The following timeline is intended to outline how the Trinitas project evolved, without attempting to be comprehensive. All references are supported by documents copied from the public record since July 2007. Many are referenced in the Staff Report to the Planning Commissioners and included as Background Documents in Appendix 8 of their report. *Asterisked files are included in the Staff Report; page numbers refer to the Appendix 8 PDF file. (additional links will be provided soon)


First 200 acres purchased

  1. Bullet Aug. 1 - 200 acres APN# 050-052-002 deed recorded to Mike and Michelle Nemee.


Another 240 acres purchased - work on golf course begins in secret; owners claim they’re putting in a vineyard, no golf course.

  1. Bullet Apr. 23 - 240 acres APN# 050-052-003 and -004 deed recorded to Mike and Michelle Nemee and Douglas & Pat McKee (Michelle’s parents).

  1. Bullet June 28 - Neighbor reports surveying “for a golf course” on -003; (*p.1) told property is in Ag Preserve (AP); golf course not a permitted use. Memos between Planner III Dan Hendrycks and Ag Commissioner Jerry Howard confirm property is in Ag Preserve (AP) with Williamson Act Contract #55 notice of nonrenewal effective 2006. Howard asks Hendrycks if Chief Building Official Ray Waller is aware of grading permits. Waller says no, and directs an inspection.  (*p.3-5)

  2. Bullet July 2* - Waller responds to inquiry “APPEARS TO BE A CLEARING/GRUBBING OPERATION MAYBE IN PREP FOR A VINEYARD-- IF WE SEE GOLF BALLS STARTING TO FLY, WE’LL LET YOU KNOW.” (all caps in original) (*p.4)

  3. Bullet Aug. 9 - Letter to M/M Nemee from Co. Planning Dept.: “…construction of a golf course on this property, even for your private use, violates both County Code Chapter 17.18 and the provisions of Agricultural Preserve Contract 55”…and “could result in legal action by the county.” (*p.7-8)

  4. Bullet Aug. 14 - Nemee writes Hendrycks to talk with his surveyor/liaison/agent Tom Jeffries. Also says Jerry Howard met with them before they bought the property and told them that “the agricultural utilization of the property” was in full compliance with AP zoning and WA Contract 55. (*p.9)

  5. Bullet Aug 20 - Nemee agent Tom Jeffries responds to Dan H. that “the applicants wish to install a vineyard”; surveying and future grading will be necessary “to properly install the vineyard.” “…a golf course is not under construction…” “…I can find no definition of a  golf course in the County Code, thus it is impossible to determine whether it would be a permitted or conditionally permitted use within this or other zone.” “…I remain puzzled …you were misled by complaints…” “…I will advise my clients that the matter has been sufficiently resolved and that the record associated with the complaint file will be sufficiently corrected and closed…” (*p.11-12)

“The construction of Trinitas Golf Course began in 2001 with the staking    and surveying of a golf course covering 20 acres. By the end of 2002, the acreage had been expanded to accommodate an 18-hole course that would eventually include approximately 95 acres of irrigated turf grass and a total of 116 acres..” FEIR p.2-9

  1. Bullet Aug. 22 - Code Compliance complaint re: 5000 sf barn, well drilling, road work.

  2. Bullet Oct. 25 - Code compliance officer note: “site visit; locked gate…Could only get close to barn by adjacent property…Called Mike Nemee to inspect. Said he did allow workers to stay in the barn occasionally, and that he was putting in an olive orchard and vinyard. No golf course.” 

  3. Bullet Oct. 29 - Public complaint, Dept. of Public works: “…extensive grading, especially on weekends; No grading permit; Land is zoned AP; Neighbors believe a golf course is being constructed.”

  4. Bullet Dec. 14 - Code Compliance letter informs the Nemees of alleged code violations re: dwelling unit in barn, built before acquiring building permit...“immediate action is required to abate these apparent violations…failure to comply may result in legal action being taken against you. Building Department reports Nemee submitted plans for as-built conversion this date.

  5. Bullet Dec. 27 - Nemee responds to CCU Notice of Violation.


Boundary line adjustments sought to create separate parcels for Mike and Michelle Nemee (280 ac. for Trinitas, and 60 ac. later included in some “project site” environmental studies) and their extended family(his parents 40 ac., her parents 60 acres).

