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Voters Decide Fate of Pine Meadow

Apr 01, 2015 10:15AM ● By Elena Hutslar

Voters Decide Fate of Pine Meadow

On March 18, the Martinez City Council received official notice that a petition for a referendum to overturn the re-zoning of Pine Meadow Golf Course has the necessary valid signatures. On January 21, the city council adopted an amendment to the General Plan Designation from Open Space and Recreation, Permanent to Residential, of the 25.9-acre golf course to allow the construction of 99 homes on the property. The amendment passed by a 4-1 vote after gaining approval from the planning commission.

Opponents have argued the golf course should remain zoned as open space, and they organized a referendum drive to put the issue before Martinez voters. Since then, supporters calling themselves the “Friends of Pine Meadow” collected over 3,000 signatures on the petition, subsequently certified by the Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Department.

During public comment, Christine Coward Dean, one of the owners of Pine Meadow, spoke passionately about the issue: “When we are talking about how open space is incredibly important, I found it interesting that (out of) the first six speakers here who were in favor of the referendum, not a single one mentioned that this property is private property. I don’t want it to get to the point that the government or the people can come in and take my property (and) tell me what I can and cannot do.” The Coward Dean family has said they can no longer operate the golf course, which closed on March 31, and they have been working with the City of Martinez for four years to find a potential solution.

Mayor Rob Schroder, who was absent from the council meeting, wrote a March 16 letter to the editor at the Martinez Gazette and said, “Real options for this property are limited. There is no plan to turn this land into a city-owned park for a number of reasons: first, the city already has 55-acre Hidden Lakes Park – one of our community’s largest parks – just two blocks away from Pine Meadow. Second, the land currently houses a business, restaurant and bar, and its land is contoured for a commercial golf course – not natural open space. Its trees are not native and the land contains man-made irrigation basins that are pumped out nightly, making it largely unsuitable for open space. This is private property, worth millions of dollars, and it would take a huge hike in residents’ property taxes for us to purchase the property and maintain it – a fact the referendum supporters omit.”

Coward Dean added, “We (the city and Coward Dean family) have spent four years trying to do something good for Martinez; we presented a development that was absolutely magnificent, with five acres of walking and riding trails through the property and fixing Vine Hill Road, and we met with every neighbor discussing what we could do for this.” Dean went on to thank the planning commission, mayor, and councilmembers for recognizing the value of private property and her rights and asked council to give this issue to the vote of the people.

In a 4-0 vote, the Martinez City Council supported placing the Pine Meadow referendum on the November 8, 2016, ballot where the voters of Martinez will decide on this critical land use issue.