Danville Express

Newsfront - August 31, 2007

Field of Dreams dashed

Planners deny permits for practice field built without OK

by Jordan M. Doronila

The Danville Planning Commission on Tuesday night unanimously denied a permit for David Lowe to keep the 18,000-square-foot sports field he built for his kids, overlooking a cluster of homes on Alamo Springs Place and El Alamo in Danville.

He erected it with a 14-foot fence on a major ridgeline without town permits or approval, and residents living below his property say it is a glaring eyesore.

"It was thoughtless," said Planning Commissioner Robert Storer. "You give the impression that the Town of Danville doesn't care."

Lowe said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building the turf field on a parcel next to his home on his 2.3-acre property. It has a 14-foot tube and netting fence around the perimeter, mobile light poles and retaining walls, and a batting cage.

Permits should have been issued to build the retaining walls, 14-foot fence and for the electrical work. Erecting fences beyond six feet must have permits. Additionally, the town's scenic hillside and major ridgeline ordinance prohibits development within 100 vertical feet of a major ridgeline, said Town Principal Planner David Crompton. The town may grant exceptions for homes but does not allow other structures on ridgelines.

Lowe, a team manager for the San Ramon Valley Little League, built the field for practice for his son and his team of 10 boys.

When Lowe was building his field in January, a building inspector posted a stop-work-order after a neighbor called the town. But in that month, he did little grading and the stop-work-order was revoked, Crompton said.

However, he continued to finish the field. Neighbors complained that the boys on the field made noise; the fences blocked their view; and the retaining walls may cause drainage problems. Crompton said at the meeting there were no serious drainage issues regarding the walls.

"I think there was a blatant disregard for other people," said El Alamo resident John Blatter. "We are not against baseball. We are against the way it was done."

Lowe expressed regret at the meeting.

"We apologize to our neighbors and friends," he said. "I take full responsibility."

"This play area is for our children and our friend's children," he added, noting that he wanted to take part in his son's life. "It's not worth the attention."

His wife, Connie, echoed his sentiment.

"We feel sorry that we have angered our neighbors to such a degree," she said. "We are trying to do anything to reach a compromise."

The Lowes proposed extensive planting and landscaping to hide the fence and said he would lower it to six feet. David Lowe said he would work with the town on other ideas, and said he had thought no permits were needed to build his field.

Lowe worked with the Planning Commission when he built his home on a ridgeline in 1996 so Commissioner Lynn Osborn said he had knowledge of the process.

Despite Lowe's offer to compromise, the commissioners said no.

"Frankly, I'm not interested in mitigating a darn thing," Osborn said. "There is a disregard for the work-stop-order."

"It's a poke in the eye," said Commissioner Steve Condie.

Lowe has three options, said Crompton. He can remove the fence or lower it to six feet and remove or modify his retaining wall; he can make an appeal to the Town Council; or he can go back to the Planning Commission with a revised plan.

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@DanvilleWeekly.com


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