  1. Bullet Jan.17 - CC officer notes “Nemee was issued permits for conversion.”

  2. Bullet (?) 9 - Waller note: “Permit for conversion issued. Compliance case closed.”


Complaints mount; applicant finally admits to constructing a golf course “for personal use”, and requests a change in AP zoning to allow golf courses as a conditional use.

  1. Bullet Over several months, a neighbor emails Waller 20+ times, reporting habitat destruction and noise from grading and asking County to stop course construction activities.

  2. Bullet Aug. 11 - Dept. of Public Works receives Complaint re: “excessive grading without a permit between Ospital & Warren...Nemee told complainant he is constructing a golf course.”

  3. Bullet Aug. 12 - R. Waller responds to complainant’s email: “Once I read the complaint I talked to California Dept of Fish and Game. While the work may be occurring in Calaveras County, Fish and Game has far more power and authority in alterations of streambeds – both year-round and seasonal. They will have someone get to the site within the next couple of days. They have environmental attorneys that assist them in obtaining compliance of the various State laws.… Meanwhile, I will be sending a letter to Mr. Nemee to cease work until ALL of the proper permits and approvals are obtained.” (*p.24)

  4. Bullet Aug. 22 - Code Compliance file states: “Nemee admitted he had done all the grading without permits.” “…told [CCU officer] he was grading the property and moving the dirt around over rocky areas in order for the grass to grow so he could graze cattle on the property.… Sowards told Nemee it appeared he was putting a golf course on the property. Nemee then told Sowards he was thinking about putting in a private golf course for his personal use.” (*p.24)

  5. Bullet Aug 27 - R. Waller writes: “…You are ordered to do no more earthwork and retain the services of a qualified engineer.…You stated to Mr. Sowards that Fish and Game was at the property and told you that they had "no problem" with what you are doing. Please provide written documentation to that effect or provide me with the name and phone number of that staff person from Fish and Game.…Failure to stop work or to comply with any of the above requirements will force the County to initiate legal action to ensure compliance with County laws.” (*p.24)

By this time, the EIRs indicate that grading, shaping and drainage work for the golf course had been done. “A series of drainage ditches were constructed in the summer of 2003 to direct irrigation runoff to holding ponds and seasonal streams. The banks were lined with concrete and native cobble rocks to prevent erosion and provide structural integrity. A series of concrete and cobble dams were installed…” FEIR p.2-10

  1. Bullet Sep. 17 - R. Waller emails increasingly angry neighbor: “Nemee can put in a golf course for his personal use and invite friends over. I am not condoning what he is doing, just pointing out his rights. You have the same rights.” (This statement contradicts previously cited County Zoning Codes and Williamson Act provisions.)

  2. Bullet Oct. 1 - Nemee writes Planning Commissioner Wes Hodgson requesting “initiation of a zone change, which will modify provisions of the (AP) Agricultural Preserve zoning district…we are seeking the addition of Golf Course to the list of Conditional Uses authorized within this zone.…” (*p.13-15)

  3. Bullet Oct. 3 - Neighbor appeals to state Senator Rico Oller’s office for enforcement.

  4. Bullet Oct. 8 - R. Waller responds to Oller’s aide Dana Jorgensen about neighbor’s complaints and threatened lawsuit: “She is not happy with me because I did not go out and immediately have legal action taken against Nemee. He is telling her and others that he will be putting in a golf course; not open to the public but his private use only. There is nothing in County Codes against that type of activity.…Her last e-mail to me was a couple of weeks ago wherein she informed me that she will be taking legal action against the County and myself, so in light of this, I have stopped having any contact with her but we're still working the case.” (The statement in bold conflicts with previously cited County Zoning Codes.)

