DENVER — The city of Denver has rejected a petition from residents of the Park Hill neighborhood that would have required a supermajority vote of 10 council members to rezone the vacant Park Hill Golf Course, as developers and city leaders eye the space for housing and commercial development.
The Denver City Council was set to vote Monday night on several items related to the project, including the removal of a conservation easement that currently limits how the land can be used.
It wasn't until early Tuesday morning that Denver City Council voted 11-to-2 in favor of putting an ordinance about what to do with the land up to voters, who will have the final say on lifting the conservation easement to allow for development of the 155 acres during a special election on April 4.
Harry Doby, one of the neighborhood residents gathering support for the petition, said he and his wife chose to live in the area because of the tight knit community and the fact that it surrounds the wide open space.
“It’s just a wonderful place,” Doby said. “Park Hill is one of the strongest communities, I think, in the city. They have such an incredible, diverse identity.”
Doby said he and his neighbors immediately began to mobilize when they learned of the redevelopment prospects for the golf course. He argues that a false choice is being offered between green space and affordable housing, and wants to see more construction surrounding the open space, just not within it.
“We’re in a climate crisis. We have shrinking relative park space,” Doby said. “We don’t need to sacrifice green space in order to meet our housing needs.”
Doby and seven of his neighbors started gathering support for a protest petition for the rezoning. It would have required a supermajority of 10 or more city council members to vote in favor of the rezoning in order to proceed, rather than the usual simple majority of seven.
The protest petition process is complicated. Rather than requiring a specific number of signatures, it instead requires signatures from enough property owners in the immediate vicinity so that the sum of their collective properties in square footage is at least 20% of the land in question. In the case of the Park Hill course, about 12 acres of owned property needed to be represented by corresponding signatures.
Doby said he and his neighbors followed the rules set forth by the city’s Protest Petition Guide, and exceed the signatures needed. The group also submitted “Statements of Authority” for businesses and LLCs represented in the petition, as set forth in the guidelines.
However, after they submitted their completed petition to the city, it was sent back with many of the signatures rejected. In the reasonings given, the city acknowledged that the statements of authority were completed, but said notarization and additional governing documents were also required.
Per the Protest Petition Guide, “board resolutions authorizing the signer, bylaws, a Statement of Authority, or other applicable documents” are required for signatures from owners of corporate entities such as LLCs. We asked a spokesperson for the city for a response to the complaints from Doby and his neighbors, and were pointed to the email sent to him responding to their submitted petition.
“In conjunction with the City Attorney’s Office, city staff have completed our review of the protest petition that was submitted on Tuesday, January 17,” Senior City Planner Libbie Adams said in the email. “As you are aware, the Protest Petition Guide delivered to you on December 15, 2022 explicitly states that for properties owned by a company (e.g. LLC, LP, Living Trust, etc.), proof of authorization for an individual to sign on behalf of the organization is required. C.R.S. Sec. 38-30-172 establishes the minimum requirements for a statement of authority’s validity. The city does not have the authority to waive this requirement.”
Doby said he was blindsided by the response, and that it did not comport with ongoing conversations he and his neighbors had with city officials throughout the signature-gathering process.
“It was like, where did that come from? In all our emails, and in reading their instructions, nowhere was that mentioned,” Doby said. “They invented this rule simply to stop our process.”
The group was told there was no process to appeal the rejected petition.
With the Denver City Council set to vote with only a simplemajority vote required, Doby said they now plan to take their case directly to the people of Denver, who could decide the ultimate fate of the Park Hill neighborhood by vote in April.
“We’re going to win,” Doby said. “It’s just a matter of time. The Park Hill neighborhood, and Denver in general, know that this is a rotten deal. They’re being sold a bill of goods, and they’re not going to stand for it.”