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July, 2006


Moo Town News
By Judy Borello

Setting The Record Straight
In the June issue of the Coastal Post there was a column written by next-door columnist Jeanette Pontacq, called Skeptic's Journal in which I greatly differ (respectfully I might add)! Jeanette states in her column that Mease/Salah (husband and wife), owners of an approximate 40-acre piece of land in the San Geronimo Valley are "yuppies from Kentfield with money, out to buy their piece of West Marin."
It matters not what a man or a woman has in their bank account, or whether they're yuppies, hippies or from Kentfield or Kalamazoo! Don't we all want a piece of West Marin?

The fact is that when we put everything in Park, the land that remains becomes more valuable. Prices go up and only the wealthy can afford to buy. Check out the houses in Pt. Reyes Station. A normal three bedroom home goes for an average of a million plus dollars and the ag lands are on the upswing too.

Jeanette Pontacq also states that West Marin Ag needs to get over supporting every charming, well-dressed person who shows up, etc., etc.

The Farm Bureau's decision to support the owners of a small vineyard in the San Geronimo Valley was not based on whether the owners of the land were rich, the cut of their clothes or whether they are charming or not. What a shallow discriminatory concept that is!

Here are the facts, written by Sally Pozzi in the Sonoma-Marin Farm News. Sally is the president of the Marin Farm Bureau.

"Last month Catherine Salah and David Mease were successful in stopping the appeal on their project. We appreciate the Supervisors and staff acknowledging that requiring a trail as part of the permitting process would be illegal. Unfortunately, the success was overshadowed because the Supervisors scheduling a hearing on the possibility of using eminent domain to condemn the land for the trail...

"Everyone should be concerned and should indicate opposition to such a taking of agricultural land; this precedent will leave all of us vulnerable. As I testified at the June 13 hearing, over 70% of land in Marin County is publicly owned. This is more than adequate for trails. No additional privately owned agricultural land needs to be acquired for trails.

"Public trails are detrimental to agriculture. The Mease's have been more than accommodating, have offered to pay for a bypass trail in a location of their land and Open Space land further from the proposed home and agricultural plantings. If the County wanted the property or a trail it had ample time to purchase the property when it was for sale prior to the Mease's purchase.

"The argument was made by a supervisor that the Mease's should 'not put a ranch on our trail.' I have to point out that the reason eminent domain is being considered is there is no dedicated trail. To use eminent domain for this purpose is an enormous step beyond the current Supreme Court ruling, which utilized eminent domain for redevelopment and economic reasons.

I was surprised to hear from a Supervisor a problem with the Mease's using their property as it is zoned, for agriculture. The legal use for this land is agriculture. The Supervisors are supposed to be following the countywide plan and current zoning. Many commitments have been made by the elected officials to protect agriculture, now they need to carry through and keep trails off privately owned agricultural lands."

On Tuesday, June 13th, Steve Kinsey, our supervisor and David Mease, owner of the property in question addressed the Farm Bureau's board of directors at the Marin County Farm Bureau Building in Pt. Reyes Station. They had reached a compromise and both seemed encouraged by it.

The land adjacent to the property in question is owned by the County and it will offer two-thirds of the trail to go through the government land and one-third to go through the private property of Salah/Mease where it won't interfere with their home and vineyard.

I asked Supervisor Kinsey, who would be liable for any accident on the property. He answered, "The County," and then promised that all owners of ag land would not be forced by eminent domain or forced easements on ag lands for trails unless they can be proved "historic" and the only one that can sanction this is not the supervisors, planners or their staff at the County. It has to go through the courts to be legal.

David Mease said that the Jeanette Pontacq statement that the owners of the land "neglected the public access to the trail" was not true. Also responding to Jeanette Pontacq's statement that the land was "newly-purchased," it was bought in 1999 to be exact. Pontacq says in her article that the owners will plant a couple of acres of vines. For the last five years they've been growing vines and are going to plant five more acres which will be five percent of Marin's vineyard ag. What Dave Mease told me about Jeanette's comments "that their idea of ranching or farming a small vineyard attached to a large estate" was: "I don't think a 2,800 sq. ft. home qualifies for a large estate.

PS I have commended Steve Kinsey and Dave Mease for coming to a meeting of the minds. Problem solving is always welcome. And when the horsey-do people, hikers and bikers step up to the plate and accept some responsibility in all their elitist demands on the property owners such as keeping the trails clear, refurbishing the trails and keeping them up, the liability insurance and so forth, I'll change my mind about them. They want or demand everything, but offer nothing.

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