What is an area plan and why did the city begin a public planning process for this land?
An area plan uses community input to provide policy recommendations and regulatory guidance in advance of possible future change. In the case of the Park Hill Golf Course, residents made it clear during community conversations in 2021(PDF, 833KB) that they wanted to see this private golf course become a large public park, with related neighborhood-serving features, such as space for local businesses, affordable housing options, more youth sports and recreation, access to fresh food, and more. The city began the small area plan process in 2022 to create the policy and regulatory guidance that could achieve these outcomes.
Examples of other recent area plans
Small area plans like this have been used many times around the city before, including for:
Who owns the Park Hill Golf Course?
The 155-acre golf course is owned by development firm Westside Investment Partners, which purchased the property from the Clayton Foundation (Clayton Early Learning) in June 2019. A collaborative partnership of African American real estate developers, brokers, community outreach specialists and event and project managers, the Holleran Group, joined Westside as a co-developer in 2020.
From the 1980s through 2019, the land was privately owned by the Clayton Foundation. The golf course itself was operated by Arcis Golf. The golf course closed in 2018, and in 2019, Clayton sold the land to Westside.
Since the 1990s, a conservation easement has been in place on the land. The easement contains language that limits the use of this land to a daily fee, 18-hole golf course. This easement is still in place today.
Learn about the owners: Westside Investment Partners | The Holleran Group
What does the conservation easement say?
In 1997, the city paid The George W. Clayton Trust (Clayton) $2 million to acquire a conservation easement setting use restrictions on the Park Hill Golf Course. The use restrictions represent a private restrictive covenant and a real property interest owned by the city. They are still in place today.
The restrictions contained in the conservation easement limit the use of the property to an 18-hole golf course.
Read the conservation easement
Why plan for any development if the conservation easement is still in place?
Community members expressed a desire for the property to be used in a way that better serves their needs than a golf course. These priorities included a large regional park, a grocery store, more affordable housing and community-serving businesses, and more recreational opportunities for young people. None of this is allowed while the easement is in place.
The purpose of planning ahead of time was to create a set of policies and rules, so that if the easement is ever released, the outcome of what happens on the property is predictable and reflects the community’s vision and needs.
Was the city allowed to do a plan when there’s a conservation easement on the property?
Yes, the city was allowed to facilitate a visioning and planning process for the future of the area while other rules for what may happen there exist.
Although this process is focused on land with a single property owner, it is not that different from planning that takes place at a neighborhood or citywide scale. Those types of plans also involve properties that have certain restrictions or zoning that limit what can be built or how the property can be used at the time of the planning process. Planning is an opportunity for community members to have a say in what happens in the future of their neighborhood and is most effective when done ahead of major changes or growth.
How did Ballot Initiative 301, passed in 2021, affect this property?
In the November 2021 election, voters decided how conservation easements can be partially or fully released in Denver. Here’s what that vote means for this project:
- Before Ballot Initiative 301: Any release of the easement had to be approved by City Council.
- After Ballot Initiative 301: Any release of easement must be approved by City Council and a majority of Denver voters in a municipal election.
Ballot Initiative 301 did NOT:
- address whether development should or should not happen on the property
- prohibit any changes on the property in perpetuity
- guarantee this private property would be turned into public park
Ballot Initiative 301 DID:
- guarantee that Denver voters will have a say in any potential release of the conservation easement
Download more information:
What was the 2019 legal settlement?
In late 2019, the city finalized a Settlement Agreement with Westside Investment Partners that maintained existing land use restrictions at the privately-owned Park Hill Golf Course and guaranteed the community and City Council would have a defining role in any proposed changes.
Please see the following downloads related to the settlement:
Small Area Plan
Development Agreement and Rezoning
The city approved a legally binding agreement with the property owner on January 23, 2023, in order to align regulations for the land with community goals from the adopted small area plan.
These documents were prepared by city planners in conjunction with researchers to assess the conditions of the surrounding area, including traffic, sidewalks, bike lanes, transit stops, local economy and market, parks, open spaces, notable environmental features, and more.
The golf course is currently subject to a conservation easement, which limits the use of this land to a golf course.
If you use assistive technology and need help reading content in these files, please contact Courtney Levingston at 720-865-3074.
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