Denver voters were rejecting Question 2O on the redevelopment of the old Park Hill golf course, early election results showed Tuesday night.
As of 7 p.m., the ballot measure that would approve removing a conservation easement restricting 155 acres of land in northeast Denver to primarily be used as a golf course was failing 60.26% (53,557 votes) to 39.74% (35,317 votes).
Voters had to decide what to do with the land at the northeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and East 35th Avenue after the Denver City Council referred the question to voters, asking if Westside Investment Partners, which has owned the property since 2019, can move forward with redevelopment.
At that same meeting, the City Council approved a rezoning of the land for future development. Those plans could include up to 3,200 new housing units and retail. Any future development agreement would have to include 25% of all housing built as income-restricted and 100 acres of the land (including 25 acres already being used as stormwater drainage area) committed to the city as parks and open space.
Westside also signed a community benefits agreement with members of the Park Hill neighborhood that stipulates that Westside would have to offer free land for any grocery store that wants to build on the property as well as create a property tax displacement fund to help surrounding residents.
The 2023 question came as a result of a 2021 ballot measure that required any proposed development to the green space to go before voters. This land is the only property within Denver covered by a city-owned conservation easement. The measure is contentious, as evidenced not only by competing measures in the 2021 election but also by the multiple lawsuits the developer and city have faced over the land.
One of those lawsuits was filed by the Sisters of Color United Education nonprofit against the real estate companies that own the former Park Hill golf course land over a deal they say the developer backed out of after the group had paid more than $200,000. Save Open Space Denver and other plaintiffs also sued the city this year over the former golf course, saying the land was considered “protected land” and has to remain as open space.
Those who have opposed the redevelopment of the Park Hill golf course argue that redevelopment would damage the city’s environment at a time when Denver is slipping in rankings of park space per resident and that it would be detrimental to the surrounding Northeast Park Hill neighborhood. It’s already at high risk of gentrification and they worry this would drive up property taxes and increase traffic burdens that residents would have to pay to improve. They also say the investment benefits the developer but not the city’s residents without properly appraising the value of the easement.
Although those against the measure say a “no” vote would force the developers to keep the land as open space, Westside has said it could consider all options allowed under the easement for the land, including a “Topgolf-like facility.”
But proponents of the measure have said approval will guarantee a new park and 2,500 homes for Denver residents, including affordable housing, at a time when the city is facing a housing shortage. It would still leave open space, creating the fourth-largest park in the city, according to the Yes on 2O campaign. And with legally-binding agreements that the developer has entered into, the community will benefit, they argue.
“Denver’s voter data shows that turnout so far is heavily skewed toward voters aged 55 and older. This election will depend entirely on whether the people most impacted by Denver’s housing crisis—renters, working parents, teachers, and first responders—use their vote today to help solve it,” said Bill Rigler, spokesperson for the Yes on 2O campaign.
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