  5. Bullet Nov. 12 - “GJS, drafted an Administrative Citation and Cite letter for the grading violations on Nemee's property at Waller's request.” From Statement of Facts Case #03-29 11.19.03 “…Nov. 12, 2003 Waller advised Sowards there had been no attempt by Nemee to submit a report, or plans for his grading project to the Public Works Department or the Building Department. Waller asked Sowards to issue Nemee an Administrative Citation for the continuing violations on Nemee's property. Sowards drafted and mailed the Administrative Citation and Administrative Letter to Nemee.” Included Notice of a Public Hearing set for Dec. 4. (*p.17-22) (*p.25)

  6. Bullet Nov. 20 - Jeffries Engineers, Inc. response to Waller re: Administrative Citation #03-29, signed by Robert Bliss: “It doesn't seem that a grading plan is warranted in this situation because of the small isolated nature of the grading contained well within the boundaries of the property. This project has more of the appearance of a landscaping project than a grading project.” (*p.30)

  7. Bullet Nov. 26 - Waller meets with Jeffries & Bliss; requests: “letter from Fish & Game,” …“Water Quality Control Board response to NOI”…”assessment that Nemee’s  activities won’t endanger any public or private property. They will attend 12/4 meeting and ask for (60) days to come into compliance.” (*p.30)

  8. Bullet Dec. 4 - Administrative Hearing Board: Findings and Recommendations, include: “The Code Compliance Unit and the Building Department has attempted to achieve voluntary compliance from Nemee since August 12, 2003. Nemee has made no attempt to bring the property into compliance.”  “… PASS A MOTION that if the violations still exist on the property on December 04, 2003, Code Compliance is authorized to abate all violations on the property, upon the expiration of any appeal dates. The costs of the abatement, Administrative Fines, and to-date Administrative Costs shall be assessed as a lien on the real property, APN:050-052-041, per Calaveras County Code 8.06.590, pursuant to Government Code 25845.” (*p.22-29)

  9. Bullet Dec. 9 - “Victoria Erickson called and asked for a copy of all photos taken out at Nemees property, all letters, documents, and all e-mails that were in the file.” (CCU Nemee ~ 50-52-041,GJS)


Compliance case dismissed; major course construction continues. Project application #2004-114 submitted (not in public record July ’07)

  1. Bullet Jan. 9 - Tom Jeffries writes R. Waller that it’s not really grading, just a “clearing and brushing project to develop a private golf course”. Waller closes case, even though a golf course of any kind is not allowed in an AP or A1 zone. Dated Jan. 12, his handwritten note at the bottom of this letter states: “…Grading permit not req’d  - Applicant to comply w/ any conditions imposed by WQCB  - Case closed” (*p.31)

“Irrigation- From July 2004 – April of 2005 an automated irrigation system was installed. This involved trenching and installation of 90,000 ft of pipe, ranging in size from 1.25 inches to 10 inches in diameter, and associated electrical wire. Nine hundred cubic yards of sand was imported to bury irrigation lines installed in the rocky landscape. ” FEIR p.2-10

  1. Bullet Aug. 5 - Environmental Health Department sends Nemee Notice of Violation re: well drilling without a permit; issues stop work order to well driller.

  2. Bullet Aug. 12 - Neighbor emails Planning Commission with concerns, Subject “unlawful planning”: “…He not only is destroying the habitat for thousands of animals, he is also endangering the wellness of the surrounding neighbors. How does he plan to keep his golf course green, he may irrigate one of his ponds killing hundreds of fish or he may sink yet another well. That can result in all our wells going dry. This is not a private golf course! This is massive!…Please join us in our protest against the rape of not only our laws but more importantly our environment. No one with any common sense would let this destruction continue.…I look forward to you prompt response and pray that you do what is right for the environment, nature, wildlife and the people who truly respect it for what it is, what it stands for and what it provides.…” (*p.34-37)

  3. Bullet Aug. 12 - Waller email to Victoria Erickson; James Jones; Lucille Thein; Tom Mitchell, cc: Todd Barr: “OK- I am done dealing with this person. Any future correspondence from her will not be answered by me or my staff, but I do feel that the "County" needs to respond considering some of her allegations.” (*p.34)


Revised application submitted; Notice of Preparation (NOP) for EIR claims golf course is an “existing condition”

