City councilor, others move to join lawsuit over drainage project at City Park Golf Course

DENVER – A group of Denver residents, including councilman Rafael Espinoza, filed a motion to join a lawsuit over plans to build a stormwater detention facility at City Park Golf Course.

The facility is one of four projects included in the city’s Platte to Park Hill program aimed at reducing the risk of major flooding in northern Denver. Plans for the golf course facility call for removing more than 100 trees and demolishing the old clubhouse.

“We’re trying to address what would happen if there was a 100-year flood in the area,” Angela Casias with Denver Public Works told Denver7 in July, when engineers and designers showed their plans for the stormwater facility at the golf course.

Former Attorney General J.D. MacFarlane filed a lawsuit over the proposal last summer, arguing the city is trying to use park land for a purpose for which it was never intended.

“Under the city charter, Denver zoning code and common law, designated park land cannot be used for a non-park purpose,” said attorney Aaron Goldhamer with Keating Wagner Polidori Free, who is representing MacFarlane as well as Espinoza and the seven others seeking to be added as plaintiffs to the suit.

The plaintiffs argue the stormwater project is designed to reduce flooding along the section of I-70 that CDOT wants to rebuild below grade and to protect other, private development projects in the area. The city told Denver7 in July that the project would certainly help with drainage on the Central 70 project, but it wasn’t the primary goal.

“If I-70 didn’t happen we would still move forward with this project,” Casias said.

Espinoza, who represents District 1, argues the city isn’t being honest about its intentions.

“If the city is claiming that the flooding of City Park Golf Course has nothing to do with the Central 70 project, that is a direct contradiction of what Council was told when the city sought approval for the fee hike,” Espinoza said, referencing the stormwater fee increase that the council approved last summer.

“I voted against this increase because it missed the opportunity to not only address the stormwater drainage problems of District 1, but of the entire city. Instead, this project misappropriates the use of the public good to focus on a flood plain that directly eases the development of the I-70 Ditch at the expense of a more comprehensive citywide solution.”

According to the motion to amend filed Tuesday, the defendants are opposed to Espinoza joining the suit as a plaintiff on the basis of his position as city councilor.

Denver7 reached out the city for comment but had yet to hear back as of the publishing of this article.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last year but a judge denied the motion in November.

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