The mission of the Inverness Foundation and Association is, in part, “to maintain and preserve the environment and natural beauty of the Inverness area, Tomales Bay and its watershed, and to take such initiatives and to support such endeavors as will strengthen and support the wellbeing of the Inverness community.”
This does not usually entail undertaking a year-long effort to reduce the footprint of a private development. In the case of the Moonrise Kingdom development at the top of Vision Road, the association’s board reluctantly made an exception. Our overarching reason was its size: Moonrise Kingdom was proposed to be half again as big as the biggest residential development on record in Inverness. With the imminent re-emergence of the equally large Hidden Dragon project in Inverness Park, we felt that the Tomales Bay area was at a tipping point for large residential compounds and that now was the time to take a stand against this area becoming a new Carmel or Napa Valley.
The outcome of our effort is now known: thanks to Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, a compromise was reached that significantly reduced the square footage of the development, while allowing the owners to restore the existing, unpermitted buildings that inspired their interest in the property in the first place. The owners also committed to incorporating a second unit to house a caretaker. Along the way, the association’s concerns about spotted owls, native plants, water tanks and other environmental matters were addressed as well.
Neither side got exactly what it wanted, but that is the nature of a compromise. Although, like the owners, the Inverness Association fought for what we thought was right, we realize that a compromise is actually a victory, because it respects the needs and interests of both parties and enables the community to move forward
One aspect of the supervisors’ meeting was disturbing—the false charges and deep anger hurled at the association. It would not be surprising if the owners had a sense of grievance that their plans had to be altered, but most of the anger was expressed by people who had not previously been involved in the debate. We were accused of running a vicious smear campaign against the owners on social media, of physically blocking the owners from speaking to Supervisor Rodoni, of denying housing to people of “accomplishment, wealth and prominence.” To deny these charges would give them credibility they do not have.
When the Inverness Association went out of its comfort zone to take on this challenge, we knew there would likely be some who could not accept any outside interference in private property development, even though the county planning process allows for public comment. We were pleased to get support from our members and other community members in many forms: an increase in membership renewals, verbal encouragement and donations to cover the cost of our appeals. Community support aside, however, it was very important to us to demonstrate that our actions were not inspired by ill-will toward the owners, that our aim was simply to protect the future of West Marin and ensure that Marin’s laws and coastal regulations were enforced. Our arguments were legal, never personal.
We trust that by taking on this challenge and bringing it to a positive conclusion, the Inverness Association has helped send a message to future buyers that will reduce the need for another such effort. It is distressing to realize that some in our community actually came to believe that we were motivated by jealousy or political or personal feelings. It’s hard to even know how such narratives originated. All the association can do is continue its work, hopefully with the ability to focus on our more mundane responsibilities, such as maintaining the old Inverness pathways, re-roofing the Gables, and putting on more wildly successful Inverness Fairs.
Kathy Hartzell is president of the Inverness Association and Foundation.