Tag Archives: Judge Herbert L. Stern III

School sits on former open space that activists want back — eventually

Attorney and parks advocates press case at Court of Appeals to overturn land swap involving Hampden Heights Open Space

By Jon Murray
The Denver Post

Two years after the Denver City Council cleared the way for a controversial land swap, children filed last month into a new elementary school built on former city-owned open space near Cherry Creek Reservoir.

But the Joe Shoemaker School’s opening hasn’t ended a legal fight by still-simmering Denver parks advocates over what they saw as an illegal giveaway of valuable park land, a charge disputed by city officials.

Dozens of the lawsuit’s supporters packed a Colorado Court of Appeals courtroom this month as their lawyer, who is appealing an earlier loss in Denver District Court, again pressed to return the land to city ownership.

That prospect has been complicated, of course, by Denver Public Schools’ construction of the building on the 11½-acre city parcel on Havana Street, which was swapped by the city for a central Denver former DPS administration building that soon will become a domestic violence resource center.

The opponents admit that if they prevail, their best-case scenario would be to win a court order for the land to be returned as city park land — but only decades from now, once the new school has outlived its usefulness.

Attorney John Case, who lives nearby, and other park advocates say they’re still fighting to protect more than just one park.

READ MORE HERE

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Barnes-Gelt: The hinky history of Denver’s land swap

By Susan Barnes-Gelt, The Denver Post May 9, 2014

Early this month, following more than a year of political shenanigans, civic and media consternation, lawsuits and failed appeals, Denver District Court Judge Herbert Stern affirmed the legality of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s decision to transfer 11 acres of open space in southeast Denver to Denver Public Schools for a new elementary school.
In exchange for the acreage and $710,000, the city got an obsolete DPS building in the Golden Triangle that will house a domestic violence center for women.
No one disputes the value of a new elementary school or a domestic violence center. At issue is how the city administration managed the deal. To recap:
In late 2012, Lauri Dannemiller, manager of Parks and Recreation, asked her 18-member advisory board to approve the swap and de-designate 9 acres of Hentzell Park as open space and the adjacent 2½ acres as a parking lot. The board opposed the measure, 11-6. The board, charged with oversight and stewardship of Denver’s treasured parks and open space, was chagrined when Dannemiller overruled the majority opinion.
Read the entire article in the Denver Post Here

 

Judge Stern enters judgment for Defendants

Dear Friends,

On Friday May 2 Judge Stern granted judgment for the Defendants City and County of Denver and Denver Public Schools.  A copy of Judge Stern’s Order is attached. 

There will be no jury trial on May 19.  All witnesses are released from their subpoenas. DPS will continue to build the new school in what used to be Hampden Heights North Park.

First, I want to thank everyone who supported the effort to save this beautiful open space park.  Hundreds of people contributed their time, talent, and treasure, and there is not space to personally thank everyone.  I want to specially acknowledge the plaintiffs Steve Waldstein, Zelda Hawkins, and the board members of Friends of Denver Parks, Inc., Renee Lewis, David Hill, Shawn Smith, and Judy Case, who never gave up; Maggie Price, who created and manages the Friends Website; KC Keefer, who donated the film “Hampden Heist;” witnesses Wellington Webb, Susan Barnes-Gelt, John Bennett, Neil Sperandeo, Susan Baird, Jim Kellner, Amy Laugesen, Dave Longbrake, Dawn Mayo, Dave Norden, Joan Biggs, Sandy Dennehy, Charlie Gallagher, Willis Carpenter, and Tom Noel,; my law partners and faithful staff at Benson & Case; Bob and Nancy Stocker, Kathleen Wells, Dave Felice, Brad Cameron, Joe Halpern, Mary Ewing, and all the volunteers who gathered signatures for the referendum petitions that the city refused to count; Larry Ambrose and the dedicated members of INC who supported and honored our efforts; Wendy Warner and Ed Hall, chairpersons of the Denver Republican and Democratic parties, who passed resolutions condemning the city’s actions; Chuck Bonniwell, who provided expert testimony about Denver’s acquisition of land for recreation along Cherry Creek in the 1930’s, and gave our effort media coverage in the Cherry Creek Chronicle; Jennifer Doran and Pam Quigley, who researched and copied newspaper articles about the flood of 1933 and the city’s acquisition of parcels of land along Cherry Creek at the Denver Public Library and Colorado History Museum; Joe Marisco, who spent six days at the clerk and recorder and assessor’s offices in Arapahoe county, copying deeds to parcels of land along Cherry Creek that the city acquired in the 1930’s; Richard Hentzell, Bill Stanfill, Dick Laugesen, Laura and Linda Gravina, and all of the financial donors who so generously provided funds for petitions and court costs.

Second, I am pleased to announce that Friends of Denver Parks will appeal Judge Stern’s decision, because we believe it is an injustice that the people of Denver were not allowed to vote before their park land was taken.  We will post news of the appeal on the website.

Third, in the near future Friends of Denver Parks will launch a ballot initiative to protect all remaining Denver parks from sale. We want to make sure that what happened here does not happen again.

Thanks again to all of you for your generous help and support.

John Case

BENSON & CASE, LLP

Court Document can be found here