Santa Rosa homeowners pushing to limit access to private park

A plan by a Santa Rosa homeowners association to redesign a small, privately owned park to make it less accessible to residents from outside the neighborhood heads to a zoning hearing Thursday morning.

The proposal by the Linwood Homeowners Association has stirred passions in the neighborhood of 207 newer single-family homes south of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Some residents are upset by what they see as a fear-based effort to block outsiders from their upscale neighborhood and to reroute an access path where it was never intended.

Others are upset that the project, which was halted last fall for lack of proper permits, has been delayed and costs increased because of what they say is conflicting information given to the association by city officials.

One key issue is whether the city has the authority to require public access to a private park.

The original park plan was proposed as part of the Linwood Village community proposed by Christopherson Homes and approved by the city in 2003. The private park included a public pathway opening onto Linwood Avenue, at the northern border of the subdivision.

Christopherson Homes began construction on the subdivision but later defaulted on the project during the recession. In 2010, Lennar Homes purchased the partially completed homes and empty lots and finished the subdivision, but it was up to the homeowners association to complete the park.

The association redesigned the park to eliminate the path from Linwood and to move a path accessible to disabled people from Chokeberry Court to Nectarine Drive. But the new location crosses right in front of the home of Kristen Wood and Chris Lockheed, who consider it an intrusion on their privacy.

In discussions with association board members, the removal of the path to Linwood Avenue was discussed as a way to keep the "bad element" out of the community, Lockheed said.

"There is very much an us-versus-them mentality behind this," Lockheed said.

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