The Trinitas developers didn’t play by the rules - county, state or federal. They shouldn’t be rewarded.

Overview: The Nemees built an 18-hole golf course without an EIR, entitlements or Board of Supervisors’ approval, in a County Agricultural Preserve Zone on Natural Resources Land. Given the existing regulations and statutes, County officials could have taken them to Superior Court to halt violations, compel compliance and/or abate unpermitted construction. This was never done, but enforcement failures do not make the golf course legal.

County Regulations  See History for more details.

  1. Bullet  Aug. 9, 2001 - Developers notified golf course not permitted (public or private), by County codes & ordinances and Williamson Act restrictions

  2. Bullet Dec. 12, 2001 - CCU inspects “barn (5000 sq ft) converted into 1100 sq ft of a dwelling unit. He said he will submit ‘as built’ drawings to Building Dept. on 12-14-01.” “Checked with Building Dept. Nemee was issued permits 01-17-02.”

  3. Bullet Aug 22, 2003 - Mike Nemee “admits he did all grading without permits…thinking about putting in a private golf course.”

  4. Bullet Aug. 27, 2003 - Ray Waller writes Mike Nemee he’s in violation of building code: grading w/out approved plans or a permit.

  5. Bullet Nov. 12, 2003 - Code Compliance Unit Administrative Citation 03-29, with notification of Administrative Hearing 12.4.03: continuing code violations: “8.06.375 CCC Maintain Public Nuisance, 8.06.290 A, B, C, CCC Public Nuisance, 3306.1 CBC Grading W/O Permits, 3309.5 CBC Failure to submit engineering)”

  6. Bullet Jan. 12, 2004 - Ray Waller handwritten note: “Grading Permit not req’d…Case closed” (responding to Jeffries Engineers, Inc.)

  7. Bullet Aug. 5, 2004 - Environmental Health Services cites for well drilling and destruction violations; issues stop work order to well driller.

  8. Bullet Feb. 9, 2006 - Planning Dept. letter to Mike Nemee: “…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...”

  9. Bullet March, 2006 Access off Ospital Road at north property line expanded without permits; completed by time County responded. Roads widened onsite. Work completed on several fairways during this calendar year (per aerial photographs).

  10. Bullet Aug. - Oct., 2007 - Enhancements built at southern entrance. Massive grading/trenching/infrastructure project at lodge site near northern property line.

State Regulations  See Public Comments for more information

  1. Bullet CEQA - “CEQA does require that the environmental impacts of a proposed project be adequately investigated and considered in their full environmental context. No environmental review was conducted by the County or any other responsible or trustee agency before or during construction activities for the golf course…” 2.9.09 Staff Report, p.19

  2. Bullet Williamson Act - golf courses are not allowed on WA land

  3. Bullet California Department of Fish and Game (DFG)

Federal Regulations  See Public Comments for more information

  1. Bullet U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  2. Bullet U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

Mitigation Monitoring and Relevance of Project History

“Section 21081.6 of the Public Resources Code requires that the Lead Agency adopt a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) to ensure that all mitigation measures are implemented as required.” (2007 DEIR pg. 1-4)

The public has justifiable concerns about the project’s history and the efficacy of the county government to “ensure that all mitigation measures are implemented as required.” The RDEIR and FEIR acknowledge that before applying for discretionary entitlements, the property owner built the golf course that anchors the Ridge at Trinitas proposal, without any environmental review, violating county AP Zoning Code and Williamson Act contract. (p. 2-3, 2-4) The County failed to enforce these codes, contracts and General Plan land use designations, allowing the illegal golf course to be built.

Unless implementation of all mitigations is required before additional project work is allowed, it seems unlikely they will ever get done. The applicants indicated last August that they may not be able to afford the required mitigations. Some of the mitigations have been declared infeasible. The County is understaffed and in a budget deficit. Who will monitor compliance?

General Plan Inconsistency 

At the Planning Commission hearing Feb. 19, 2009, several speakers addressed the project’s inconsistency with many provisions of the 1996 General Plan, concluding the proposal cannot be approved by the Board of Supervisors. For example: Policy II-22B of the General Plan Land Use Element states,"Deem all uses (and parcels) not established in conformance with the General Plan or regulations in effect at the time the use (of parcel) was established or created, which prohibit said use or creation to be illegal nonconforming uses and parcels and prohibit their development, continued use or expansion." The Staff Report goes to great length to document the fact that when the golf course use was established, it was in violation of regulations in effect at the time. (Staff Report, pp. 14-18.) The proposed Trinitas project seeks to expand the use of the golf course by opening it to commercial use, and to develop it further into a resort with residences, a clubhouse and other commercial uses. General Plan Policy II-22B prohibits such continued use, further development, and expanded use.” From comments submitted by Thomas P. Infusino, Facilitator, Calaveras Planning Coalition (Exhibit 7).  See also comments by Mark V. Connolly (Exhibit 21).  For more on this topic, see Exhibit 64 in Final EIR Volume 4,  Comments on the RDEIR.

