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Denver judge dismisses lawsuit over Park Hill Golf Course development

A judge dismissed the Save Open Space lawsuit that claimed the city was making plans for the former golf course while the land was bound by a conservation easement.

DENVER — A judge dismissed a lawsuit this month brought by the group Save Open Space Denver against Mayor Michael Hancock and the City of Denver over the former Park Hill Golf Course.

Denver District Court Judge Ross B.H. Buchanan ruled that the group and the individual plaintiffs didn't have standing to pursue the lawsuit, which was filed in June 2021 with the intent of stopping the city from planning to develop the 155-acre parcel.

The lawsuit claimed that the city, Hancock and Laura Aldrete, executive director of the Denver Community Planning and Development Department, had violated the conservation easement on the land by spending taxpayer money on development planning.

In a ruling issued Feb. 10, Buchanan ruled that the plaintiffs didn't have a legally protected interest in the easement and, even if they did, they wouldn't be entitled to the relief that they requested. Because of that, he dismissed the lawsuit.

> The video above aired June 23, 2021, when the lawsuit was filed.

RELATED: Lawsuit filed over Denver's planning for Park Hill Golf Course development

Along with Save Open Space Denver, the lawsuit listed plaintiffs from each of Denver's 11 council districts, including former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Denver mayoral candidate Penfield Tate III and Brother Jeff Fard.

The group released a statement after the dismissal saying it would continue to fight to preserve the land for open space and recreational conservation purposes.

“While we are disappointed by Judge Buchanan’s decision, we are not going to be deterred in our fight to let the people decide what happens to the Park Hill Golf Course land - not a developer and not a city run by developers,” Tate said on behalf of the group. “To be painted by the city as a group of people fighting to save a defunct golf course is just more of the same false rhetoric. We are fighting to preserve the land consistent with the open space and recreational conservation purposes of the conservation easement.”

City Attorney Kristin Bronson also released a statement after the dismissal, saying, “A core function of local government as a steward of the public lands is to seek input from the community on how they want that land used. The public process to this point has found near-universal support for discontinuing the operation of a functionally obsolete golf course on this land. If and when it is determined that a change of use is appropriate, the community will have an opportunity to weigh in on that decision through their elected officials and a direct vote. Narrowly focused organizations that purport to represent the community are no substitute for the city’s broad-based, extensive, and fair community outreach effort.”

The former Park Hill Golf Course is one of the last large undeveloped properties in Denver and is protected by a conservation easement, signed by then-Mayor Wellington Webb in 1997. 

After almost a year of public meetings and surveys, the City of Denver released a document in December detailing their vision for the land, saying residents want a large park, housing, more trees and a grocery store, among other things.

RELATED: Denver releases priorities for former Park Hill Golf Course

The golf course, located at Colorado Boulevard and East 35th Avenue, closed in 2018. Real-estate developer Westside Investment Partners bought the land for $24 million in 2019.

RELATED: Former Park Hill golf course sold for $24 million

In November, Denver voters approved an ordinance intended to keep the parcel as greenspace by requiring a citywide vote on any development on land protected by a conservation easement unless the development is for the purpose of creating a park or cultural facility.

Voters rejected a second ordinance that would amend the city's definition of a conservation easement to exclude the golf course land and keep the door open to development.

RELATED: Denver votes to keep former Park Hill Golf Course as open space

RELATED: 'It’s a legacy that we have to leave': Neighbors push to protect Park Hill Golf Course



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