HistoryPrior to 1991, The Pines Tract consisted of 255 undivided acres of land leased by Bud Williams (Williams Resorts) from PG&E on a long term master lease which expired in 2013. The land had been informally subdivided into 550 residential lots, some commercial property, and the road network.
Williams subleased these informally divided lots to persons who built cabins on the leased land. The cabins were owned, but were built on the subleased land. The subleases were set to expire in 2012. Because of this arrangement, the cabins were, for the most part, modest. As 2012 was getting closer, maintenance was deferred, and very few cabins were remodeled or improved. It was assumed that in 2012, a lot of people, if not all of us, would be unable to renew the land leases, and would lose their cabins. It was very unclear whether PG&E would even grant Williams another master lease. It was equally unclear if Williams would be reasonable in renegotiating renewals of the subleases.
There was a lot of concern and discussion in the community, and people were worried about the "burning fuse", which was getting shorter with each passing day. Almost everybody said there was nothing that could be done about it. Henry "Barney" Bernard was among the small minority of people who thought something could be done.
In 1984, Barney formed the Bass Lake Homeowners Association. With a lot of hard work, and help from the County of Madera, we were able to buy out Williams Resorts. A bond assessment program was implemented in 1989, money was raised, and over its objections, Williams Resort was bought out for $5.1 million.
Negotiations commenced with PG&E, and again, after lengthy negotiation and bargaining, PG&E sold 125 acres to the BLHA for $16.3 million. This took another bond issue to raise the money. Liens on every piece of property which went to the bond for financing the purchase were put into place. People started getting their deeds to their land in 1992. Again in this process, Madera County assisted in many ways, supporting the bond issue, serving as a facilitator, holding the land until it could be surveyed, officially subdivided, and deeds issued, etc.
This activity, while greatly favored by most of the homeowners, was not supported by some in the community. Tensions and bad feelings arose between the leadership of the BLHA and a group of residents who belonged to The Pines Civic Council. Several in that group contended that the BLHA leadership had misappropriated funds belonging to the homeowners, and that the BLHA had not been above board in taking title to three vacant lots on Northshore Road. It should be noted that several years ago, when two Directors of the Pines Civic Council served on the Madera County Grand Jury, their allegations were thoroughly investigated by the Grand Jury, and officially found to be totally without merit. In spite of this complete repudiation of their false allegations, the hard feelings and distrust between the two groups unfortunately still persist today. The Pines Civic Council often takes positions counter to those favored by the BLHA.
In 1991, the homeowners received fee title to their lots. With the 2012 lease end date no longer an issue, people immediately started improving their property, remodeling, rebuilding, landscaping, etc. This activity continues still today. Property values have greatly increased as improvements have been made, and the entire community has greatly benefited by it.
In 1994, the County Assessor, Tom Kidwell, reassessed all the lots in the Pines Tract, which resulted in retroactive property tax increases for all the lots which had transferred title in 1992. The increase was huge, well over double. This came as a total surprise, and was doubly puzzling since the County had previously been so helpful to us. The BLHA first attempted to negotiate with Madera County for a rollback. When that failed, we tried to negotiate a compromise smaller increase, but still to no avail.
So the BLHA sued the County of Madera. We lost the first round in Madera Superior Court. Undaunted, the BLHA appealed the unfair judgment to the Appellate Court in Fresno. The three judge appellate court totally reversed the trial judge, and the assessments were rolled back. This resulted in not only retroactive tax refunds, but significantly lower tax bills for the future. Our successful lawsuit also benefited the homeowners in Wishon Cove and the Falls Tract, since The Assessor had to roll back the same type of increases he had tried to assess them.
As mentioned above, a result of our now having fee title of our land, combined with the tax rebates, is that building of new homes, remodels, and improvements have skyrocketed, and the community has undergone a significant overall improvement. Property values are at an all time high. Bass Lake is the premier area of Madera County.
In 2001, the BLHA was the originating force and a key element in working out an Agreement with PG&E and the US Bureau of Reclamation to modify the historical lake drawdown procedures and timing. This resulted in the Lake being only five feet down from full on Labor Day Weekend in 2001, a really big improvement over past years. Similar great lake levels, late in the season, were enjoyed in 2002 and 2003 (See Lake Levels).
The Bass Lake Homeowners Association is a strong voice for your property rights, and for making sure the Lake stays as beautiful and available for our enjoyment as it has been in the past.
Please be sure to review the section of this Web Site entitled Lake Levels and Issues. Become a BLHA member, stay informed, and let your Directors know how you may be able to help us. We need your support.