Legally deficient General Plan

A Nov. 20, 2007 legal opinion submitted to the County Board of Supervisors on behalf of CSERC and the Sierra Club stated that the General Plan: “suffers from numerous deficiencies…” “Due to the General Plan’s failure to be in compliance with the State’s legal mandates, the County is legally barred from approving new development projects that have a nexus to these deficiencies.” (Shute, Mihaly, Weinberger LLP, p.1) See also the Calaveras County General Plan Evaluation Report by Mintier.


Legal Issues / Violations

Overview    Legal     Water     Traffic    Agriculture    Biological/Other    Events/Noise    Services    Economic

Notable Quotes:

  1. Bullet “The developer’s illegal golf course is an amazing achievement: built by use of fraud, deception and blatant violation of the Williamson Act, a state law, CEQA, the Federal Endangered Species Act, and Calaveras County ordinance relating to zoning, wells and grading.”      

Mark Connolly, Esq., Aug. 24,2007

Comments on the DEIR, p.6


  1. Bullet “In CSERC’s 17 years of dealing with development projects and land planning debates, we have never seen a property owner progress so recklessly to develop property without proper approvals and without compliance with direction provided by County staff.”

Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center Executive Director John Buckley, and staff biologist Tom Hoffstra, 8.25.07, Comments on the DEIR, p.1


“The County has also determined that golf courses are not a permitted conditional, secondary, accessory or a supporting use under a Williamson Act contract or in the AP zoning district. The County disagrees with statements in the previously circulated DEIR that County staff made determinations that construction of the golf course was legal.”

Ridge at Trinitas 2008 RDEIR

Project Description p. 2-3

In the Spin Zone:

  1. Bullet “…the applicants wish to install a vineyard to compliment the other established agricultural uses onsite…it will be necessary to grade a portion of the property to properly install the vineyard. Hopefully these activities will not be misconstrued by County Staff.” …I can find no definition of a golf course in the County Code…In light of this fact and the fact that a golf course is not under construction, I remain puzzled by your letter, other than to perhaps conclude that you were misled by complaints…”

Trinitas surveyor/agent Tom Jeffries,  Jeffries Engineers, Inc., Aug. 20, 2001 response to Planning Dept. letter


  1. Bullet “…The site has been inspected periodically by members of your office as well as other County and State officials, and I have not been informed of any violations of County code.

Mike & Michelle Nemee, Feb. 20, 2006 response to CC Planning Dept. Interim Director Bob Sellman’s Feb. 9, 2006 “golf course and related facilities are not permitted …” letter  


  1. Bullet “…please accept my sincere promise that there will be no golfing or construction at Trinitas…during the time of our project’s review.”

Mike K. Nemee, Oct.10, 2007; response to Oct. 8 Supervisors comments about Trinitas golf tournament flier and pictures of ongoing golfing and construction activity at the lodge site. (Coming soon to the photo gallery)

Masthead photo:

North access road to the lodge site was built without permits in March 2007, when the project was under a County “stop work” order awaiting release of the Draft EIR. From aerial photographs, this road appears wider than most sections of Ospital and Southworth Roads.

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. Unabridged (v 1.1) - il·le·gal –adjective 1. forbidden by law or statute; 2. contrary to or forbidden by official rules, regulations… —Synonyms 1. unlawful; illegitimate; illicit; … Illegal refers most specifically to violations of statutes or…codified rules; …Unlawful means not sanctioned by or according to law; … Illegitimate means lacking legal or traditional right or rights; … Illicit, which originally meant simply “not permitted,” now most often applies to matters regulated by law with specific emphasis on the way things are carried out: illicit conversion of property…”

Chapter 2.7 of the Final EIR

explains that “the FEIR …would be used to satisfy the requirements of CEQA, with regards to the proposed project. Calaveras County, acting as Lead Agency, is responsible for its availability and use by the public and other interested agencies and parties.”

Table 2-2

“Subsequent Permits, Approvals, Review, and Consultation Requirements” “…includes information required by CEQA Guidelines §15124 and summarizes the following intended uses of the EIR.”

Final EIR, p.2-16 and 2-17

“The County did not approve and does not agree with statements, included in the previously circulated DEIR, that indicate or infer County staff determined the golf course to be a permitted use, was constructed legally, or was exempt from the normal permitting processes for such a project.” 2.9.09 Staff Report, p.19

“I have personally reviewed hundreds of CEQA and NEPA documents over the last 20

years. This is, without a doubt, the broadest, most egregious, and most prejudicial non-response to comments that I have ever seen.”

Remarks to the Planning Commission by Tom Infusino, 2.19.09