BAY POINT -- One reason Mike Powis bought his house was its location adjacent to rolling hills and hiking trails set aside as open space.
Now, there are deep grooves cut into those hills. And where the land slopes down to a street stands a large a "no trespassing" sign, even though the area west of Powell Drive is zoned as open space meant to be accessible to the public. All the changes have happened since the previous owner sold the 90-acre parcel to Testament Investments LLC, which lists Jacqueline Seeno as the active officer, last December.
"When we bought here, we expected the hills to be open space forever. And I'm getting the feeling that's not what they are doing. They are defacing the hills and cutting big things on it," said Powis.
A representative of Seeno Construction Co. declined to comment.
The land was zoned as open space as a condition of approval in 1991 for KB Home to build two subdivisions. The parcel has been sold to other private landowners since then, but that does not change the requirement for it to remain open space.
In recent months Testament extended barbed wire to an existing trail head gate that had allowed passage to the open space area and put up the large "no trespassing" sign on the gate, neighbors say.
"They want to prevent the public from going into this area, but the public has a right to go into this area," Ray O'Brien said. "This is the history of the Seenos. They do what they want to
Testament has since installed an adjacent pedestrian gate next to the gate with the "no trespassing" sign.
O'Brien sent a letter to county officials, saying he had concerns that grading work was being done on the land without proper permits.
The county is keeping on eye on the changes, but at this time has determined that the grooves dug into the land do not amount to illegal grading, said Brian Balbas, Contra Costa's deputy director of public works.
A Testament representative told Balbas it has improved existing fire breaks on the land in preparation for bringing cattle to graze there. Cattle grazing is allowed on the land and has been done by previous owners.
Balbas said the county will also post public access signs on the pedestrian gate, and that Testament has agreed to modify its "no trespassing" sign on the adjacent gate. But on Friday, the sign was still there.
"(Testament is) going to come with a custom sign that is more appropriate for that area," so it won't send a mixed message, said Balbas. "It is a bit confusing."
Powis would like see the sign removed.
"It would be nice to get rid of that big 'no trespassing' sign," he said "It's really intimidating, considering there is an open trail there."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.