,” the lawsuit claims. “The approval by the city and City Council of ACM’s Rezoning Application should be declared void.”

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