Mountain View Christian Center proposed converting the 5-acre Hanoum Estate at 4790 Knarlwood Road into a venue for weddings, receptions, retreats, corporate meetings and parties accommodating up to 300 people.
Those favoring the proposal said it would enhance Oakley’s economy and image. Those opposed live near the site and are concerned about increased noise and traffic and decreased safety and property values.
Council members agreed to allow the site to become a party spot, but they imposed a number of restrictions in response to the neighbors’ concerns.
The venue, which is billed on the church’s Web site as an “elegant country retreat,” is filled with amenities that rival some of the nicer wedding locales in Napa and Mendocino.
The 9,000-square-foot Tennessee-style mansion, which includes a movie theater, library, billiards room and lounge, can accommodate up to 10 people on overnight stays. The landscaped grounds include two large ponds with fountains and paddleboats, a swimming pool, waterfall, tennis court, gazebos and a gravel parking area for up to 77 cars.
Brian Donnelley, director of Hanoum Estate, told the council that the facility would bring in visitors from throughout the country to Oakley, including corporate CEOs and church pastors.
“They see Oakley through the filter of this property,” he said. “(Their comments include) ‘I didn’t know Oakley was this nice’ – I get that on a regular basis. They are going to tell their friends about Oakley. That’s going to give people to understand that’s the kind of community that we have.”
Also speaking in favor of the proposal was photographer Steve Nosanchuk, who has toured the venue, during which, he said, “My jaw was wide open. This is not the type of facility you expect to see outside a destination location. I don’t see any reason why Oakley can’t step up and be counted as a destination location. It’s good for commerce, for the community, and it’s going to help bring everything up. It can only lead to bigger and better things.”
The main problem with the site is that it’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood – albeit an upscale area with picturesque homes on 1-acre lots. Many of those residents are concerned about the potential disruptions from the party spot.
“This is a commercial operation … (in) a quiet residential area,” said Don Scheer, a member of the city’s recently disbanded Planning Commission. “I just don’t think it fits at all. If you had a big wedding reception going on and there were alcoholic beverages, there may be impaired driving where there’s children in the streets. This project imposes an unnecessary and unwelcome burden on the longtime residents who enjoy living in a low-traffic, residential neighborhood.”
After five other residents voiced similar concerns, Mountain View Pastor Jerry Hanoum, who used to live on the property but has donated it to the church, said, “I’m a little bit surprised by the neighbors’ response, and feel bad about that. I’m a good neighbor. Our desire is to make a difference and do something good … I hope that you look at it in a way that this will be attractive to Oakley.”
The restrictions that the council imposed on the venue include providing additional landscaping or a sound wall to restrict the noise, banning loud music after 8 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on weekends, providing the venue’s phone number to residents in the area and reviewing the plan in a year to see if neighbors’ concerns are being met.
Donnelley agreed to the conditions, saying, “We want to be a good neighbor. Our full-time job is to minister to people. We will not make everybody happy all of the time. But we will work with our neighbors on whatever their concerns will be.”