Park Hill resident, golfer and former Colorado Attorney General J. D. MacFarlane filed a lawsuit on June 13 against the City and County of Denver over its plans to redesign the City Park Golf Course …
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Park Hill resident, golfer and former Colorado Attorney General J. D. MacFarlane filed a lawsuit on June 13 against the City and County of Denver over its plans to redesign the City Park Golf Course to capture and hold runoff water from severe storms.
However, no redesign currently exists—nor is one expected until next year—and the city’s attorneys on July 8 asked the court to dismiss MacFarlane’s case on that basis.
Photo by Jeff Hersch.
Controversy surrounds the possible demolition of The City Park Golf Course Clubhouse (built in 2001), regarding use of the course as a detention area as part of a massive flood control project.
Meanwhile, the evening MacFarlane filed his lawsuit, Denver City Council held an hour-long courtesy meeting for public comment and approved a $383 million sewer and storm drainage fee increase, part of which will fund the project.
One week later on June 22, a city-organized design workgroup met to gather community input for the actual redesign.
The constituency storm over city stormwater projects has been brewing for some time. In April, the city announced that City Park Golf Course—and not the Cole neighborhood—will be the site of a basin or “detention area” to capture and hold runoff water from severe storms. To accomplish this, the city plans to redesign the golf course to connect the basin to an existing stormwater pipe that runs beneath the course and along High Street.
The City Park Golf Course detention area is just one of four projects within the Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems improvements (P2P). The others are the Globeville Landing Outfall Drainage design and park re-design, an open channel and recreational trail along 39th Avenue and another temporary stormwater detention area at Park Hill Golf Club.
According to the city, the proposed City Park Golf Course detention basin will be integrated into an updated design of the course and will help protect some of the city’s most at-risk neighborhoods from flooding. Planning began late last year, and construction is expected to begin in some areas in 2016 and continue through 2019.
In presentations, the city has said the P2P projects are being designed independently, but at the same time as other nearby improvements, including the reconstruction of I-70 East, a project to remove the Brighton viaduct, sink I-70 below grade, and cap the highway with landscape to reconnect neighborhoods on either side.
Opponents—including MacFarlane—claim a connection, and are calling for a halt.
Although a sewer and stormwater fee increase was the subject of city council’s June 13 vote, the preceding public comment session became a forum to debate P2P, I-70 East and project misinformation.
Thirty-six people signed up to speak: 20 opposed, eight in favor and eight neutral. Due to council’s one-hour limit, only 20 spoke. After, the council spent more than an hour questioning city staff over concerns raised and claims made during the public hearing.
In the end, council approved the increase 8-3, with Rafael Espinoza, Kevin Flynn and Paul Kashmann voting against it. (Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega were absent.)
Council’s next opportunity for a say in the golf course redesign will likely be after a design is created. Approval is needed for land acquisition, debt issuance and contracts greater than $500,000, according to Nancy Kuhn, Director of Communications for Denver Public Works, who add they will continue to “work closely with council throughout the process.”
MacFarlane’s lawsuit asks Denver District Court Judge Michael Vallejos to declare the proposed golf course redesign to be in violation of city law which would prevent construction. The lawsuit claims the project is “an industrial-level stormwater management project in designated parkland, designed specifically to protect a highly-controversial federal highway project and other new construction, either without a popular vote, amendment of the Denver City Charter or a change in the applicable law governing designated parkland.” He also asked for costs and attorney's fees.
The lawsuit does not seek to halt the I-70 East project or the three other components of P2P.
City attorneys responded with a motion to dismiss on July 8, stating MacFarlane failed to identify any injury, his claims are speculative and “not ripe” and no facts were shown that the city was acting without proper authority.
MacFarlane’s attorney Aaron Goldhamer admitted there was no final plan, but said “it made sense to address this issue up front, before the city puts in a lot of design work, so we’re not in a position where the city says ‘Hey, we put in all this design work, the balance of the equities should allow us to proceed with the project… ’”
Goldhamer is not charging fees for the action but has set up a City Park Legal Fund page on gofundme.com to raise $10,000 to cover costs: expert witness fees, depositions and filing fees.
Golf course redesign began June 22 with the first meeting of the City Park Design Workgroup. Its 14 members include representatives selected by golf organizations and adjacent Registered Neighborhood Organizations.
According to a summary of the first meeting—intended to gather design preferences—participants identified sustainable, functional, high-quality design of facilities, protecting trees and views and practice facilities as “must have” features.
“Hopes” included community connectivity/access and a reflection of neighborhood character; well-designed facilities/improved views; improved play and practice areas; and overall sustainable, high-quality and innovative design.
“Fears” were also identified, including the project’s potentially poor design, cost, budget, construction and schedule, as well as loss of or impact on views and project inaccuracies.
There was a brief discussion on practice facilities, relocation of the clubhouse and obstructing views for commuters in and out of the neighborhood. These takeaways emerged: that relocating the clubhouse on top of the hill blocks views for drivers coming down 26th Ave.; whether views were more important than trees; and what if the “whole package” was not possible.
The workgroup will meet three more times before November. Although only workgroup members provide input, meetings are public.
“The general public will have some opportunities to learn more about the basis of the design process, options considered and provide input,” said Kuhn. Two community surveys to prioritize and round out the work group's design priorities, as well as open houses, are planned throughout the summer and fall.
Kuhn said construction might begin in late 2017, and the golf course will remain open through the 2017 season, reopening in late 2019 or early 2020.
For more information, including upcoming public meetings, summaries of meetings and maps, visit denvergov.org/plattetoparkhill.
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