“Cart paths/bridges- Forty thousand linear feet of concrete cart paths averaging 6-8 feet in width, were constructed, along with 10 arched culvert bridges that run through the 116-acre layout.…Greens Construction- nineteen putting greens were constructed. Trench tailings were spread throughout the golf course as mounds and fill material for tee boxes, and a total of 720 tons of 3/8” pea gravel and 2400 tons of screened sand were imported to the site… Pre Plant- 95 acres of irrigated land were tilled and power raked to remove rocks and debris. …Once the irrigation was set in place and functioning, 95 acres of irrigated land was tilled and power-raked to remove rocks and debris. Final finish work was done with tractors and hand rakes. Nine hundred additional tons of sand was imported to cover some fairway areas. Thirty-two acres of Bermuda sprigs were cultivated into the 32 acres of fairway areas and 3 acres of bent grass was seeded in the putting greens at a rate of 44 pounds per acre. Two hundred pounds of 15-15-15 fertilizer and 400 pounds of rye and fescue seed per acre were added to 45 acres of the project. ” FEIR p.2-10, 2-11

  1. Bullet May - Wallace/Burson Association sponsored neighborhood meeting to introduce Trinitas project. In response to public concerns about irrigation drawing down the area’s water table and threatening neighbors’ wells and ranchers’ livelihoods, the  applicant claims the course will be irrigated with recycled surface water from on-site ponds.

  2. Bullet Aug. 3 - Nemee’s agent Susan Larson submits “Updated application form for the Trinitas project, as requested, consistent with the project description.…to be considered along with the supplemental project narrative and expanded project description provided…previously.”

  3. Bullet Dec. 29 - Notice of Preparation for a Draft Environmental Impact Report  released, opening 30-day public comment period, and declaring “the golf course portion of the project site…is an existing use…”


Draft EIR underway. Applicant reminded golf course is not a permitted use and notified to stop work until a final decision has been made on the project by the…Board of Supervisors

  1. Bullet Feb. 2 - Public Scoping Session on the Trinitas Draft EIR.,

  2. Bullet Feb. 9 - Interim Planning Director writes applicants that “…Use, expansion, or alteration of the golf course or related facilities without a valid permit is a violation of Section 17.04.010 of the County zoning code...No additional project-related work…is allowed until the final decision on the application…has been made by the Planning Commission and/or Board of Supervisors.…avoid physical changes to the project environment during the application process…if conditions change on-site following” [issuance of the NOP] “it may be necessary to establish a new baseline, reissue the NOP, and reevaluate impact determinations. This could significantly delay project review.”  (emphasis added)

  3. Bullet Feb. 20 - Applicant responds: “…there is nothing that I can find in the County code which prohibits any property owner from performing some of the activities stated in your letter including, but not limited to, installation of utilities or irrigation, installation of cobbles or rocks for decoration, construction of paths, bridges, or onsite roads for private/agricultural purposes and landscaping. …The golf course is an existing onsite amenity and quite frankly does not violate any County statute.…Please remember that I have been very honest and open in my communications with your office…”


Work continues; marketing intensifies; Draft EIR released; and Supervisors send it back for revision with a new “baseline” to evaluate impacts of golf course construction

  1. Bullet March 15-21 - North Access road constructed, without permits, while project is under stop-work order.

  2. Bullet April - NCGA Golf Magazine article “Trinitas Golf Course - Silent No More”, writes: “Nemee still kind of shakes his head at the way the whole thing came together from nowhere. ‘God built it,’ was his only explanation.” (*p.41)

  3. Bullet May 2 - Valley Springs News article “Trinitas moves ahead without county’s OK” airs controversy over the proposal.

  4. Bullet May - Golf Today Magazine releases article “Trinitas - Golf's Field of Dreams”, describing sales of $50,000-$75,000 memberships to the “quirky” course that’s “about to open this summer.”

  5. Bullet June - Draft EIR released; KIRC organizes, reviews the document, and submits comments by August 27 deadline.

  6. Bullet Sept 4 - Tournament play at Trinitas cited in Board of Supervisors meeting. Frequent sightings of golfers playing the course throughout September.

