Blackhawk residents rebuff plan to sell parcels | June 26, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - June 26, 2009

Blackhawk residents rebuff plan to sell parcels

Vote to change zoning fails to get support

by Geoff Gillette

A recent proposal by Blackhawk Country Club to rezone two parcels of land from "Parks and Recreation" to "Residential" hit a roadblock when homeowners wouldn't OK the change.

In late spring, officials with the country club along with the Blackhawk Homeowner's Association Board put a ballot issue to residents asking for a change to the association's Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) to allow rezoning for parcels on Birchwood Place and Live Oak.

Frank Elliot, president of the board of directors for the Blackhawk Country Club, said the plan was to then sell the rezoned parcels to create three buildable lots.

"We worked with the HOA and put the proposal together and the ballot went out in March," he explained.

Several residents opposed the ballot initiative and complained about how the homeowners' board was handling the election. One resident, Luther Johnson, said mailers being sent out to homeowners held a biased viewpoint.

"The material was very misleading in the respect that it looked like it came from the HOA," Johnson stated. "Nowhere was it identified who the author was. The question and answer information on the mailer favored the position that the community would benefit from this sale."

Johnson said he did not like the way there were few opposing viewpoints provided or much discussion at the homeowners' board meetings.

"It's my opinion that the country club was trying to slip this under the radar," he said.

Many of the residents had concerns about how approving the rezoning this time might affect future endeavors.

"If this succeeds are they going to view this as a revenue generator?" he asked. "They may say no, but there are no guarantees."

Another factor worrying opponents was what would happen to the land once it is sold. One thought was that grading the hilltops where homes would be built could increase the possibility of landslides. Another concern was that the parcels could be altered by the new owners.

"Once it's in the hands of the developers they (the parcels) can be brought back and subdivided. Once it's out of our hands, it's out of our control," said Johnson.

Elliot disagreed with that position.

"That is completely untrue," he said. "Contra Costa County would never let us do that."

Elliot said any use of the land would require an amendment to the general plan by the county, and he could not see any way that the Board of Supervisors would allow such a use in Blackhawk.

He added that the plan to sell the land was not driven by the economic downturn. "The thing we could not do is sell assets like this and use the proceeds for club operations. Operationally, we are sound and everything is running fine."

Revenue generated by the sale of the land would have been used for capital improvement projects at the country club.

Ballots were sent out in late March with an April 28 collection date. A total of 1,900 potential ballots could be cast, so in order to get approval of the amendment, 997 residents had to vote in favor. However, by the end date, they had barely received 1,000 votes, so another round of ballots was sent out and the date was extended to May 22.

The ballots were counted at the May 26 meeting of the Homeowner's Association Board of Directors. Of the roughly 1,400 votes cast, 911 were in favor of the zoning change.

Resident Sue Talia said she believed the ballot issue failed because opponents started getting the word out. "The first mailing was about 70 percent Yes and the second was about 51 percent. It clearly looks like the election materials were misleading and once people had both sides of the story the voting went differently."

Now, the question is what happens next. While the country club has not stated any intent to put the issue to the residents again, opponents are certain that the country club will attempt to get the zoning change passed again.

Talia said she intends to attend the HOA Board of Directors meetings to make sure she is aware of any such event. "I'll be at the meetings and make sure they follow correct election procedures," she said.

She added, "They had an election and it was set up to favor the club, and even so it lost. So why do we have to keep monitoring elections? They lost, why do they get another bite at the apple?"