Concerns over golf course changes aired

11/02/2017

Due to community feedback, the Board of Supervisors postponed its decision to move forward with a purchase of the San Geronimo Valley Golf Course until Nov. 14, but they kept the item on the agenda this Tuesday. 

The nine residents who spoke all objected to the county’s proposal to turn much of the property into open space, citing lost tax revenue, recreational opportunities and fire buffers, among other concerns. 

Last month, the county announced plans to partner with the Trust for Public Land, which recently signed an option-to-purchase agreement with the Lee Family Trust to buy the course for $8.85 million. The county would contribute $3.91 million toward the acquisition of the property from the trust, of which $2.5 million will be supplied by the Measure A fund. The trust and county would  raise the balance.

Max Korten, director and general manager for Marin County Parks, said the family trust that owns the course would like the deal settled by the end of calendar year; the threat of another buyer entering the mix with plans to develop a spa, lodge or hotel was an incentive for the county to expedite the purchase. 

But some residents have criticized the speed at which supervisors had been moving. The board originally planned to vote on approving the proposed purchase this week, after just three weeks for public comment. 

Some expressed fears there will be strings attached to the large chunk of funds offered by the Trust for Public Land. On Tuesday, Peggy Sheneman from Woodacre  asked why the county couldn’t deal directly with sellers. “The Trust for Public Land was not voted in by us and we don’t pay our taxes to them,” she said. “I think you should say thank you to Trust for Public Land but then cut them out as the middleman.” 

Mr. Korten later said that the trust would not “create any restrictions on the property for us. They’re just a partner to help us move quickly to acquire the
property.”

With the North Bay fires fresh in her memory, Niz Brown of Woodacre read aloud a letter sent to her by Paul Jensen, the community development director for the City of San Rafael. She had contacted him to ask about the golf course’s value as a fire buffer and he responded that it was “pure logic for fire prevention.” 

Ms. Brown, a real estate agent, added, “Sixty percent of the Lagunitas [Creek] watershed is already public and the San Geronimo Valley is only 9 percent of it. This portion is a minuscule part of [the valley]. How can that make much of a difference to the salmon?” 

Others on Tuesday spoke to the value of keeping the golf course. San Anselmo resident Philip Snell, who volunteers at the course every week, defended the course’s reputation. “This is not a mediocre attraction,” he said. “It was designed by a hall of fame architect and golfers say it’s like a walk in heaven, a temple, a garden.” 

District Two Supervisor Katie Rice ended the hearing by reminding staff that the board expected a “comprehensive presentation that speaks to the roles of Trust for Public Land, the county and the seller. I really want the picture painted well to what the constraints and opportunities are for this property.”