FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friends of Denver Parks Inc and homeowners Steve Waldstein and Zelda Hawkins filed their closing argument Monday June 17 in Denver District Court. The plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the City from trading 10.7 acres of Hampden Heights North Park for an office building at 1330 Fox St. A copy of the plaintiffs’ closing argument is attached and is available to the public at FriendsofDenverParks.Org.
The plaintiffs argue that the section 2.4.5 of the Denver City Charter allows park land acquired before 1955 to be designated by affirmative acts of the city government, separate and apart from designation by ordinance. Plaintiffs presented testimony from 6 witnesses and introduced 50 exhibits into evidence at the hearing June 12 and 13. The testimony, which was undisputed by defense lawyers for the City, showed that city officials, including planning officials and former mayor Bill McNichols, told citizens that HHNP is a park and would remain a park forever.
The City placed HHNP under the management and control of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Judge Herbert L. Stern III admitted into evidence recent photographs of official Parks Department signs on the property stating that HHNP is a park, as well as official City maps that showed HHNP as “Open Space – Park.”
Now the City claims that since the park was never designated by ordinance, the mayor and city council are free to trade it away. The city says that statements made by city officials since 1966 that HHNP is a park, signs in HHNP saying that it is a park, and official city maps that list HHNP as “Open Space – Park”, all are meaningless.
Denver charter section 2.4.5 states that city park land acquired before 1955 cannot be sold without a vote of the people. The City acquired HHNP in 1936.
The case has potentially important consequences for other parks in Denver that were acquired before 1955, but which were never designated by ordinance. A decision for the plaintiffs would provide legal protection for such pre-1955 parks, by requiring the City to call a vote of the people before any such park can be sold. A decision in favor of the City would allow city officials to sell such parks without notice to citizens and without a vote of the people.
Inter Neighborhood Cooperation, a non profit association of 94 registered neighborhood organizations, has voted to join in the lawsuit as a plaintiff.
Judge Stern scheduled a hearing for June 28 at 9 am in courtroom 376 to announce his decision.