  7. Bullet Oct. 4 - Planning Commission
    hearing to rezone properties from AP to A1; KIRC found discrepancy between agenda and staff report – where the two Trinitas parcels were sandwiched among other parcels going into and out of Agricultural Preserve (AP) zoning – and got them pulled for discussion at a future meeting.
  8. Bullet Oct. 9 - Board of Supervisors meeting on hiring Quad Knopf to review public comments to the Trinitas DEIR and write the Final EIR. KIRC’s questions about Quad Knopf’s objectivity and the deficiencies of the original EIR led to a reappraisal of the “baseline” issue of whether the original DEIR was flawed in excluding the “existing” golf course from environmental review.

  9. Bullet Nov. 6 - Supervisors reverse the baseline decision, send the EIR back to the consultants to determine the environmental impacts of building the golf course. 


NOP and Revised Draft EIR released; public comments; goes back to consultant for responses and release of Final EIR

  1. Bullet Jan. 31 - Department of Conservation Williamson Act audit letter released, mentioning Trinitas by parcel number under Situation 7 as having built a golf course while the property was restricted by a Williamson Act contract.

  2. Bullet March 28 - Notice of Preparation for Revised Draft EIR released. 30-day public comment period. KIRC raises substantial concerns re: project description, water…

  3. Bullet Aug. 15 - RDEIR released; public comments deadline Sept. 29. KIRC submits 23 chapter/section letters by 13 individual reviewers.


Final EIR released; public hearings begin with the Planning Commission

  1. Bullet Feb. 9 - FEIR released, missing Chapter 6 - Response to Comments.

  2. Bullet Feb. 10 - Board of Supervisors Meeting - KIRC questioned CEQA adequacy of the FEIR, based on unclear/missing responses to public comments; AD FEIR Chapter 6 later posted to County Trinitas Project web page. Over the next week, additional significant omissions from the FEIR and Staff Report were noted.

  3. Bullet Feb 19 - Planning Commission hearing on Trinitas held at San Andreas Town Hall; Estimated crowd of 150-200; over 60 speakers, pro and con. DVDs of the meeting can be purchased from Public Access Television, and written comments can be read/downloaded from the County website.

  4. Bullet March 19 - Next Planning Commission hearing at San Andreas Town Hall, begins at 9 a.m.


Project History

Notable Quotes:

“Picture this. The year is 2000. …you spot a couple of hundred acres of raw land, an old cattle ranch, and a vision comes into your head to build a golf course. Never mind that it is composed of pastureland and olive orchards, and has practically zero drive-by traffic. Hmmm, looks like a golf course could fit on the property, you muse, and maybe you could harvest and set up an olive oil business as well.”

From May 2007 Golf Today Magazine, Trinitas - Golf’s Field of Dreamsby Bob Fagan, posted on the Trinitas website and submitted to the public record

“The buzz in the golf industry is all about a golf course in the Sierra foothills that flew so far under the radar no one knew of its existence.…No bureaucrats, no bean-counters, hardly any organization.”

“You might say God built it,” Mike Nemee explains. “The land was that good. The golf course was always there. We just kind of grew some grass.”

Silent No More”, by Ron Salsig, Spring 2007 NCGA Golf Magazine, posted on the Trinitas website *p.41

Masthead photo:

Construction equipment lined up at the lodge site in March 2006. The developers built an encroachment from Ospital Road to the proposed lodge site without permits, after being told to stop construction and golfing activities onsite until they received all necessary entitlements.

“I am shocked that you would try to imply that these types of activities can not and are not routinely undertaken by private property owners and agricultural operators through-out the County.…The installation of manicured lawn areas with ponds and other water areas is no different than a property owner with a nicely landscaped backyard.”

Mike & Michelle Nemee, 2.20.06 response to  Planning Dept. letter  telling them “no project related work other than maintenance to maintain the existing level of course development, is allowed until the final decision on the application for a ZA, TSTM and CUP has been made by the Planning Commission and/or the Board of Supervisors.”

To see larger aerial, click image.

“…The site visit revealed a large amount of grading… …Mike Nemee told Sowards he was grading the property and moving the dirt around over the rocky areas in order for the grass to grow so he could graze cattle on the property. After Sowards inspected the property with Nemee Sowards told Nemee it appeared he was putting a golf course on the property. Nemee then told Sowards he was thinking about putting  in a private golf course for his personal use.”

