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What the Park Hill golf course vote actually means for Denver

Ballot issue 2O will determine if the land must stay a golf course or if it can be developed by Westside Investment Partners, the investment group that bought it.

DENVER — We will not know who the next Denver mayor will be after the April 4 election, unless the top candidate gets 50% plus one. 

Since that seems highly unlikely, there will be a runoff election in June between the top two.

We will, however, know the fate of Park Hill Golf Course after the election. 

Ballot issue 2O will determine if the land must stay a golf course or if it can be developed by Westside Investment Partners, the investment group that bought it more than three years ago.

What is guaranteed if 2O passes or fails? And what is just hopeful thinking? 

There is already an agreement in writing between Westside and the city of Denver (Development Agreement). Here is a summary of that agreement. There is also another agreement between Westside and several community groups (Community Benefits Agreement). 

They both contain similar requirements, but the Community Benefits Agreement has some financial-based incentives that the city is not requiring. 

The agreements call for a large park with 80 acres on the east side of the development given to the city, with another 20 acres, at minimum, included for open space. 

The west side of the land, closest to Colorado Boulevard, will include housing and businesses. 

In between the two would include more residential. 

The areas would be zoned differently, with buildings as tall as five, eight and 12 stories. 

Both agreements spell out the affordable housing that must be built on the 155 acres. 

At least 25% of the homes built must be “income-restricted units.” Income-restricted is based on area median income levels.

There must be no fewer than 300 for-sale income-restricted units, with at least 100 having three or more bedrooms. 

For those who are extremely low-income, which means a single person making less than $25,000 and a family of six making less than $41,000, there would be at least 40 homes. 

The income-restricted for-sale units would be income-restricted permanently. The rental units are required to be income-restricted for 99 years. 

The Community Benefits Agreement calls for a property tax fund to cover property tax increases for residents within a half-mile for eight years. 

It also includes a requirement that 12,000 square feet (or 10% -- whichever is greater) of commercial space to be offered at below-market rent. 

There is also a provision that a grocery store parcel be set aside and offered rent-free for 10 years. 

There is no promise of a grocery store, just that if one is included, it could have use of rent-free land. 

The Community Benefits Agreement Implementation Committee would be consulted regarding which grocery store, if one is picked. 

"It's an agreement that runs with the land, meaning that if Westside ever decides to sell that land to any other developer, those commitments still exist,” said Bill Rigler, spokesman for Yes on 2O. 

What happens if voters say no? 

Based on the current conservation easement that requires the land to be an 18-hole golf course, as well as a 2019 settlement agreement between the city and Westside, the land would have to be restored to a golf course. 

A no vote does not mean that it would be 155 acres of open space without development. A no vote means that a private investment group still owns the land, that currently, must be a golf course. 

Westword reported Tuesday that a no vote could mean a TopGolf could be coming next to the golf course. 

"Westside would not exclude consideration of any allowable use under the easement and that would allow a TopGolf-like use,” Rigler said. 

"We have the opportunity to make it a park simply because the business case for running a golf course has never made any sense,” said Harry Doby, treasurer for the No on 2O campaign. 

Doby’s side wants the golf course to become a park. However, the 2019 settlement agreement between the city and Westside calls for it to be restored to a golf course. 

"They are obligated to restore it -- restore to a full regulation 130-acre, 18-hole golf course. That's there only option,” Doby said. 

He is under the belief that the city – under a new mayor and city council, could buy the land for $5 million and keep it as open space. 

"It's really just a matter of will the mayor and the city council agree to the bargain of a lifetime and pick up this land as a public park,” Doby said. 

Westside has spent much more than $5 million on land that is yet to be developed, so selling it for $5 million is unlikely. 

This land has a pretty long, complicated history. Check out our timeline of the Park Hill golf course to see what it's been over the years:

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