OVA Board Rules for Sunday Symposium Despite Strong Church Objections

Al Haggerty

Despite strenuous objections from the Oakmont Community Church, the OVA Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution at its May 21 meeting  to move the Sunday Symposium to the Berger Center for its 2019-20 season and move the Oakmont Community Church to the newly remodeled East Recreation Center.

The church board, in a letter to the OVA Board, asked that the board “honor the agreement set forth in the special business meeting in August of 2018 and allow the church to return to the Berger Center as promised.” The church had been meeting at Berger at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday since 1969 until moving to the Central Activities Center when the East Rec renovation moved the Symposium from the ERC to the Berger.

An attorney representing the church said the board was on the verge of making “a serious mistake.” He said the board was on “thin legal ice” and should “think very carefully” about the issue.

Director Carolyn Bettencourt said no club or organization owns the rights to any Oakmont facility and the use of Berger for a church was never intended to be forever. “Berger,” she said, “is not a church.” Director Noel Lyons said the Symposium consistently draws more people than the church. Directors Heidi Klyn and Marianne Neufeld agreed. Klyn said East Rec is “perfect for the church”.

The Symposium, in a letter to the OVA Board, said it recognizes it has an existing agreement to return to the East Rec when the renovation is complete and will do so if the board determines it’s the best option for Oakmont residents. However, it added “the facts have changed” (since last August), citing four Symposium events held at Berger which would not have fit in East Rec.

These included 247 people for an Erin Brockovich appearance, 281 for Sonoma County historian Gaye LeBaron and 235 for geologist Jane Nielson. The letter said increased average attendance raises concerns about both adequate seating and adequate parking at the East Rec.

Brinda Peterson, pastor of Oakmont Community Church, cited the often repeated claim that the church was guaranteed “perpetual use” of Berger for its meeting by Oakmont’s developer. However, Tom Kendrick, board vice president, said there is no written evidence of such a guarantee and he urged anyone with such evidence to bring it to the board’s attention so that it can revisit the issue.  He said there was never a plan to provide a church building.

Pastor Peterson said East Rec lacks the necessary “weather protected” storage space for worship elements the church has been accustomed to using over the years. She said the suggested use of a POD would mean moving elements from and to the POD in sometimes inclement weather.

“We are not standing in opposition,” Pastor Peterson said. “We simply wish after 50 years serving this community for our voices and our needs to be met.”

A key issue is storage during the week for the church’s musical instrument and worship materials. Storage at the East Rec is limited.


            The board unanimously approved spending up to $27,570 for four motorized, retractable  awnings, each measuring 16 feet 9 inches by 13 feet, on the south patio of the East Rec Center. The Pickleball Club will pay half the cost since the club expects pickleball players to utilize the shade structure on a regular basis.

The board unanimously approved a $14,100 contract for tree clearance near the Pleasant Vista Homeowners Association and the Par Course and $14,800 for tree clearance near the West Recreation Center and Badger Creek. Both contracts are with True North of Santa Rosa. The work is designed to comply with Oakmont’s designation as a Firewise USA Community. It includes reducing ladder fuels that could spread fire into trees, tree trimming to reduce crowns, removing lower limbs and fallen tree limbs and removing undesirable plants.

The board recognized Oakmont Veterans, a new Oakmont-based organization open to all military veterans to provide comradeship.

Association General Manager Kevin Hubred said a grand opening celebration for the East Recreation Center has been moved from May 22 to Aug. 1. He said OVA was very close to obtaining a temporary certificate of occupancy, which will mean informing clubs they can return to the center at their convenience.

(Watch a video of the meeting at OakmontVillage.com/article/category/vid/)