Statement of Facts, Case#03-29,  Aug. 22, 2003

“Mr. Nemee’s project is more of a clearing and brushing project to develop a private golf course. The grading is a small amount of cuts and fills to construct greens and tees. …It doesn’t appear that a grading plan is warranted…because of the small isolated nature of the grading… This project has more of the appearance of a landscaping project than a grading project.”

Robert J. Bliss, for Jeffries Engineers, Inc., Nov.20, 2003 response to Administrative Citation 03-29 (see 2004 aerial photograph of 95 graded acres below - AirPhoto USA image)

“…from the beginning Nemee had a tournament course, a stadium course in mind.”

Silent No More”, by Ron Salsig, Spring 2007 NCGA Golf Magazine, (*p.38-41)

Trenching for irrigation lines, 2-26-05

In the Spin Zone

“Baseline Discussion

Prior to construction of the golf course in 2001, the project applicant made an inquiry with the County to discuss whether or not erecting a golf course for personal use (i.e., a private facility for use by family, friends, and invited non-paying guests) was permitted by right in the General Agricultural (A1) zoning district. The County responded to the applicant’s question affirmatively and concurred that the golf course was consistent with the A1 zoning, as long as it was used for personal recreation only.”

2007 DEIR (primary author Trinitas agent Susan Larson) p.3.6

“Nemee has been contacted and told to stop until this is resolved. He has a meeting scheduled with Code Compliance within the next 24 hours.

Aug. 20, 2003 Waller email to Neighbor (cc. Code Compliance Unit)

Building bridges over ephemeral drainages, 7-21-05

Access road to lodge site built while under stop work order, March 2007

Mr. Nemee has been working all morning long, hauling dirt in and out, Terrain changing! If Mr. Nemee was told to stop! It looks like He could care less about the law and Authority's! Work has been done on today's date 08/20/03 He has three end dumps (Trucks) working. Should I call the Police?  Mr. Nemee is working without Permits and has been told to stop, but yet He continues to break the Law!”

Neighbor response to R. Waller:  Aug. 20, 2003


Waller responds: 

“The Sheriff cannot arrest someone who does not stop grading after being told. Likewise, I do not have the authority to arrest him or in any other way to make him physically stop unless we get something from a judge. I am not pursuing that at this time but may have to pending the result of the meeting I told you about.”

Truckloads of dirt piled outside neighbor’s yard in preparation for sculpting the 7th fairway, Nov.3, 2003. (T-post fence shows lot line)

“…the development of a destination project, as indicated by the intent to host golf tour-naments, clinics, and visitor tours, will increase area exposure. The development of executive homesites and availability of resort-style opportunities further emphasize the non-agricultural, residential potential of the area.

Ridge at Trinitas Notice of Preparation, p.5, Growth-Inducing Impacts,  Dec. 29, 2005

“…County Counsel contacted Mr. Howard on August 20, 2008 to ask him what he remembered about his contacts with the applicants. Mr. Howard advised that he was always told that the golf course was for Mr. Nemee’s personal use only.…

”…Ray Waller’s position on the golf course was based on Mr. Nemee’s statements that the golf course was intended for his personal use and not for any commercial use.…

“Staff’s position is that all of the staff decisions that were made regarding the golf course were based on representations from the property owner that he was constructing a vineyard, a permissible use in the AP zone, or that the golf course was for his personal use only and was similar to a landscaping project.”

2.9.09 PC Staff Report, p.17

   “Public sentiment toward the project has been less than enthusiastic.

   A ‘public scoping session’ was conducted in February of 2006 in the Old Burson Firehouse and nearby residents expressed their concerns with Nemee’s proposal.

   In addition to issues over water, Nemee’s neighbors said Highway 26 and Ospital Road were already inade-quate and could not handle any additional increases in traffic without major improvements.

   Residents also complained about the way Nemee initially circumvented the county’s planning process by installing what was first called a personal golf course that did not need a permit, and now it was the cornerstone of his proposed commercial development.”

5.2.07 Valley Springs News

Copyright 2009 - Keep It Rural Calaveras (KIRC)

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are the property of KIRC.

Documents were obtained from Calaveras County under the Public Records Act, and from cited news sources.

To see larger aerials, click images.

To see larger aerial, click image.