The long-debated Magee Preserve residential development could be headed to the ballot, after a group of opponents last week filed a referendum petition seeking to overturn the Danville Town Council’s July approval of the project.
The petition, delivered to town staff last Tuesday by a resident group dubbed Danville Open Space Committee, contained 5,487 signatures from Danville residents, according to the proponents. They would need 3,000 valid signatures to potentially force a referendum.
The document has been forwarded to the Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters' Office for signature verification. If an adequate number of signatures are verified by the county, then the Town Council would have the option to reverse course and deny the Magee Preserve project outright, or put it on the ballot for consideration by Danville voters in a future election.
“I personally validated probably half of (the signatures),” Bob Nealis, a former Town Council candidate and leader of the Danville Open Space Committee, told DanvilleSanRamon.com. “And I can assure you that voter signatures came from all four corners of Danville not just out of one area.”
Danville Open Space Committee is a different citizen group than Save Open Space Danville (SOS-Danville), which previously sued to prevent a previous iteration of Magee Ranch development -- though there are some common members, Nealis said. The group is also not affiliated with the town government, which does not have an open space advisory committee like some municipalities, including San Ramon.
To oppose the council’s approval of the most recent project, Nealis said a collection of approximately 30 paid and volunteer signature gatherers fanned out throughout the town and over about two weeks -- from grocery store parking lots, to churches, to residents' front doorsteps.
Proposed by Walnut Creek-based developer Davidon Homes, the Magee Preserve project would consist of building 69 single-family homes on the south side of Diablo and Blackhawk roads, as well as a series of hiking and biking trails that would be open to the public.
Located on a 410-acre project site, the Magee Preserve would develop approximately 29 acres -- or 7% -- of the site, with the remaining 381 acres of open space preserved by the town on a permanent basis.
The project was endorsed by the Town Council during its July 2 regular meeting, and then confirmed for adoption by the council two weeks later. However some residents have taken issue with the project, claiming it will create more traffic, limit evacuation routes in an emergency situation such as a fire, and obstruct parts of the area’s open space.
A similar Magee development project -- proposed at the time by developer SummerHill Homes -- was approved by the council in 2013 but was eventually halted after SOS-Danville sued the town.
“You know it’s not that hard to get signatures when you have paid signature gatherers,” countered Steve Abbs, vice president of land acquisition and development at Davidon Homes.
When asked if he considered if public support was still in favor for the project, Abbs said “absolutely,” citing the multiple groups that support the project such as the Town Council, Planning Commission, Save Mount Diablo, Bike East Bay and Mount Diablo Cyclists, as indicators that public support is with the project.
“If they are successful in getting the required signatures (validated), Davidon will continue its efforts in making sure that the town of Danville is properly informed about this project by having on site hikes and tours and open houses,” Abbs told DanvilleSanRamon.com.
He added that Davidon officials are still reviewing possible next steps, but if the petition is validated then community members can count on hikes and other events taking place this fall.
As of Monday, county election officials are working on validating signatures. They have 30 days after filing to complete their count.