Supporters of the nonprofit Friends of Denver Parks submitted an additional 1,297 signatures to the city Clerk and Recorder’s office, in their quest to get a referendum on the sale of park land by the city, John Case, the group’s attorney announced Aug. 20.
The nonprofit had earlier submitted 6,664 signatures by the July 1 deadline. City Clerk Debra Johnson refused to count them, arguing that the transaction wasn't subject to the referendum process. The city contends that the exchange between the city and the Denver Public Schools is a real estate transaction.
The group turned in the 25 latest petition sections on Aug. 19. It hopes that the latest petitions will fill any gap if Johnson begins purging large numbers of the original signatures, said Case. The July 1 signatures exceeded the referendum requirement of 6,129 signatures.
Also on Aug. 19, District Judge Herbert L. Stern III agreed to allow the filing of an amended petition against Johnson by Friends of Denver Parks. The amendment addresses Johnson’s latest refusal to accept signatures supporting a referendum.
The nonprofit contends the city acted in violation of its own charter when it swapped 10.77 acres of Hampden Heights North Park land to the Denver Public Schools. The park is considered an extension of the Paul A. Hentzell Park, a designated natural area. The school district hopes to build a new elementary school to ease overcrowding in Southeast Denver. In exchange, the city receives a DPS building downtown that would become a center for domestic violence victims.
During a June hearing before Stern, Case presented evidence that the city failed to look at alternatives other than park land. The nonprofit alleges that the city and the school district had made a secret oral agreement to swap the land in 2011.
Denver has transferred the park land to the school district in a quitclaim deed.
Stern has set a trial date on the matter for May 19, 2014. The nonprofit requests a jury trial if it cannot get the matter resolved by a vote of the people in a referendum.